Rapist Donald Sabey's disappearance leads women's groups to question halfway house placements
Three women's groups have criticized the placement of high-risk sex offenders in proximity to vulnerable women.
Battered Women's Support Services, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and the WISH Drop-In Centre Society issued a statement expressing outrage after convicted rapist Donald James Sabey, 48, had failed to return to his halfway house.
BWSS spokesperson Angela Marie MacDougall told the Georgia Straight by phone that the women's groups have not been given a face-to-face meeting on this topic by Corrections Canada, the Ministry of Justice, B.C. Housing, the Vancouver Police Department, or the nonprofit society contracted by the government to house federal offenders in downtown Vancouver.
"We're getting the runaround at this point," MacDougall said.
A jury convicted Sabey in 2006 of sexual assault with a weapon, sexual assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement, and threatening death or bodily harm.
It came after he attacked a Kamloops sex worker in his apartment. She was confined for 11 hours before escaping when someone else knocked on Sabey's door.
The sex worker claimed in court that he had whipped her back and buttocks with his belt, struck her legs with a baseball bat, and smacked her face so hard that it broke her nose. The judge, Harvey Groberman, did not accept that her nose was fractured, but sentenced Sabey to five years in jail.
According to the National Parole Board, Sabey declined to enroll in prison programs for sex offenders.
When Sabey was released from prison and placed in a Vancouver halfway house in 2011, the VPD issued a public warning.
Sabey is 6'4", 240 pounds, and is bald with blue eyes. He's required to abstain from drinking alcohol, avoid contact with sex workers, and report all intimate and sexual relationships to his parole officer.
When he failed to return to his halfway house this week, police asked for the public's help in finding him.
"He has multiple tattoos all over his body including 'Dawn' and tribal art on his left forearm, 'KEYGRIP' skulls and demon faces on his right forearm, and a dragon head on his left shoulder," the VPD news release states.
Sabey is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant.
MacDougall revealed that Sabey was staying in a facility in the VPD's District One before he disappeared. This zone covers the Central Business District, Yaletown, West End, and Coal Harbour neighbourhoods.
The British Columbia–Yukon Halfway House Association lists only one facility in District One: the Salvation Army's Belkin ECRF at 555 Homer Street.
It has 30 beds for adult males on long-term supervision orders and statutory release with residency.
MacDougall questioned why sex offenders are placed in halfway houses near programs assisting vulnerable women who've experienced sexual exploitation.
She also noted that there's already an "epidemic of sexual violence" against women in the Downtown Eastside, so there's no justification for placing offenders like Sabey near this neighbourhood.
"We've raised it before with other men that have been released," MacDougall said. "We've raised it when these guys have gone missing—when they've failed to return to their halfway house."
This time, she hopes that Sabey's disappearance will be the catalyst for stronger action.