Archive for the 'Child Abuse' Category

Judge Expands Abuse Claim Time Limits…Catches Up to Canada

Judge John R. O’Malley denied the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph summary judgment Friday, after hearing arguments based on Powel v. Chaminade, which added new wording to how the statute of limitations can be applied in sexual abuse claims. The ruling allows a court to consider when a plaintiff not only recalled the alleged abuse, but recognized the harm it inflicted.

O’Malley’s decision allowed the lawsuit to proceed to a jury verdict. The Diocese settled within days.

The ruling means Missouri’s law is now similar to Canada. The 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada,  M (K) v M (H),  removed a major barrier to lawsuits by ruling that provincial limitation periods do not begin to run until the plaintiff is reasonably capable of discovering the wrongful nature of the defendant’s acts and the nexus between those acts and the plaintiff’s injuries.

Nova Scotia became the first Province to amend its Limitation of Actions Act to provide that the limitation period for sexual abuse cases does not start to run until the victim is aware of the full extent of the abuse and the injury suffered. In 1994, British Columbia amended its Limitation Act to eliminate all limitations for causes of action ‘based on misconduct of a sexual nature’ or ‘based on sexual assault’. The rest of the Provinces enacted similar legislation shortly thereafter. 


Sexual Abuse Settlements Empower Victims to Come Forward

Frank Douglas has posted another interesting article about the Los Angeles priest abuse settlement on his Voice from the Desert blog.

He highlights an important part of the Los Angeles settlement (perhaps the most important part); the requirement for the Archdiocese to release to the public documents about it’s knowlege of the predatory habits of the Archdiocese’s sexually abusive priests.

Sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. Sexual predators manipulate their victims through shame and guilt. The article points out that:

when the predators’ names come out, other victims of the same perpetrator are often empowered to come forward.

Unfortunately, in some cases the names come out too late. In one case I am currently involved in David Martin took his own life because he could no longer deal with the pain of the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of Father Hugh Vincent MacDonald. His suicide note disclosing the abuse launched a police investigation that uncovered  dozens of MacDonald’s sexual abuse victims, most of whom I now represent. Unfortunately MacDonald died before he could be tried and convicted, robbing his victims of the opportunity to hold him accountable.

Do Myths About Child Abuse Explain The Church Sex Abuse Scandals?

I read an interesting story comparing myths and facts about child sexual abuse. The author points to research which suggests one reason why the Catholic Church has had such difficulty coming to terms with the reality of sexual abuse by it’s priests:

Males are less likely to believe victims complaints – particularly when sexual abuse is involved. Female respondents were more likely to believe victims who speak up. Males were more likely to believe children who made allegations of physical abuse. Men were not so likely to believe allegations of sexual abuse.

This is an interesting finding that needs more investigation. It could explain why it was so difficult to convince predominantly male law enforcement of the pervasive nature of this problem in our society and why it was so hard for the male leadership of the church to believe that their male colleagues were abusing children.

I have represented hundreds of victims of childhood sexual abuse and dozens of victims of priest sexual abuse. In most of those cases I was not convinced that the “male leadership of the church” did not believe the victim. On the contrary, the allegations were believed but the sexual offender was simply shuffled off to a different parish to continue his predations.

However I agree wholeheartedly with one of the authors conclusions:

None of us is immune to making assumptions. It is important to note, however, that these perceptions can and do influence treatment, investigations and community responses. Raising our awareness about these perceptions can help us be open to dealing with the situations that arise before us with integrity, compassion and empathy.

When we do that, we open the door to those who are suffering in our midst to speak up and tell us about their pain. That is the beginning of healing.

Take a look at the rest of the story here.

Child Pornographer Sentenced to 21 Years

For the first time, in Louisiana, a man has been convicted and sent to prison for creating sexually grahic child pornography. Jerry Lucas was sentenced to 21 years in prison for sexually exploiting a child via the creation of sexually graphic images.

Lucas appeared in the 14 pictures that FBI agents found during a search of his home. Agents also recovered his laptop computer, Polaroid camera, digital camera and other items related to his sexual predation. The federal prosecutors relied on laws that prohibit possession or creation of child pornography on computers “manufactured outside the state of Louisiana and transported in interstate and foreign commerce,” as counsel put it.

Anglican Priest Convicted of Sexual Abuse in Ontario

In case anyone is under the mistaken impression that sexual predators are a problem that is limited to the Catholic Church, Justice Stach of the Ontario Supreme Court recently released his decision convicting Anglican priest Ralph Rowe, who was charged with 56 counts of sexual abuse against more than 25 boys between 1975 and 1987.

Rowe was an Anglican priest, an organizer and leader of boy scout and choir groups, and a pilot in remote aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario. Rowe was convicted on charges of indecent assault and sexual assault including sexual fondling, digital penetration and anal rape.

The entire decision is reported at R. v. Rowe, [2007] O.J. No. 2971. You can read the decision here.

Halifax teacher charged with Sexual Abuse

A Grade 7 teacher from Park West school in Clayton Park in Halifax has been charged with sexual touching, and sexual assault against two boys. Scott Gordon Comeau has worked for the Halifax Regional School board since 1996.

More details here .

New Sexual Abuse Compensation Claim Decision from British Columbia

The Supreme Court of British Columbia just released a decision assessing damages for W.B., a victim of sexual abuse by his adopted father J.B.

W.B. was sexually abused by foster siblings when he was 8 years old. When he was 10 he was placed for adoption in the B household where he engaged in sexual relations with his adoptive siblings. When his “adopted” father J.B. learned of the sexual contact, he began to sexually abuse W.B. for more than a year.

W.B. became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was convicted of armed robbery. The psychologist who testified on W.B.’s behalf stated:

 …this man suffered significant emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child while in care. It has left a profound mark on him. It has limited his ability to form stable interpersonal   relationships. It has limited his ability to form friendships. He is left in a situation where he has great difficulty trusting other individuals. He suffers from emotional instability with periods of  depression and anxiety. This, in my opinion, is directly related to the abuse and neglect that he suffered as a child. He has strength of character to the extent that he has been able to establish himself in a career and also to be in a stable relationship and to function with a family despite the very real deficits that are present.

It is my opinion he is at risk for further emotional problems in the future. There is a relative emotional instability present that in a stable supportive environment he can deal with. However, should that environment change to any great extent, I believe he would be very vulnerable to developing a Major Depression, which would make it very difficult for him to function in society at the level he currently does. I believe he may benefit from counselling, but only to a limited extent. I believe he would have difficulty in trusting a counsellor and opening up and discussing the very real difficulties he has experience in life. He has in the past been able to discuss this to a certain extent with the psychologist he saw before and he may well be able to do so again in the future . . .

The court was concerned with distinguishing between the effects of the prior abuse and referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Blackwater v. Plint, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 3, 48 B.C.L.R. (4th) 1 where McLachlin C.J. stated:

Untangling the different sources of damage and loss may be nigh impossible. Yet the law requires  that it be done, since at law a plaintiff is entitled only to be compensated for loss caused by the  actionable wrong. It is the “essential purpose and most basic principle of tort law” that the plaintiff be placed in the position he or she would have been in had the tort not been committed…

J.B.’s non-pecuniary (emotional pain and suffering) damages were assessed at $60,000.00. The court also awarded him two years of lost income, $50,000.00 for the time he spent in jail.

The full decision is reported at  W.B. v. J.B., [2007] B.C.J. No. 1564.

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