Historic Sexual Abuse Claim Results In $59,000 Damage Assessment
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for historic sexual abuse.
In this week’s case (R.D. v. G.S) the Defendant stepfather was found liable for abusing his stepdaughter when she was aged 8-12. The Plaintiff suffered psychological harm as a consequence of this. Her non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) were assessed at $35,000. In arriving at this figure Madam Justice Smith made the following findings with respect to the harm caused by the abuse:
 I have considered all of the evidence regarding the plaintiff’s psychological injury, including her testimony and the opinion evidence of Dr. Hotz and of Dr. O’Shaughnessy.
 I accept the plaintiff’s evidence regarding the symptoms she has experienced. She was cross-examined at some length, and was consistent and convincing in describing her enormous sense of betrayal and destruction of trust, as well as her persistent experience of intrusive dreams, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression, low self esteem and low self confidence.
 As to the experts, with respect to the existence of a psychiatric disorder I prefer the evidence of Dr. O’Shaughnessy over that of Dr. Hotz. I reach that conclusion because Dr. O’Shaughnessy clearly separated out the facts upon which he was relying from his opinions, is highly experienced in this area, has a higher degree of expertise and seemed to retain more objectivity in his approach. I accept, accordingly, that the plaintiff does not currently suffer from a psychiatric disorder and it is unlikely that she has suffered from one in the past.
 I find, however, that she does suffer from psychological dysfunction that has interfered with her ability to pursue education or a more rewarding career, and that has interfered with her ability to build good relationships and to enjoy life. The extent to which the psychological dysfunction finds its origins in what the defendant did is the question. I find that he is responsible for it in some measure, although it also has other causes…
 The defendant’s position is that there is no evidence of harm to the plaintiff caused by the defendant’s actions, and there should be no award of general damages.
 I will consider the factors referred to in Y.(S.) v. C.(F.G.), in assessing the appropriate award for non-pecuniary damages.
 I begin with the nature of the assault. In comparison with the sexual assaults found to have occurred in many other cases, the sexual touching in this case was not violent, intrusive, frequent, coercive or egregious.
 The breach of trust, however, was egregious, both with respect to the sexual touching that began when the plaintiff was quite young, and with respect to the defendant’s addition of photographs of the plaintiff to his collection of child pornography.
 I did not see any evidence of remorse on the defendant’s part. His conduct with his stepdaughter was callous and reprehensible. I do not overlook that the defendant himself was the victim of blatant disregard for his property and disrespect for his attempts to preserve his household and its contents after the children moved in. However, he was the parent and the plaintiff was the child. The fact that the plaintiff behaved badly toward him provides no justification for his behaviour toward her.
 The evidence of Dr. Hotz and Dr. O’Shaughnessy shows that the conduct of the defendant had a significant impact on the plaintiff’s psychological state. I note as well that she would likely have experienced some level of psychological dysfunction in any event, and that the impact is unlikely to be permanent.
 I assess general damages, taking into account the aggravating factors I have described, at $35,000.