WARNING: This article contains details of sexual assault and suicidal ideation, and may affect those who have experienced them or know someone affected by them.
An Ontario woman who faked pregnancies and fraudulently sought the help of numerous doulas was in tears at her sentencing hearing Wednesday as she took full accountability for "the hurt and the pain" she has caused.
Kaitlyn Braun spoke after over a dozen doulas who said they were traumatized and financially set back by the 25-year-old's actions gave victim impact statements in Brantford's Court of Justice.
"I know that the words I speak today do not take back what I did and that they don't automatically create healing. However, it is my hope that my words, along with my plan of action, show that I'm a changed person," Braun said from inside the prisoner's box.
"What I did was ultimately very wrong, and I feel a strong sense of shame when I think of the hurt and the pain that I've caused. I never wanted to be the person I became."
Braun pleaded guilty last month to 21 charges — including fraud, indecent acts, false pretences and mischief — of the 52 she faced. The one-day hearing was told she'll receive her sentence on Feb. 14 in Brantford.
A doula is a trained professional who supports clients before, during and shortly after childbirth. They also help with grief and trauma around pregnancy loss, but they're not health-care professionals who deliver babies and they don't have access to medical records or equipment. While doulas have certifications with different organizations, they are not registered with a regulating or governing body.
A publication ban that protected the identities of 17 doulas in the case is no longer in place for 12 of them.
A doula shares her victim impact statement with Justice R.S. Gee in Brantford's Ontario Court of Justice on Wednesday. The identities of five of the 17 victims are protected under a publication ban. (Alexandra Newbould/CBC)
Braun was first arrested in March after seeking the help of doulas in what ended up being false pregnancies and stillbirths, from June 2022 to February 2023.
Braun also pleaded guilty to mischief for making a false statement to a Brantford police officer in February, accusing someone else of the offences to mislead the investigation. She has been in custody since her arrest.
'This crime has ruined me,' says victim
In her victim impact statement, London doula Seanna Hayes said she was "utterly drained and emotionally defeated," adding that Braun was her first-ever client.
"Since my time with Ms. Braun, I'm fearful of new clients. I'm now less trusting of those seeking out doula support. This is unacceptable to me as someone who wants to give the best support to people."
Braun, wearing a purple sweater and glasses and in handcuffs, looked down the entire time her victims' statements were being heard.
The doulas, who either spoke or had their victim impact statements read out for them, said the ordeal with Braun has left them feeling violated. Some of them said their families have also been impacted, as they've had to spend time away from their young children to work with Braun.
Many doulas said they've changed the way they take on new clients and how they advertise their businesses.
Hayes said she has added a "false pretense" clause in her contract, and no longer offers virtual support or any free services.
"Kaitlyn Braun has made me afraid of doing the work I'm so passionate about. I'm afraid of gaining new clients and being triggered at birth," she said. "This crime has ruined me."
Another London doula, Amy Silva, told the sentencing hearing that she lost about $6,000 by working with Braun and as a result of therapy costs.
"The safety measures I've had to implement reflect a genuine fear instilled in me by your actions, Kaitlyn," Silva said while looking directly at Braun.
Sentencing deferred for a month
Justice Robert Gee said he needs more time to reflect on the joint submission the Crown and defence have put forward: that Braun receive a two-year conditional sentence.
If accepted, it would put Braun on house arrest for the two years, with certain exceptions. It would be followed by a three-year probation during which Braun would have to receive therapy. The defence and Crown are also requesting that the 10 months Braun has already spent in custody not be included in the sentence.
The lawyers shared with the court Braun's long history of mental health challenges, including memories of childhood sexual assault, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and bipolar and borderline tendencies.
Amy Winter shares a victim impact statement through Zoom during the sentencing hearing. Over a dozen doulas were in court to detail how they suffered as a result of the crime. (Alexandra Newbould/CBC)
Braun's health records indicate a history of suicidal ideation and almost 200 hospital visits from 2006 up until her arrest in March, Crown attorney Joshua Mociak told Gee.
"The submission speaks to mental health diagnoses and significant loneliness. I don't think anyone can answer why she did this," Braun's lawyer, Alison Macdonald, told reporters outside the court.
"She has been beat up twice in custody, so it's a suffering to be in custody now anywhere when you're awaiting sentencing. It's not easy for anybody. She's never been in jail before, she has no record and she's a young woman."
Braun also told the hearing that her time in custody gave her an opportunity to reflect on her actions and decide the kind of person she wants to be now. She is willing to participate in any form of counselling the court orders her to and believes she can get more support outside of custody.
The remaining charges that Braun hasn't pleaded guilty to, including sexual assault, will be dropped once Gee hands down her sentence.
For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, support is available through crisis lines and local support services via this government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
For anyone struggling with their mental health, help is available through:
This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.