A woman who was sexually assaulted by her uncle over a years-long period read aloud her victim impact statement Tuesday in a Kamloops courtroom, saying she never expected to be violated by someone she had once “trusted wholeheartedly.”
Last spring, a jury found Nihal Maligaspe guilty on two of three counts of sexual assault related to numerous incidents involving his niece, Dinushini Maligaspe, who he helped emigrate to Canada from Sri Lanka in 2001.
Maligaspe has maintained sexual encounters with Dinushini were consensual.
Sentencing proceedings got underway Tuesday with Crown prosecutor Katie Bouchard seeking an eight-year prison sentence.
While reading her victim impact statement, Dinushini told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper she had a difficult life even before Maligaspe raped her for the first time, having been abused by her father and her brother in Sri Lanka and growing up in a “suffocating environment.”
She said she hoped her situation would change if she worked hard enough, and when she was first introduced to Maligaspe, he asked about her aspirations, encouraged her to persevere and presented her with an opportunity to study abroad.
“I felt alive for the first time ever. I thought I was the luckiest girl in Sri Lanka,” she said, adding she thought her life would be better once she left the country.
“With his help, I would educate myself and be financially free and independent — this is what the offender said I could achieve if I worked hard. I was dead wrong. Nothing could have been further from the truth,” Dinushini said.
“The luckiest girl would be badly betrayed, the impacts would be permanently set in stone. I never expected the offender, someone I trusted wholeheartedly, to violate me the way he did.”
Last year, court heard Dinushini was 20 years old when she moved in with Maligaspe and his family in Kamloops. Her uncle paid for her international student tuition and other expenses for her four-year nursing degree program at University College of the Cariboo, now Thompson Rivers University. At one point, Maligaspe was Dinushini’s instructor.
Crown counsel Katie Bouchard said after Dinushini began school, Maligaspe forced himself on her, and the sexual abuse would increase in frequency in Dinushini’s third year of university to about 15 times per month.
Bouchard argued that not only did Dinushini not give consent, there “was no consent,” as Maligaspe was in a position of trust, power and authority over her.
Dinushini said after the sexual assaults began, she went from being on the dean’s list to failing courses, becoming depressed and at one point attempting suicide.
She eventually moved to Calgary and in 2018 suffered a mental-health crisis and could no longer suppress what happened in the past.
“The sex offender’s actions continue to impact my life — every day, nearly every aspect of it,” she said.
Dinushini said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions, psychosis, severe anxiety and depression, adding she also experiences several physical symptoms related to trauma as well.
She said she now finds it difficult to trust people and is “unable to classify any relationships as safe.”
She said it angers her that Maligaspe, who was a mental-health nurse, assaulted her despite knowing how it would affect her.
“I wish I could replace the skin on my body so I could feel clean and fresh. I would also like to ask for a new mouth or oral cavity to erase the oral sexual trauma he inflicted on me,” she said.
“I wish I could replace my brain so all these memories do not exist. If there was a fixed price for these procedures, that’s what I would have asked for restitution.”
Dinushini said she has been able to return to work as a nurse, but must always be ready to be “derailed” by triggers and will have life-long economic, emotional and physical impacts because of the assaults.
“I’m a determined individual, and continue to survive the damages the offender has inflicted on me,” she said.
Defence lawyer Jay Michi’s submissions are expected to be heard in court on Wednesday.