Traditional healer sent to prison for assaults

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A traditional healer on Six Nations convicted of sex assault apologized to his female victims Thursday just before he was sent to prison for three years.

Ronald Dennis Henry, 55, was found guilty in May of six sexual offences after a jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about six hours. The jury heard from two complainants — a middle-aged woman and a teen who was 13 at the time of the assaults — who had gone to Henry for help.

An emotional Henry stood and said he was sorry to each woman, neither of whom was present, and to others for going through the trial.

“I want to spend the rest of the time I have left being a husband to my wife, a father to my children and a grandfather to my grandson.”

He also announced he would not return to his traditional healing practice and has no plans to appeal his guilty verdict.

Henry did “readings” for his clients, analyzing their dreams and offering traditional medicines in a shack on his property. He told people he could rid them of “negative energy.”

The two victims testified Henry had them rub “protective medicine” on their entire bodies, insisting any uncovered parts would lead to cancer.

Their sessions escalated with Henry saying he needed to use his own energy to get the medicine inside through digital, oral and vaginal sex.

During the trial, the younger victim broke down as she talked about how Henry insisted on helping her get the “protective medicine” inside her to rid her of her nightmares.

The teen said Henry rubbed the liquid on his penis and tried to “get the medicine down my throat.” She said she left many of the sessions in tears.

Henry was arrested in July 2016. His trial began last May 7.

The jury found Henry guilty of two counts each of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.

On Thursday, Justice Toni Skarica received victim impact statements from the two complainants. Both used the phrase “turned upside-down” to describe the impact of the assaults on their lives.

The older woman said she was no longer the confident and happy person she was before meeting Henry.

“I wish I could say the emotional trauma ended when I stopped seeing him but it went on for years,” she said in her statement read by assistant Crown attorney Ed Slater. “I consider those years the lost years – years I will never get back.”

The younger victim wrote that her lifestyle has changed and she isolates herself from people.

“She speaks of the effect on her relationships with family and nights filled with anxiety and trouble sleeping, lying awake and asking, ‘Why me?’,” said Slater.

Slater asked the judge to consider a sentence of four years plus the time of six months Henry had already served.

Defence lawyer Tyler Smith suggested a two-year prison sentence would be more appropriate for his client.

“The minimum penitentiary sentence followed by the maximum probation would give the highest supervision possible,” said Smith, noting one victim’s expressed fear about running into Henry on Six Nations.

Smith said Henry had maintained bail conditions that required him to live in Brantford, away from his home for two years, and he has strong support from his wife and sisters.

The lawyer noted that, while Henry has a criminal record, it is old and unrelated to the current offences.

The judge noted that the man’s victims had paid thousands of dollars to the man who assaulted them.

“He violated a 13-year-old, abused a position of trust and the offences had a profound and devastating impact on his victims,” Skarica said.

In a pre-sentence report, Henry expressed “no remorse and little insight” into his behaviour and he “didn’t really apologize” in court, the judge noted.

Skarica credited Henry with already having served six months and sent him to prison for another three years. He will be on the sexual offenders database for life and is to have no contact with his victims during his incarceration.

Henry can’t work or hold a position of trust for those under 16 for a decade after his release.