2 Dec 2010

Victims of sex abuse in Quebec revictimized by statute of limitations and lack of therapy services

Montreal Gazette - Canwest News Service - Canada April 25, 2010

Quebec's victims of sexual abuse victims of the law, too, says group

By Catherine Solyom | Canwest News Service

MONTREAL - One out of every six North American boys is sexually assaulted before they reach the age of majority.

It's a statistic, drawn from studies, that's difficult to fathom - even considering the latest abuse scandals to rock the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, among other organizations.

But the revelations have also awakened long-dormant traumas that are forcing other men to seek help, and for some to come forward.

In Quebec, there's little help to be had.

``We are the only centre in Quebec that offers group therapy for men,'' said Alain Jobidon, executive director of CRIPHASE, (the Centre de ressources et d'intervention pour hommes abuses sexuellement dans leur enfance), which held its third annual march Saturday.

``There is an enormous lack of services available to abuse victims and the demand is greater every year.''

Since 1996, CRIPHASE has normally held three to five 10-week sessions of group therapy per year. In 2009, it held 19. And there are 150 men on the waiting list.

Jobidon, who was abused at the age of seven by his mother's boyfriend, says it helps victims psychologically to come forward. But it also forces other victims to relive their own traumas and to seek help that simply isn't available.

The organization would need an extra $150,000 a year to adequately treat all the men asking for help.

But money to pay for more services is not the only thing CRIPHASE is demanding.

It wants more severe penalties for offenders who up to now, have been protected while the children they abused have been ignored, Jobodin said.

``We leave the victims to themselves and the pedophiles have all the help they need,'' said Jobidon, who was in Ottawa this week consulting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has vowed to reverse that imbalance. ``Some are even getting pensions in prison.''

CRIPHASE also wants the statute of limitations on sexual abuse in Quebec to be lifted, as it has been in all other jurisdictions in North America.

In Quebec, victims - or their parents - can still only sue their aggressors within three years of the assault.

A Quebec court of appeal decision last year, for example, rejected an appeal by a woman who was abused by the parish priest, Paul-Henri Lachance, in 1981, when she was seven.

Lachance was sentenced to 18 months in prison last year, after pleading guilty to the charges.

But in civil court, the judge ruled that even though the archdiocese asked the parents to keep the incident quiet, telling them that the church would take charge, the parents should have filed a lawsuit by 1983.

The three-year deadline had long passed for Jobodin when he finally sought help dealing with the abuse he suffered, 33 years after the fact.

``Quebec refuses to lift the statute of limitations. We're protecting our pedophiles,'' Jobodin said.

It is not clear whether the statute of limitations will apply to a class- action lawsuit filed against the Catholic Church on Thursday, however, for abuses committed in the 1980s at the Seminaire St. Alphonse in Ste. Anne de Beaupre, outside Quebec City.

The main plaintiff, Frank Tremblay, will argue that he had repressed the abuse until he recently sought therapy, because he felt guilty.

And he did not tell his parents what had happened, so the statute of limitations should not apply. In fact, he didn't tell anyone what happened for 30 years, said Carlo Tarini, an advocate for victims' rights who is familiar with the case.

If the suit is approved by a Quebec Superior Court Justice, Tremblay will ask for $750,000 in damages, while each additional plaintiff would seek a minimum of $100,000.

The Catholic Church is not the only organization accused of protecting pedophiles instead of children.

Saturday's march, attended by an estimated 150 people, came on the heels of an $18.5-million award to a victim who was sexually abused by a Boy Scout leader in Oregon.

A jury there ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay the record amount to the man, now 38, because it said the Boy Scouts knew there were pedophiles in their ranks, yet did not protect the children left in their care.

And a compensation deal to settle a class-action lawsuit against Bishop's College School in Lennoxville, Que., is at risk, CBC is reporting. At least 30 former students, who claim they were molested at the school in the 1950s and 1960s, have joined the suit, the report says, but the deal will fall through if three or more of the claimants refuse to sign.

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