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Stiff sentences for spousal assault

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 07/01) - Two recent sentencings for assault in territorial court are proof that Northerners are living up to the startling statistics surrounding spousal assault.

"When he did this I felt afraid, that he hated me and I was ashamed to walk up town," said one victim in court on Nov. 27, with a badly bruised cheek and blackened eye.

Alex Betsina pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to nine months in jail and two years probation by Judge Brian Bruser.

"What you did amounted to an ongoing terror campaign," Bruser told him. "The way you terrorized her was mean and small."

Those words sent Betsina into tears while he sat in the courtroom. The court learned earlier this month Betsina followed his ex-girlfriend on the street and attacked her as she walked with a friend he was jealous of. He also attacked her in her home, threatened to kill her and broke some windows.

He also assaulted her in the Centre Square Mall before police took him into custody.

The Status of Women Council of the NWT recently reported that as many as many as one in four women are abused by her partner in the NWT.

The same day as Betsina's sentencing, Clayton Bearard pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm, mischief and failing to abide by an undertaking. He was sentenced to 11 months in jail by Bruser.

"I am very ashamed of what I did," he said. "I try and fail and try and fail but I haven't stopped trying."

Bearard, the court was told, threw his ex-girlfriend up against a wall behind the Right Spot Sports Bar on Nov. 14, punching her in the face and kicking her ankle with steel-toed boots.

He left her lying on the ground with a broken ankle because he was angry with her for breaking up with him.

"Keep trying," Bruser said to him as he was escorted out of the courtroom handcuffed.

On average, women in the NWT are abused an average of 34 times by a spouse or partner before they report it.

The use of shelters here and in other Northern communities is of the highest in Canada. During the 1999-2000 fiscal year 296 women and 334 children were admitted to safe shelters.