The alleged victim of a Rosemere teacher accused of sexually assaulting him when he was a teenaged student has started testifying at her trial describing an often torrid affair where they had sex nearly every day they saw each other.
The trial began after the judge dismissed Tania Pontbriand’s attempt to have the case thrown out of court.
The alleged victim testified he first had sex with Pontbriand May 19th, 2002. He says he remembers the date precisely, because she had dog tags made that had their names and, “BFF (Best Friends Forever) 19-05-02“. He was 15 at the time in grade ten and she was 32.
Pontbriand, now 40, is accused of sexual assault and sexual contact with a minor while in a position of authority. The alleged events happened between May 2002 and April 2004 while she was a gym and leadership teacher at Rosemere High School in a suburb north of Montreal. He only filed a complaint with police in 2007.
The young man, who spent his 25th birthday testifying at the trial, said the student-teacher relationship with Pontbriand started off normally, but changed during a school overnight camping trip in May 2002. He said he was an honour roll student and she had a reputation as a cool teacher who you could talk to and get along with.
He testified in an easy and frank manner, saying they were alone together at one point and had an intimate, emotional conversation that lasted all night until sunrise. He says he never opened up to anyone before, saying he didn’t relate to his peers, and pointed out that both he and Pontbriand had divorced parents. He testified Pontbriand told him she made a mistake marrying her husband. He testified that later during their relationship, she told him she had been having problems with her husband for awhile and that she didn’t enjoy having sex with her spouse because his penis was too big and it hurt her during intercourse.
He testified he and Pontbriand grew closer and chummier after the initial camping trip, right up until their first sexual relation two weeks later during another camping trip, just the two of them. He testified she told him she wanted to take the trip because she wanted to continue their conversation, that they were “like a novel they started and she wanted to finish it.”
He said they were in a tent together, lying next to each other and she started stroking his eyebrows with her fingers, which “caught me off guard.”
“She said, ‘Kiss me.’ I said, “How?’,” he testified, explaining he was sexually inexperienced at the time.
“She said, ‘However you want.’ She told me to take off her bra but I failed miserably,” he said.
He said they had sex twice that night, adding she told him she waited for a long time to do this.
“We went from 0 to 100,” he said.
He said he was confused at the time and didn’t expect it.
“I never thought I’d be sleeping with a married teacher of mine. The thought never crossed my mind,” he testified.
He said that shortly afterwards, during their second sexual encounter at her house, she told him they were soulmates and that she loved him.
He said for his 16th birthday, Pontbriand gave him 16 gifts plus one for good luck, including a piggy bank that had a cheque inside and an inscription reading, “Hugs for your friend Tania always.” Other gifts included a napsack, a watch, a teddy bear and a mug, all of them with his name on them.
He testified that during his grade 11, he and Pontbriand spent almost all their time together: she’d pick him up at home and then after school, they’d spend recess and lunch together, and see each other on weekends, after school when she would go to his house to ostensibly help him with homework, and on Wednesdays in particular when her husband was playing golf.
“(At school) We’d go have lunch, we’d go to Subway, we’d eat. Often, we wouldn’t go. We’d find a parking lot and have sex in the car,” he said.
By the winter of 2002, he said his personality changed, that he was no longer dependent on his mother, his marks slipped dramatically and he was no longer an honour roll student.
He wanted to go on a class winter camping trip with Pontbriand but his mother put her foot down and said no, adding that he was spending too much time with her. He said that led to a big fight ending with his mother forbidding them to see each other outside of school classes. He testified that his mother became his enemy for separating them.
That prompted him and Pontbriand to sneak around and continue their affair, with Pontbriand buying him a cellphone so they could communicate. He described times when he would walk the dog and they would meet.
“She had a hatchback so we’d put the dog in the trunk and we’d have sex in the front seat or the back seat,” he said.
He said he ended up moving out into a family friend’s house which was closer to school and that made it easier to see Pontbriand.
He testified that the affair started winding down in fall of 2003 when he started CEGEP in Montreal and moved downtown. He said they always had fights on the phone, “break up every two weeks and get back together.”
He said Pontbriand ended the romantic relationship in winter 2003 but the sexual relationship continued until February or March the following year.
“She would make me say before (we had sex), that I don’t love her. If i said that, I could have sex with her,” he said.
He said by that time Pontbriand had separated from her husband but had recently started seeing someone new. He said she would call him less and would not answer the phone when he called. He said he was very distraught, extremely confused, upset and depressed. He said she was frustrated when he brought up their relationship and didn’t seem to want to talk about it.
“She convinced me we were in love, that I was very special and picked me out of all the students,” he testified.
“Everything she promised me wasn’t necessarily true.”
He said he contemplated suicide during his second year of CEGEP and stopped attending classes.
He had spoken with a school psychologist and school psychiatrist but said he still hadn’t told anyone else about the affair because he wanted to protect Pontbriand and was still in love with her. He ended up dropping out of CEGEP. At around that time, he said he revealed everything to a close female friend. He then went to Ontario to continue his education in 2005. He said Pontbriand helped him pack and that was the last time he saw her.
In 2006, while he was in university, he said he was still socially distraught and not performing in school. He spoke to another school psychologist.
He testified he had a fight with his mother at that time where he broke down and told her about his relationship with Pontbriand.
“It was verbal diarrhea. I told her everything. It felt really good,” he said.
“It was very liberating.”
He ended up going to police and filing a complaint at the prompting of a friend.
“It would be the ultimate closure for me, to move on with my life.”
Pontbriand sat at a table near the front of the courtroom, her head bowed, chin resting in hand, as she continuously took notes.
His testimony resumes in late November.