Nova Scotia

Woman says she was silenced decades ago, now her former teacher is facing charges

One of the women accusing a Halifax-area school principal of sexually assaulting her when she was a child is speaking out.

On Nov. 9, Nova Scotia RCMP announced that they had charged Steve Hutchins, 59, with two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. Hutchins was the principal at an elementary school in Eastern Passage, N.S., at the time of his arrest.

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE), the body that administers schools in the Halifax area, said in a statement that he is no longer an employee and had not been in a school for the current school year.

But in the 1980s, Hutchins was a gym teacher at what was then called Tallahassee Elementary School in Eastern Passage. The school has since been re-named. 

The woman who accuses Hutchins of assaulting her while she attended that school is 42 now. She said it’s taken her 34 years to get the strength to tell her story.

Name protected by publication ban

“I spent many years in my early adult years suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, sleep disorders, all kinds of things that I didn’t realize were very commonly tied back to people who had experienced sexual abuse like I had,” she said.

Her identity is protected by a publication ban. She said the assaults began when she was about eight and continued until she was 10.

She said she tried to talk to adults at the time, but didn’t get very far.

“The consensus or the feeling was if this didn’t really happen to you, you’d better be sure because you could ruin his life. That’s what we would hear as little girls and boys,” she said.

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“We would hear that, and it would scare us into silence.”

2nd charge dates back to ’90s

The other charge against Hutchins relates to another woman who alleges she was assaulted by him at a home in Lucasville, N.S., in the early 1990s.

“You know, I actually called her. I got her number and we talked,” the first complainant said.

“It was very healing for both of us because we both spent many years questioning whether we were valid because we were both silenced in that very same way.”

The woman said talking to the other victim gave her the motivation to speak out because she fears there could be others who aren’t ready to come forward.

Report abuse, police advise

At the time the charges were announced, police said they encourage victims of sexual assault to report it.

The woman said it has taken her a long time to heal and she used the relative downtime of the COVID-19 pandemic to do what she describes as a “deep dive” into her mental health. She said she’s speaking out now because she wants to encourage people who have had similar experiences to come forward and get help if they need it.

She said she’s ready to confront Hutchins when the case comes to court. His first appearance is scheduled for Dec. 11.

“I hope that he goes away for a very long time, but even more than that I just want other women to be able to heal through this; other people who’ve experienced this to know they’re not alone, to feel that same relief that I felt when I learned that there were other victims.”

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Efforts to reach Hutchins for comment have been unsuccessful.  

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