Caitlan Coleman, who was taken hostage by extremists in Afghanistan with her husband Joshua Boyle in 2012, testified in court on March 27 about the constant physical and emotional abuse she endured at the hands of her husband—both during and after captivity.
Coleman, 33, said the couple were physically abused by their captors, but that Boyle also abused her during that time. She said Boyle would spank her as often as three times a week as a form of “physical chastisement,” as well as punch, slap, choke, and bite her when he got angry, the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Boyle, 35, has pleaded not guilty to 19 charges against him, including assault, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, and forcing someone to take a noxious substance. Coleman is named the victim in 17 of those charges, while a publication ban is in place for a second alleged victim.
Coleman gave her testimony via closed-circuit television from a separate room to avoid being in the same room as her estranged husband.
Coleman and Boyle were kidnapped by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network about a week after they entered Afghanistan on a backpacking trip in Central Asia in 2012. Coleman, who was pregnant at the time, said she didn’t want to go to Afghanistan but Boyle insisted.
After they were kidnapped, they were held in 22 different places, she said, usually in a single room with a dirt floor and bathroom. She gave birth to three children while in captivity.
In spring 2017, Coleman said Boyle told her she had to stay in the shower area of the room in which the family was being held, and she could only see her children for 20 to 30 minutes each day.
“At that point, I knew it didn’t do any good to argue with him so I would spend the entire day from waking up until the children were asleep staying in the shower space,” she said, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
She said the final months of her captivity were the worst she’s ever felt.
“I was not in love with him anymore, I was afraid of him,” she told the court. “This was probably the darkest period of my whole life.”
Return to Canada
Coleman testified that the abuse continued even after their family was rescued by Pakistani forces had returned to Canada in October 2017.
They first lived with Boyle’s parents in Smiths Falls, Ont., before moving to Ottawa, where they initially stayed in a hotel.
Coleman said that, following an argument, Boyle ordered her to strip off her clothes and stand in the hotel room shower, where he forced her to take three tablets of Trazodone, an anti-depressant medication. According to the Ottawa Citizen, she initially argued with him and threw the pills away, but he returned with more.
“He hit me either before or after he brought me more,” Coleman testified. “He stood in the bathroom and watched me take them that time … I took them because I knew that if I didn’t he would hit me harder.”
On Dec. 30, 2017, Boyle made a late-night emergency 911 call saying Coleman had run screaming from their Ottawa apartment, threatening to kill herself. The recording of the call was played in court on March 26.
Police found Coleman at a downtown hotel with her mother, who was visiting from the United States.
Ottawa police Sgt. Shane Henderson told the court that Coleman provided a detailed statement, saying she was trying to flee from her husband because he had assaulted her “numerous times” and threatened to kill her. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Henderson testified that the investigation shifted from a mental health call to a domestic assault investigation.
Boyle was arrested on Dec. 31, 2017.
Coleman, originally from Pennsylvania, told the court that the she and Boyle met online when she was 16 and began an on-again-off-again relationship before marrying in 2011.
She said that early in the relationship, Boyle would insult her and make her question her own self worth. She said he threatened to kill himself when she suggested in 2008 that they go their separate ways.
Shortly after they married, the couple separated and Coleman began divorce proceedings, but they reconciled and traveled to Central Asia in 2012. she learned she was pregnant in June 2012, shortly before their trip to Asia.
With files from the Canadian Press.