In August news broke that two sisters from Ancaster were being sued for libel for alleging that their uncle sexually assaulted them.
Both SACHA and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres have some serious concerns about how this ruling will affect survivors of violence.
Yesterday, Susan Clairmont wrote a column in The Hamilton Spectator about the case:
“Survivors are being punished for simply speaking out and seeking support,” says Nicole Pietsch, co-ordinator of OCRCC. “The implications are huge for survivors who ever talk about it to anyone.”
The decision will have a “chilling effect” on sexual assault survivors, Pietsch says, adding it is well known survivors already “under report” their abuse due to the stigma involved.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met any survivor who wants to be a member of this (survivors’) club,” says Lenore Lukasik-Foss, executive director of SACHA. “We know false reports are a reality, but they are very rare. There is not a cultural phenomenon of false accusations happening.”
Goodman said had he found the uncle guilty of sexual abuse, he would have set damages at $70,000, considerably less than what he ordered the sisters to pay for the libel suit.
OCRCC has applied to be an intervenor in the court appeal. Although a lawyer has offered to work pro bono, they are still expecting lots of legal fees. If you would like to make a donation to support OCRCC’s application for intervenor status click here.