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Get Compensation for Sexual Abuse

It is common for survivors of sexual assault to pursue both criminal and civil charges against their alleged perpetrators. In civil lawsuits, complainants typically seek monetary damages for injuries resulting from the alleged incident. Civil trials have a lower burden of proof compared to criminal trials, which allows plaintiffs who were unsuccessful in criminal court to potentially secure a favourable judgment in civil proceedings.

To establish a case of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must convince the judge that their allegations are more likely true than not, adhering to the “balance of probabilities” standard. Our firm has experience defending historical civil sexual abuse claims, some of which involve substantial damages, often brought forth by family members or individuals accusing professionals in positions of trust.

In the case AO v. WT, our Firm defended a retired teacher against a multi-million dollar claim related to an incident alleged to have occurred in the 1980s, nearly three decades prior. The complainant claimed to have had a sexual relationship with her teacher at the time. Despite the encounter being potentially “consensual,” special rules prohibit consenting adults from engaging in certain sexual acts.

Additionally, we have discreetly resolved civil actions involving sexual misconduct between employees in positions of power within large organizations, as seen in the Firm’s File No. 35*****2. These allegations, sometimes dating back decades, are often made against high-ranking executives by victims seeking financial compensation. A common strategy involves leveraging the potential publicity of a statement of claim to demand substantial payments. Our firm successfully avoided a public lawsuit and resolved the matter privately between the parties.

Not all civil sexual assault cases are pursued in civil court; some are brought to the Human Rights Tribunal. This route can be advantageous for complainants due to lower costs and quicker proceedings, although damages are capped at a lower threshold. In 2019, in the case NM v. TS, our firm defended a prominent business owner in Northern Ontario against allegations of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate employee. Through forensic evidence, we established that the relationship was consensual and not sexual abuse. Over several years, the complainant changed lawyers three times. Ultimately, we resolved the matter without any finding of fact, misconduct, or financial penalty.

Institutional Sexual Abuse

The phrase “child sexual abuse in institutional contexts” serves to differentiate from abuse occurring within the family or other situations. The term “institution” encompasses both physical locations such as schools and hospitals, as well as community-based organizations supporting children, youth, and families, including social assistance agencies, sports clubs, and religious organizations. Any environment where adults hold authority over children and young people can be a setting where institutional sexual abuse might occur. A study in 2019 found that 10% of female students were sexually abused in a postsecondary setting.

What is Abuse?

Oftentimes, the goal of an abuser is to gain control over their victims and to maintain that level of ongoing control. There are various kinds of control, such as physical control, psychological control, financial control, and more. Abusers can capitalize on their victims’ vulnerabilities and weaknesses in many ways, such as by physically exerting control over them, manipulating their emotions, extorting them for money, or subtly pressuring and manipulating them.

Being abused by a single individual can be a profoundly damaging and painful experience. However, the power disparity is exacerbated if the abuse occurs within an institution. In these scenarios, there are more people—and more powerful, authoritative people—who might be especially keen on ensuring that the victims stay silent.

People who are subject to institutionalized care are often among the most vulnerable in society. From childcare to healthcare settings, to schools, to assisted living communities for people with disabilities, to seniors’ homes, societies have built institutions to provide better, more affordable services to various groups of people than they could hope to receive individually based on their personal circumstances. When the trust we place in institutions is breached, it not only hurts the individual victims of abuse, but also undermines the sense of safety and the obligation we have to protect one another in society at large.

When survivors of institutional sexual abuse decide to tell their story, they should be treated with dignity, respect, empathy, financial support, and proactive steps should be taken to prevent such assaults in the future. The legal team at Donich Law is here to support you or a loved one if you have been the victim of sexual assault and a breach of trust.

In the context of sexual abuse, grooming involves manipulating another person—typically a child—to facilitate sexual exploitation. Abusers employ grooming to foster emotional ties and trust with their victims, increasing their susceptibility to exploitation.

The abuser meticulously plans and executes each step of the grooming process, which consists of multiple phases, including targeting, earning trust, meeting a need, seclusion, and sexualization.

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What is Grooming?

When victims of sexual abuse are groomed, the emotional effects are severe and persistent. Grooming victims may experience intense feelings of betrayal due to the abuser’s breach of their confidence, resulting from the manipulation and exploitation involved. Because they may feel they either enabled or participated in the abuse, victims often experience feelings of humiliation, remorse, and self-blame. Psychological trauma can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It may also make it more challenging for the victim to build trustworthy relationships in the future, negatively impacting their social life and emotional well-being.

It is important to identify signs of grooming early to prevent and address problems. Abusers manipulate others with subtle signs that are easily misinterpreted as genuine concern or normal communication. Common warning signs include an adult becoming overly interested in a child, finding discreet ways to spend time alone with them, and engaging in inappropriate conversations about sex.

Additionally, the abuser might begin showering the victim with luxurious gifts, flattering compliments, and affection, forging a unique bond that sets the child apart from others. Another warning sign is if the abuser consistently crosses the child’s personal boundaries, gradually causing the victim to become accustomed to closer, more personal interactions.

Grooming in digital environments can include sending frequent messages, providing graphic photographs of oneself, or making efforts to shift interactions into a more personal, isolating context. They might then use their time alone with the victim to ask overly sexual, personal questions. For example, a groomer might ask a child who is clearly underage, “Have you ever had sex before?” and proceed to ask them what they think about their groomer. A groomer might ask questions like, “Have you ever sent nude photos of yourself before? Would you try it?” Sometimes, groomers might make sexual comments, but then quickly dismiss it as a “joke” when they are confronted.

These actions could be seen as grooming, depending on the context. Grooming differs from having an informative conversation about sex to younger people as a way to educate them and keep them safe. These situations can be nuanced, so it is important to consult a lawyer to obtain the best legal outcomes, whether you are the plaintiff or the victim.

New Changes to Sexual Assault Laws in 2024

What are some Instances Where Sexual Abuse Can Occur in Institutions?

Institutions are establishments that house and/or provide care for specific populations. These facilities often operate within a restricted environment, and the individuals receiving care might not have been able to consent to being there.

Incidents of sexual assault have been reported in various types of institutions, including religious organizations like churches. Some other examples are camps, educational institutions, the military, foster care homes, healthcare facilities, daycare centres, and sports teams.

In these environments, sexual abuse can be perpetrated by volunteers, staff members, leaders of the organization, or other participants. While one or more individuals may carry out the abuse, it is possible that the institutional hierarchy has either unintentionally allowed the abuse to happen or explicitly approved of it.

If you or a loved one was sexually abused in an institution, even if it happened decades ago, you might be entitled to compensation for what your abusers took from you. Sexual abuse proceedings, whether criminal or civil, are not subject to statutes of limitations. A skilled legal team can help you best present your case, even if you worry that too much time has elapsed between the abuse and your decision to take legal action.

It can be very difficult for survivors to come out and disclose this abuse, particularly if they still have connections to the organizations or people who perpetrated it. It is important to realize that you are not alone. You can be assured that the team at Donich Law will treat you with the consideration and attentive care you deserve. We recognize and respect the strength it takes to share your experience.

We will help you get in touch with any support programs or groups that could help you heal further. We can also help you set out all of your legal options, which include bringing a civil suit against the people or organizations that caused you injury.

Depending on your case’s specifics, you might choose to file a class action or pursue an individual claim for damages and compensation.

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Recent Cases

C.O. v. R.W., 2020 ONSC 3874

This case involves allegations of historical sexual abuse by R.W., who was the plaintiff’s high school music teacher and band leader at a high school. The plaintiff, C.O., sought damages against the defendant and the School Board for vicarious liability and negligence.

The plaintiff reported numerous incidents of sexual abuse, including sodomy and forced fellatio, which took place both on and off school grounds. One instance of abuse occurred during a school band trip to New York City. R. W. groomed the plaintiff by establishing a mentor-confidant relationship, which he later exploited to perpetrate the abuse. The Court found the plaintiff’s testimony credible, noting her detailed recollection of events despite the passage of time. R.W. did not attend the trial, leading the court to strike his Statement of Defence and Crossclaim. The plaintiff was required to prove her allegations and damages.

The Court found the defendant liable for the torts of assault, battery, sexual assault, and sexual battery, determining that the plaintiff did not consent to the sexual acts. As a teacher, R. W. held a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the plaintiff, which he breached by engaging in sexual activity with her. The Court held the School Board vicariously liable for R.W.’s conduct, finding that the Board’s policies and practices created opportunities for abuse and increased the risk of harm to the plaintiff. The court also found the School Board negligent for failing to provide adequate support and counselling to the plaintiff after her disclosure of the abuse.

Jane Doe (#7) v. Newfoundland and Labrador, 2022 NLSC 133

In this case, the plaintiff sought damages for past sexual abuse that occurred while she was under the jurisdiction of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Jane Doe (#7) accused the province of causing her to experience sexual assault at the hands of multiple people while she was in foster care.

The Supreme Court considered the province’s obligation to safeguard the children entrusted to its care while evaluating its liability in this case. The plaintiff claimed that because the province did not foster and maintain a safe environment for her, the abuse caused her to experience long-term psychological damage. The legal issues in the case pertained to whether the province had violated its obligations and might be held vicariously accountable for the abusers’ actions, and whether it had violated its duty of care to the plaintiff.

The Court ultimately found that that the province had indeed violated its duty of care and decided in favour of Jane Doe (#7). It was decided that the province was negligent for failing to keep a close eye on and defend the plaintiff. Jane Doe (#7) received remedies from the Court to make up for the abuse and its long-lasting effects on her life. This ruling emphasized the necessity of government accountability for protecting children in state custody and the possible repercussions of failing to do so.

About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.