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'Not my fault': Victim addresses former Calgary Stampeder at sentencing hearing

CALGARY — A woman told court Friday that she considered suicide and suffered a deep feeling of guilt after a former player with the Calgary Stampeders filmed their sexual encounter without her permission.
Calgary Stampeders running back Jerome Messam speaks to reporters at the airport in Ottawa, ahead of his team's Grey Cup match against the Toronto Argonauts, on November 21, 2017. The sentencing hearing for a former CFL running back who pleaded guilty to voyeurism after he filmed a consensual sexual encounter without the woman's permission has been delayed because he failed to appear in person. Jerome Messam, 37, was expected to appear in Court of King's Bench in Calgary, but his lawyer applied to have his client attend online. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

CALGARY — A woman told court Friday that she considered suicide and suffered a deep feeling of guilt after a former player with the Calgary Stampeders filmed their sexual encounter without her permission.

Jerome Messam, 37, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of voyeurism. He did not show up in Calgary's Court of King's Bench for his sentencing hearing and, after a three-hour delay, a judge allowed him to appear via video from Ontario.

Court heard Messam and the woman followed each other on social media while he was a running back for the football team.

On Nov. 11, 2016, they had dinner together and then consensual sex at Messam's apartment. 

Three months later, court was told, Messam sent the woman four 10-second video snippets of their sexual encounter on the social media platform Snapchat, which permanently deletes videos after they are played. 

The woman made a formal complaint to police and the Canadian Football League in April 2018. Messam had his contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders terminated after he was charged in July 2019. 

The woman read a statement in court about the impact her encounter with Messam has had on her life.

"It is the unpredictable, unforeseeable emotions that have stopped my world from turning. The resentment that mutated into a deeply rooted disdain eating away at my confidence and my joy like a slow rust," she said, wiping away tears.

"There have been some nights so dark that I truly thought ending my life would be easier. This tore me apart and I often don't feel I have the energy to piece myself back together."

She said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, has moved from Calgary and no longer feels comfortable meeting new people or dating.

She also has difficulty understanding it was not her fault, she said.

"I know this. I hear it. I listen. I store it away and revisit it as often as I need to: not my fault, not my fault, not my fault. But the fear rages on and with it the narrative that I somehow should have been able to stop this from happening.

"How could I have been so senseless? How could I have been so foolish to expect my privacy to be respected by someone ... essentially a stranger ... with whom I had no pre-existing record of respect?"

Crown prosecutor Janice Walsh said jail time is not appropriate for Messam but neither is a conditional discharge, which would allow him to avoid a criminal record.

She said women have fought in society to participate as equals and that includes who they want to be physical with and when and where it happens. 

Walsh told Justice April Grosse that the victim's right to expect privacy was violated.

"The victim had the right to choose, to exercise her sexual autonomy and freedom and choice with Mr. Messam. And Mr. Messam, firmly entrenched in his entitlement as a man, a professional athlete, a minor celebrity ... decided to take something from the victim, something that cannot be replaced," Walsh said.

"It certainly should stand foremost in this court's mind when coming to your ultimate decision and that's the freedom to choose their own bodily integrity and to be private in doing so."

The sentencing hearing is to resume on Nov. 10.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2022.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press