On the outside, she testified they “looked like the perfect couple.”
He was “generous” and “sweet,” she said, gifting her a diamond necklace just two months after they met in Yellowknife.
But behind the picturesque portrait of a young couple, the man’s former partner testified Wednesday the relationship was anything but perfect.
“I was so scared for my life,” the woman said, recalling an alleged assault while delivering testimony from behind a screen that blocked her from seeing her ex-partner, who sat a few feet away in NWT territorial court.
The 36-year-old man, who Yellowknifer isn’t naming in order to protect the identity of his alleged victim, is accused of committing a series of assaults against his former partner, allegedly using his Brazilian jiu-jitsu training to assault and restrain her, between 2013 and 2017 when the couple were living together in Yellowknife.
He faces nine charges, including assault, assault causing bodily harm and forcible confinement. Between January and March 2013, “things started to change,” in the once “perfect” relationship, the accused’s ex-partner testified.
‘I thought I was going to die’
The repeated abuse began, she testified, with wrist grabbing and arm twisting, often ending with the accused taking her down to the ground, resulting in bruises on her arms and painful strains to her neck and back. The woman admitted to slapping and head-butting him on two occasions, telling the court she felt “shocked” and embarrassed” afterwards.
Recounting another alleged assault she said she “tried to forget,” the woman said her ex choked her from behind while he wrapped his legs around her body.
“I was gasping for air,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.”
She didn’t seek medical treatment following the incident.
“I didn’t know what I’d even say,” she said, breaking down in tears. “I didn’t want to get him in trouble. I thought I brought it onto myself.”
Following an alleged assault by the accused in March 2016, she said she did go to the hospital, where her former partner “sat with her the whole time.” The woman said she told a nurse she’d fallen on ice and hurt her back.
On Jan. 20, 2017, the woman said the accused pushed her head onto the ground and slammed his knee between her shoulders, and later punching her in the arm.
In a panic, the woman testified, she texted her boss to pick her up. The woman told the court she has been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as anxiety and depression, the result, she said, of “four years in a very abusive relationship.”
The now former boss, who she is now in a relationship with, testified that when he picked her up, she was on the side of the road not wearing a coat and carrying a “hastily-packed bag,” he said.
The woman received medical treatment for the alleged assault about a month later. The woman sustained tissue damage and bruises, she said.
Complainant was the aggressor, suggests defence
After the woman admitted to leaving scratches and bite marks on the accused during fights, and to self-harming herself twice during the course of the relationship, the man’s lawyer, Hasaan Jomha, suggested the woman’s injuries resulted from her ex restraining her from hurting herself or him.
On the night the woman left the accused, defence suggested she started the fight so she could go “cry wolf” to her then-boss and have him “save the day.” She vehemently denied the suggestions.
The accused took the stand Thursday, presenting a starkly different version of the tumultuous relationship. He said the complainant was the aggressor in the alleged assaults and that he was acting in self-defence.
He testified his ex-partner was like “ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” due to a “mental condition,” that caused her to self-harm and act “very aggressively” towards him. The man, who told the court he’s 5’4 and weighs 125 pounds, said he was “scared for his safety,” and would be “triggered” into “fear” when she’d smash plates or call him names — remembering the abuse he said he suffered in 2013.
“I was abused,” he testified.
The man admitted to placing the complainant in a choke hold after “disarming” a knife from her. He testified he disarmed the woman, took her to the ground and then applied a choke hold.
Under cross-examination from prosecutor Martha Chertkow, the accused said he started training in Jiu Jitsu in 2010, two years before he met his former partner. Chertkow grilled the accused about inconsistencies in his testimony and the statement he gave to RCMP in May 2018.
‘You have stolen her story’
The accused admitted to mistakenly blurring together separate incidents involving the alleged assaults. Chertkow suggested that “just as you confused incidents, you confused the force you used on (complainant) with self-defence.”
“You have stolen her story of being a victim and made it your own,” said Chertkow.
The accused denied the Crown’s theory of events.
Chertkow, in her closing arguments, noted the accused testified he was a “beginner” at Jiu Jitsu, but that he’s been training since 2010. Chertkow argued the man actually has “extensive martial arts training,” and despite the accused and complainant being relatively the same size, she said he possessed technical skills she did not. Chertkow said the accused’s use of martial arts training was not reasonable in the circumstances, and that it wasn’t done only for the purpose of defending himself. She said he “pinned her down to humiliate her” and “exert control” over her.
Chertkow said he fabricated evidence on the witness stand to “conveniently adopt the victimhood of the complainant.”
Judge Robert Gorin will give a decision on May 3.