Caution: This story refers to sexual assault.
Three years after being sexually assaulted while asleep in her own bed, a Saanich woman still carries the shadows of that day.
Joel James Conway, 34, was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday in the Supreme Court of B.C.
Conway, who has been out on bail for the past three years and seven months, was convicted of breaking and entering into the home of A.B., whose name is protected by a publication ban, and sexually assaulting her in the early morning hours of March 31, 2017.
Crown counsel David Sissons asked the court for a four-year concurrent sentence for both charges.
A victim impact statement from A.B., read by Sissons, spoke about how any time she sees a man with a similar build or hairstyle in public it makes her “skin crawl” and “send spikes through [her] tummy.”
“I hate having to figure out the new me,” she wrote. “Writing this makes me feel sick, it makes me feel the paranoia, disgust, anxiety and fear.”
Prior to the assault, Conway had been attending a conference in Vancouver. He told his wife he would be taking the ferry back to the Island early the next morning but instead, took the 9 p.m. ferry on that day so he could spend the night out partying with a friend, referred to as Mr. S by the court.
During his night out, Conway and Mr. S crossed path with A.B. and all three took a taxi back to her home. Once at the home of A.B., they consumed alcohol and cocaine.
Conway and Mr. S left, but Conway told his friend he wanted to return because he “thought he had a chance” with her.
Conway then broke into A.B.’s home and sexually assaulted her.
In A.B.’s victim impact statement, she spoke about being fearful of taking her child to the park as she fears something “as terrible as what happened to [her]” will happen to her own child.
“I fear everyone could be a potential threat, I catch myself going over every possible what-if so often that by the time I decided it’s safe, it’s too late to go to the park and I have to promise to go another day.”
Defence lawyer Timothy Russell is asking for a sentence of two years less a day in order for Conway’s sentence to be served at a local provincial institution.
Russell read from a number of letters of support written by friends and family of Conway, which Crown pointed to as evidence of Conway’s lack of responsibility and remorse in these crimes.
A letter from Conway’s wife asked Justice Frits Verhoeven to take into account their three children – for which Conway is the sole provider – during sentencing. Russell also asked Verhoeven to “exercise restraint” in sentencing to ensure “the least amount of collateral damage is done.”
In 2016, Conway told Black Press Media that he was a self-identified porn addict. Conway founded the now-dissolved non-profit Fortress Foundation, which “focused on eliminating gender-based violence and preventing sexually exploitative behaviour” according to the mission statement.
Sentencing was originally set for over a year ago, but at the very last minute defence filed an application for a mistrial. The three-year prison sentence is a concurrent sentence for both the break and enter and sexual assault convictions.
With files from Nina Grossman.