Access to justice for victims of sexual assault is a serious problem in Canada. In my experience, most victims are extremely reluctant to move forward with civil litigation for fear of being re-traumatized by the process. It is my practice to ensure my clients are as empowered as possible throughout the process, because reclaiming power – particularly in exploitation cases – is, in my view, a necessary step in the victim’s healing journey.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to shield my clients from any and all re-victimization, and Ms. Anderson’s trial came at a big personal cost to her own well-being, particularly in having to endure repeated “rape myth” questions and theories from the defendant.
It takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage to proceed with litigation and then through a trial, particularly against the Roman Catholic Church, a very powerful and well-funded institution. I commend Ms. Anderson for her bravery: she has done a service to countless other victims of clergy sexual abuse, most notably adult victims of abuse and exploitation, her case being the first adult victim case involving Catholic clergy in Canada.
Mr. Justice Crossin’s judgment puts to rest any suggestion that sexual contact between a spiritual leader and a vulnerable parishioner has the capacity to be consensual, and this is a victory. It is also encouraging that Mr. Justice Crossin held the defendant Diocese, the institution, responsible for its own negligence, with an additional award of punitive damages, for permitting a known perpetrator to continue to harm parishioners without warning and without restriction.
It was my honour and privilege to be Ms. Anderson’s advocate in this very important case.
(*Posted with our client’s express permission).
See more here: https://www.bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/sc/20/12/2020BCSC1247.htm