Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Abused at 3, Woman Gets RC Settlement

Original article
Priest's sex assaults lasted 3 years

Dalson Chen, The Windsor Star

Published: Saturday, September 12, 2009

The youngest victim of pedophile priest Rev. Charles Sylvestre has reached a settlement with the Catholic church.

But Cecilia Annette McLauchlin said doing so was a difficult and painful process, and the London diocese should be ashamed for drawing it out.

"They simply are playing the game of 'survivor.' They push you to the wall, just hoping -- and, I am sure, praying -- that you will crack," she said at a news conference in London on Friday.

Now a 32-year-old Chatham resident, McLauchlin said the abuse began in 1980 when she was three, and it continued until her family moved away from Sylvestre's parish in 1983.

McLauchlin's lawyer, Rob Talach of the law firm Ledroit Beckett, said Sylvestre carried out "perverse sexual acts" on McLauchlin during those pre-school years. Talach said Sylvestre's abuse led to McLauchlin requiring a gynecological examination at the age of five.

McLauchlin said the abuse has affected her life well into adulthood. "I have been so scared, ashamed and confused for so many years, and it is still not over."

McLauchlin said that in the course of her lawsuit, the London diocese required her to undergo a psychiatric examination in the fall of last year, conducted by a medical examiner hired by the diocese.

McLauchlin said she endured questioning in a psychiatric hospital. "Most of those questions were into the acts of sexual abuse. He wanted more description. For 20 minutes, I literally had to describe private areas of Father Charlie (Sylvestre)."

McLauchlin said she believes the London diocese set up the examination to wear her down.

She believes the tactic of the diocese is to bring the unsettled victims to their breaking points, so that they will accept any offer the diocese makes. "They tried to crack me, but they didn't."

Talach noted that the London diocese did not agree to settle with McLauchlin until the last working day before the trial was scheduled to begin.

McLauchlin filed her lawsuit in the fall of 2006.

"Why that had to be dragged out like that ... is her question," Talach said.

"Three years of litigation and then folding on the eve of the courthouse is very expensive for the parties, and very difficult for the victims."

Talach would not disclose the sum of the settlement, stating that it was the request of his client that there be no comment about the amount.

"Cecilia wants the focus to be on the facts and not the figures," Talach said.

McLauchlin said she tried to settle with the diocese last year for an amount "substantially lower" than the eventual settlement, but the diocese ignored her offer.

Mark Adkinson, a spokesman for the London diocese, said it's the policy of the diocese not to comment on the financial details of a settlement.

On McLauchlin's accusation that the diocese was intentionally drawing out the process, Adkinson said: "We handle each case individually. There are circumstances that make some cases take longer to settle than others. There are various issues that go into that." He cited the time it takes to obtain legal advice and calendar conflicts.

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