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article imageOp-Ed: Victims of alleged child sexual abuse punished in court Special

By Viga Boland     Aug 27, 2013 in Crime
Ancaster - Two sisters from Ancaster, Ontario, now in their 30's, claimed they had been sexually abused by their uncle back in the 80's when they were just 4 and 6 years old. Now, an Ontario judge has decided they, not their uncle, are the ones guilty of a crime.
What is so typical in this case is that victims of child sexual abuse wait years and years to come forward and speak up about the abuse. As youngsters, they are afraid and ashamed, particularly when the abuser is a close relative. Those who do speak up, perhaps telling a mother, way too often, are not believed and quickly admonished not to tell lies about their father, grandfather, uncle, brother or whoever the abuser is. As a result, they bury their shameful secret, often so deeply, that memories become fuzzy. Sometimes, they even wonder themselves if they imagined it all.
It would appear that very situation is what has cost these two sisters dearly now that they finally decided to come forward and tell their stories in court. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the uncle, according to Judge Andrew Goodman, the sisters
did not like their uncle ... and sent the emails in order to vindicate their actions or validate their historical claims of abuse
Furthermore, the judge has decided that
"Jack is a man who comes from an extended family and indeed, cherishes family, church and community. As a result of these allegations, I am satisfied that Jack has been shunned by a number of his family members."
As a result, the good judge has ordered the sisters to pay their uncle $125,000 for damages resulting from defamation of character. According to Elizabeth Grace, a lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse, it is most unusual, even rare, for victims of alleged sexual abuse to be found liable for defamation.
What is worse about such a decision, whether the uncle is innocent of the charges or not, is the impact this will have on other victims of sexual abuse and specifically incest, which is what is really the issue here. Many of us who are victims of incest, myself included, are desperate to get the message out to other victims to speak out from under incest, to stop hiding the truth and protecting the perpetrators, just so the family can keep its respectability and reputation intact. While we all deplore the honour killings in other cultures, we support a much slower, maybe even more painful death of the spirit by telling children to keep quiet about being molested by family members. And most of them do, indeed, keep quiet, some for 30 - 50 years or more.
In the process of writing and recently releasing my own personal story of incest, NO TEARS FOR MY FATHER, I have become involved with hundreds of incest victims via a private Facebook group. What they have shared with me about the abuse they have suffered is appalling. What is even more appalling to me is the lack of support they have received from those who are their caregivers, the ones who supposedly love them most: their mothers, fathers and immediate families.
No-one wants to believe kindly old grandfather would force sex on his daughter, or that good old Uncle Johnny who's a laugh a minute would molest his nephew. And sadly, even if they do believe what the child is telling them, their need to protect the family's honour is more important than the mental, physical and sexual health of that child. So they tell the child to "Shush" and never speak of it again.
According to the organization, VOICE FOUND, in Canada alone:
1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys experience an unwanted sexual act before their 18th birthday
95 % of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator
30-40% of sexual assault victims are abused by a family member
and 9% of these are biological fathers. My father was one of those statistics, but it's taken me till now, at 67 years of age, to go public with my story. I'm not the first to do this by any means: another Hamiltonian, a famous writer now living in Toronto, Sylvia Fraser, blew the whistle on the incest in her family back in 1987 when she wrote her book, MY FATHER'S HOUSE.
Knowing how long it took me, or Sylvia Fraser, or the many other writers to come out with their truth in a blog or book or courtroom, it doesn't surprise me to read in that article in today's Hamilton Spectator, that
"Confronting their uncle tore their closely knit family apart and the sisters recanted their allegations shortly afterward, court records show. Months later, however, they renewed their allegations."
For the court, the fact that they recanted their allegations was a sign of fabrication, non-truths, nothing but an attempt to defame a person's character. To those of us who know more about the effects of child sexual abuse, this is typical, quite normal, and an indication that abuse most likely did take place. But victims are intimidated by family censoring and disapproval. They are still just frightened children despite their age, and sometimes the battle to be heard and believed becomes too much. So they give up and shut up.
What bothered me most about this news article was these closing lines:
"In writing his decision, Goodman calculated the hypothetical damages he would have awarded had he found that sexual abuse did occur at $35,000 for each sister.
This has raised some red flags with lawyers looking at his decision, as the defamation award of $125,000 is more than three times that amount."
I have to agree with the sexual assault lawyer, Elizabeth Grace, whose response to this information was:
"That an invasion of the deepest kind of privacy and intrusion on one's physical body with long-lasting effects would be worth $35,000 and the damage to a grown man's reputation is worth so much more, it strikes one as concerning."
Anyone interested in the actual court ruling on this case should visit THIS LINK.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Child sexual abuse, Incest, no tears for my father, Sylvia Fraser, My Father's House
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