An 81-year-old man with a distinguished career and longtime involvement in his church was sent to jail for three years last week for the repeated sexual abuse of his stepdaughter more than four decades ago.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Fitch sentenced the elderly man on Oct. 1, after finding him guilty of the historical sexual offence earlier this summer.
The abuse took place in West Vancouver over a period of years in the 1970s, when the victim was a teenager and her stepfather was in his forties.
"The offence involved a gross breach of trust by someone who was in a parental role," said Fitch, adding the abuse has "had a devastating and lifelong impact" on the victim.
While acknowledging that jail will be a hardship for the elderly offender, Fitch said his sentence must speak to the "very real and present need to denounce the sexual abuse of young women" and children.
The judge added people who betray the trust of those most vulnerable need to know they "can expect to be dealt with severely by the courts."
During the trial, the stepdaughter - now in her 50s - testified that her stepfather had sex with her several times, beginning when she was home sick one day and was alone in the house with her stepfather. The woman told the judge she was scared and in shock at
the time. She testified that afterwards, her stepfather told her "Don't say anything to your mom."
The woman testified about other incidents of sexual activity that followed, including one encounter in the basement of a church where he volunteered.
The woman said there were 10 or 12 other occasions when she was a teen or young adult when her stepfather approached her for sex and she refused. The sexual abuse and requests from her stepfather continued for more than a decade.
She did not tell anyone what had happened until much later in her adult life, after her mother had died.
"She was frightened, embarrassed and fearful of the consequences," said Fitch in handing down his sentence. "She shouldered her burden silently and alone."
Three years ago, following her mother's death, the woman confronted her stepfather about what happened, telling him his abuse had resulted in her inability to sustain relationships or have children of her own.
The woman later went to police.
Testifying in his own defence in the trial, the stepfather acknowledged having sex with his stepdaughter, but said it was consensual activity that happened when she was an adult.
But the judge rejected that. Fitch added while the man was ashamed at engaging his stepdaughter in a sexual relationship, he still had not expressed remorse for the criminal acts he committed when she was a teenager.
In addition to the jail time, the man will also have his name entered in the sex offender registry.
Under a court-ordered publication ban, the man cannot be named in order to protect the identity of his victim.
© Copyright 2013