Telegraph Journal quotes Nancy Cusack Counselling Therapist.

SAINT JOHN – Donnie Snook may have been the victim of sexual abuse as a child, but that experience cannot serve on its own as an excuse or determining factor that led to the former youth ministry leader’s own heinous crimes, court heard from an expert in criminal behaviour and risk assessment on Friday.  

Dr. Mary Ann Campbell was called to the stand during the second day of Snook’s sentencing hearing, having written the convicted sex offender’s psychological assessment for the court.

Campbell, an associate professor at the University of New Brunswick Saint John and a licensed psychologist, spent 12 hours interviewing and administering tests on Snook.

“When sexual abuse does occur, it can influence a person’s understanding of relationships, of sexual intimacy, and how they perceive other people that they may be sexually drawn to. But there is no direct correlation where we can say being sexually victimized causes sexual offending behaviour,” Campbell said, after informing the court Snook has reportedly been sexually abused as a child.

It would be learned later in the day Snook’s abuse occurred when he was 10 years old, reportedly at the hands of a Salvation Army Lieutenant, who is now under investigation in Newfoundland.

In response to questions from Crown Prosecutor Karen Lee Lamrock, Campbell said between three and 12 per cent of those who are sexually abused as children grow into adults who commit the same crimes, and that rate jumps when dealing with males who were abused as children by other adult males.

“They tend to have the highest risk of continuing to engage in sexual offending behaviour, but again, it’s only a minority of these individuals.

“There are always other factors that come into play that also contribute to that dynamic. It would never just be the abuse itself.”

In Snook’s case, Campbell said other factors of his personality likely played a significant role in his development into a sexual predator.

“A secondary factor that appears to contribute to Mr. Snook’s sexual behaviour is his poor coping skills to manage loneliness and interpersonal losses. He acknowledged that he feels better while sexually offending, though he recognized that he tends to regret his behaviour after the fact.”

Snook also lacked, or failed to seek out, support and other factors that may have lowered his chance of becoming an abuser himself.

“People who have better coping skills, good support around them – who have access to treatment in particular – they tend to do much better with the experience, with less of a long-term impact on their life,” Campbell said, adding that suffering in silence after abuse, something Snook claims to have done, negates the chances of recovery.

Nancy Cusack is a Saint John-based counselling therapist who has worked with child victims of sexual abuse in the past, though has no ties to Snook’s case or any of his victims. She echoed that abuse as a child doesn’t necessarily lead to abusing as an adult.

“I believe in a lot of choice. If you’ve had something bad happen to you, and you’ve been able to process it and realize what’s happened, you should be able to make a choice whether you’re going to do that or not do that.

“You have the power of responsibility as well,” said Cusack, adding getting proper help, talking about the abuse, and trying to make sense of it are crucial in going on to lead a normal life.

Snook, to the appal of victim’s families in the courtroom, acknowledged his failure to make these responsible choices on Friday during his own statement to the court, even encouraging victims of abuse to seek help rather than remaining quiet.

Campbell said her interview with Snook led to her to believe he struggled with the experience of being abused for most of his life, tying up mental resources he could have used to deal with the inappropriate sexual urges he began feeling as he grew older.

Campbell’s pre-sentence report places Snook in the high end of the “moderate” range, in terms of his risk to reoffend, despite defence lawyer Dennis Boyle’s claims that his client was looking forward to rehabilitation.

His sexual attraction to young boys, at this stage, isn’t likely to ever go away, Campbell said, even if Snook can learn to control and cope with his deviant urges.

“It’s a part of his sexual orientation,” she said.

(Copyright (c) 2013 Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick))

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