A legal decision is raising new concerns about whether victims of sexual abuse will be afraid to report the crime. They come after a Superior Court Judge ruled in the case of two sisters from Ancaster who came forward as adults to accuse an uncle of abusing them when they were little girls.
Al Sweeney has been following the story and has the details.
The judge said the testimony from the sisters did not show the uncle committed the abuse. Instead, he found the sisters libelled him and ordered them to pay $125,000 for damaging the uncle’s reputation.
Justice Andrew Goodman dismissed the claims of sexual abuse, saying testimony indicates it couldn’t have happened the way the sisters said. But he said the sisters tried to portray the uncle as a child molester. Lawyer Elizabeth Grace, who deals with sexual abuse cases, says this a rare case. She says it’s a warning that victims of sexual abuse have to be careful who they talk to.
“It’s going to have a chilling effect or it could potentially have a chilling effect for those who believe they’e been abused. And there are many reasons why they don’t already come forward; the shame, the self blame, the fear that they’re not going to be believed and so a decision like this really makes, or should make these people kind of take stock and think about whether if they come forward they may be faced with defamation allegations.”
There’s another aspect to this ruling. The judge awarded $125,000 for libel damage to the uncle’s reputation. But he said, if he had believed the women, he would have awarded them $35,000 each in damages for sexual abuse. Grace says that’s saying the man’s reputation is worth more than three times the sexual abuse of a little girl. Nick.
Al, as you said, this a rare case. Any other reactions today?
Nick, there is another take on this story. A comment on a blog called “Community of the Wrongly Accused” says the uncle was victimized and deserves justice like anybody else. The court ruling came from a Superior Court, which means other judges won’t be required to follow it, but it could influence their opinions. There’s no word on any appeal.