Mental health system fails traumatized grandmother

Ten years ago, Sonja Wadden Rushton was murdered by her ex-husband, Kevin Rushton. Their 21-month-old daughter witnessed the stabbing.

Ten years ago, Sonja Wadden Rushton was murdered by her ex-husband, Kevin Rushton.

Their 21-month-old daughter witnessed the stabbing.

On Wednesday, Jean Levesque spoke publicly about the murder of her daughter for the first time, during Justice’s Focus on Victims of Crime Conference.

“My emotional reaction to the murder of my only child was like a quickening, when everything around me and in me seemed to stop,” she said.

“I couldn’t make sense of my life and what had happened and what I was supposed to be doing next.”

It wasn’t until several months later that Levesque realized her two-year-old granddaughter had witnessed the murder.

“She described what she saw as ‘big bad boo-boos,’” said Levesque.

“She would knock on a table or a wall saying, ‘Are you there, are you in there?’, until her knuckles were red.”

At two-and-a-half, her granddaughter began hacking at pieces of drawing paper with her pens.

“Then she did it with a butter knife, saying ‘Cut, cut, cut,’” said Levesque.

“I all but threw up, trying not to show emotion as she sliced through the paper.”

At three, the little girl started stabbing her dolls.

“Watching her stab the doll over and over and over, calling the doll bad, bad, bad, paralyzed me,” said Levesque.

Then she started hiding the stabbed toys.

“All I could do through those times was hug her and love her and hide my tears.”

Levesque’s granddaughter has been given ongoing support by Child Abuse Treatment Services since the murder.

But Levesque has no support.

After the trial, mental health services offered Levesque a psychologist to help her cope with the murder.

But after about 10 months, the psychologist was transferred and Health was short-staffed.

“I was told I was not mentally handicapped and I don’t need help anymore,” said Levesque.

“So I was tossed out on the street with this open can of worms.

“You fall through the cracks — they gave you your 10 cents worth and now you’re out on your own.”

There needs to be ongoing support for homicide survivors, said Levesque.

“There are quite a few of us out there and there is getting to be more and more.

“So there has to be something, because many of us are raising children and without support we will end up raising these children negatively.”

For the first year and a half after the murder, Levesque was helped by two co-ordinators from victim services.

“One woman kept track of appointments and the other walked me to court,” she said.

Once the trial was over, victim services “lets you down gently,” she said.

That’s when Levesque was briefly shuffled to mental health services.

Ten months with the psychologist was not enough, she said.

“Their reasoning is, I am not mentally challenged — I lost my only daughter to multiple stab wounds and I’m raising her child who witnessed it and is stabbing her dolls.”

Levesque’s psychologist thought her client needed more treatment.

“She told me she didn’t think I should be left out in the cold with what we’d opened up,” said Levesque.

“But the board decided I didn’t need follow-up.”

Mental health services should stay with its clients until they feel capable of standing on their own two feet, she said.

Levesque’s granddaughter turns 12 in June.

“And she still can’t walk two blocks to school alone,” said Levesque.

“There are no words to describe the emotions my granddaughter and myself are still going through — we take it day by day.”

On Thursday, Rushton was up for parole.

The National Parole Board’s Pacific Regional Office would not release information on its decision, said a representative last week.

Levesque had to tell her granddaughter about the parole date.

“I was afraid she’d see it in the papers and never forgive me if I didn’t tell her,” she said.

“She’s been having nightmares ever since.”

After losing her psychologist, roughly eight years ago, Levesque was put on a wait list with mental health services.

“I wanted to get back in,” she said.

“But the wait list was long and I never heard back.”

Mental health services hasn’t employed a psychologist for approximately eight years, said Health spokesperson Pat Living on Friday.

There are also no psychiatrists on staff.

Instead, the department “is using a variety of mental health clinicians as a broader base of health professionals.

“We contract psychiatrists for specific needs,” added Living.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com