Victims Of Sexual Abuse

Paul Ledroit is a pioneer in Canadian sexual abuse litigation, and has been at the forefront of this area of the law for much of his career. Paul has helped hundreds of sexual abuse victims and has been successful at getting substantial compensation for countless victims of sexual abuse. He is recognized as a leader in this field, and regarded as a tireless advocate for the rights of those who have been abused.

Paul has acted for many of the victims of father Charles Sylvestre, continues to work closely with survivors of sexual abuse, and is able to provide references from these survivors as well as survivors from other perpetrators of sexual abuse.

While client confidentiality is strictly maintained, sexual abuse survivors are often willing to help and provide insight by sharing their experiences to those who are intimidated by the process of coming forward. We often remain in contact with many of our clients for years after their claims are resolved.

Sexual abuse victims can be transformed into sexual abuse survivors. Our focus is on healing. To put that into place, we are often times able to obtain funding for therapy during the litigation process, and after.

Our Knowledge and Expertise

We have acted for hundreds of sexual abuse victims, both male and female. We understand their needs, their problems, and concerns about coming forward. We work in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys, have had cases throughout eastern Canada, and have worked with lawyers of victims in the Canadian West. We work with the leading experts on sexual abuse in Canada, including Peter Jaffe and Dr. Alan Leschied.

We have had many cases with the Roman Catholic Church Dioceses and various Roman Catholic Orders, United Church, Anglican Church, Baptist Church. We also deal with cases of non-clerical abuse, such as abuse by family members, trusted family friends, teachers, school boards, and others. See the landmark decisions of Swales and Glendenning.

Paul Ledroit was responsible for representing victims of sexual abuse at the Cornwall Public Inquiry. The findings of the Inquiry can be at the Cornwall Public Inquiry. Often times we organize men's and women's groups to assist with the anxiety and other problems our clients face. If someone is reluctant to attend a group, we often times put clients in touch with previous survivors to help them through the process.

The Effect of Sexual Abuse

Some of the common effects of sexual abuse, and in particular childhood sexual abuse, are:

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Loss of trust, in particular, with those in positions of authority
  • Guilt and Shame
  • Difficulty with close relationships
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Substance Abuse
  • Eating Disorders

The Canadian courts are sensitive to the fact that coming forward can be difficult for victims, and allow for the claims to be made in an anonymous fashion. However, some victims wish to have what happened to them made public, and we have assisted them with the media and having their story made known.

Our work has been the subject of the radio, television, and print media.

Often, when one person goes public, other victims are found who are willing to come forward. While sexual abuse survivors often feel ashamed and alone when considering legal action, often times there are others who have been victims in similar circumstances who are also fearful of coming forward with their claims.

Particularly in situations where the abuse takes place in an institutional setting, those survivors who come forward are usually only the tip of the iceberg of the actual abuse which took place.

When sexual abuse survivors come forward, society as a whole is forced to confront the problem of institutional sexual abuse. This is often the only way for significant policy changes to be made by offending institutions.

Am I Out of Time?

For most cases of assault, a claim must be brought within two years from the time in which the cause of action arose. This means that the time begins to run when the individual becomes aware that the assault has caused them harm, and understands the causal connection between the assault and the harm.

Ontario law recognizes that victims of sexual abuse are often unable to come forward after the abuse has occurred. It can take many years for victims to appreciate the impact the abuse has had, and how it has affected the trajectory of their lives.

In addition to dealing with their own fears, victims often worry about how their friends and family will react to knowledge of the abuse, which is often kept secret due to feelings of shame and guilt. For this reason, there is typically no limitation period (the amount of time someone has to bring a claim) in Ontario law for victims pursuing claims of sexual abuse.

The Ontario Limitations Act specifically states that there is no limitation period for individuals assaulted by:

  • Someone in a position of authority over them
  • Someone upon whom they are dependent
  • Someone with whom they had an intimate relationship

The Act further states that no limitation period exists for individuals incapable of bringing a claim due to their physical, psychological or mental condition.

Anyone considering bringing a claim for sexual abuse should consult with a lawyer concerning potential limitation periods.

Similar provisions exist in other Canadian provinces.

Non-Church Related Sex Abuse - Who Pays?

While many of our cases unfortunately revolve around victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, we have also had several cases over the years against family and extended family members, trusted family friends, as well as associations that bring a child in contact with an adult in a close trusting relationship.

Often the perpetrator does not have the resources to pay a judgment. In these situations, we are mainly concerned with finding others who are responsible for the perpetrators conduct. This can include organizational liability where organizations facilitated or put the perpetrator in a position of power, and the perpetrator abused that power.

Several key decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada have allowed for liability by organizations where victims are put in positions of vulnerability, and those in power abused their authority.

Sexual Abuse Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is sexual assault?

This is an assault that has a sexual nature. Typically the sexual integrity of the victim is violated.

The court will study and take into account all items, from words, gestures, and physical actions, which accompanied the act to determine if the assault has a sexual basis.

2. Should I call the police first if I feel I am a victim of sexual assault?

Your first step should be to contact a lawyer specializing in this area. The sexual abuse lawyer can advise you on how to speak with the police and how the evidence can be used in your favour. Legal advise is a necessity.

3. What is the age of consent in Canada?

There are 3 answers to this question.

  1. A person at the age of 16 is able to consent with sexual contact with another person.
  2. At the age of 12-13, they are legally able to consult to sexual activity only IF the other person:
    - isn't in a position of authority
    - isn't a person that has a relationship of dependency with them
    - the relationship is not exploitative
  3. At the age of 14-15, the same conditions apply as the 12-13 along with
    - if the 14-year old is married, they will consent to sexual activity with their wife and husband

4. What is considered consent?

If the person is over the consent age, the only issue would be if the sexual assault was consensual or not. Consent means both parties agreed to engage in a sexual activity.
The information provided is not legal advice and cannot replace a legal consultation with a lawyer.