Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Woman claims abuse by priest she lived with

By CBC News, cbc.ca, Updated: January 6, 2010 9:21 AM
Woman claims abuse by priest she lived with

A Halifax woman is suing a Roman Catholic diocese in Nova Scotia, claiming she was sexually abused for years by a priest she lived with while posing as his niece.

Linda Deschamp, now in her 50s, says she was repeatedly abused from the age of 12 to 21.

Decades later, she decided she couldn't remain silent any longer. She filed her lawsuit against the Roman Catholic diocese of Yarmouth and Archbishop Anthony Mancini, the current leader, in Nova Scotia Supreme Court just before Christmas.

"This is so wrong. You're tired of hiding the secrets. They need to come out and people need to be made aware of that," Deschamp told CBC.

Deschamp said her large family was poor, so she was sent to work for and then live with Raoul Deveau, a parish priest in Shelburne. He died in 1982.

She remembers him as a jovial person, a "community god" who seemed genuine about helping parishioners. She trusted him.

"At first it was consoling and it was, 'poor girl,'" Deschamp said. "It kind of gradually built up — offering me food while I was there, and when you're hungry that looks pretty good as a child. And then it was clothing. And then of course there were trade-offs after that."

Deschamp said the abuse by the man she was forced to call uncle lasted for nine years. She ended up moving with Deveau to another parish.

"He had me so dependent on him," she said. "He owned me 100 per cent."

Deschamp never told anyone because she thought no one would believe her. She said she feared that the priest would come after her if she disobeyed his order to keep their secret.

"It's the church that I blame because they knew this," she said. "I don't blame my parents."

The lawsuit alleges that Deveau was transferred to Deschamp's parish because of complaints about misconduct in other parishes.

John McKiggan, Deschamp's lawyer, said he represents another woman who claims that Deveau sexually assaulted her when he was based in another area of Nova Scotia.

"It's not just the complaints from Plympton and Plymouth. Deveau was moved as a result of complaints that were raised in Linda's parish community about the propriety of him living with a young child. The bishop moved Deveau to another parish and Linda actually went with him," said McKiggan.

A spokesperson for Mancini declined media interviews, saying the matter is before the courts.

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