Compensation Awards in Sexual Assault Cases – Case Summary #3
Starting when she was 7 years old, the plaintiff was repeatedly sexually abused by her parish priest, Father Charles Sylvestre. The abuse continued over three years.
Before the abuse, the plaintiff led a happy life. Afterwards, she left the Catholic school she had been attending and had to repeat a year of school because of her difficulty adjusting. She was angry and became withdrawn. She received low marks in school and later had difficulties at work and maintaining employment. She never achieved her goal of becoming a social worker. Because of the abuse, she continued to have difficulty trusting others and suffered from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and suppressed anger.
The plaintiff decided to come forward when she was 41 years old, after she learned that the priest, Father Sylvestre, had been criminally charged and convicted for sexual assault of 47 other women. She sued the Diocese of London, which had charge of the priest who abused her. The court found that the Diocese was not only vicariously liable for Father Sylvestre’s sexual misconduct, but also negligent in its own right and should have taken steps to prevent the sexual abuse.
Though the plaintiff’s difficulties in life were, the trial judge concluded, caused in part by other struggles, including learning she was adopted and coming out as a lesbian, the court found that if she had not been sexually abused by the priest, she would have been better able to cope with other sources of stress in her life.
The court awarded the plaintiff $190,000 for her pain and suffering, $400,000 for past and future loss of income, and $20,000 for therapy and other out of pocket expenses, for a total award of $610,000.
Elizabeth Grace heads the Toronto office sexual assault group, she is a partner at the Ontario law firm, Lerners LLP, and has specialized in sexual assault matters for almost two decades now. See her professional biography for more information about Elizabeth and her work in the area of civil liability for sexual abuse.