Lawyer looking for victims of church abuse in
Rob Talach is certain there are people in Alvinston and Watford who have been abused by priests who worked in the area over 50 years ago. And the London lawyer wants to help them get the counselling they need.
Talach has been representing people who have been abused by Roman Catholic priests for years. Currently, he’s representing a Sarnia woman who has filed a claim against the church alleging the late Fr. Ulysses LeFaive sexually assaulted her as punishment for using a phone in his home to make prank calls.
But he’s also been following the cases of Frs. Alfredo Sasso and Bernard Robert. Sasso and Robert have also died.
All three served in the joint parishes of Our Lady Help of Christians in Alvinston and St. Matthew’s in Watford between 1962 and 1979.
Sasso was convicted of sexually assaulting three teenaged boys in an Owen Sound motel room in 1980.
Recently, the Catholic Church released a statement saying four people came forward with claims of sexual abuse against Bernard. That claim was just settled in court.
Talach says the three priests served Alvinston and Watford consecutively from 1962 to 1979. Both Bernard and Sasso were posted to the parishes as pastors but LeFaive was sent to Alvinston as an administrator.
Talach says that was a term used by the church when a priest was “placed there temporarily at the bishop’s will to get someone out of the area in a hurry.”
Talach says it is “offensive to the core” that the small, southern Ontario communities would have three priests back-to-back with allegations against them.
He suggests the Diocese of London was “shuffling them to the backwoods” in a time when few would be able to find out about allegations of misconduct by priests and people trusted the church and its pastors.
Talach is hoping to shed a light on the issue in the area, in part to find other victims of Fr. LaFaive to help in his current case.
But he also knows victims of childhood sexual abuse often suppress their memories or tell no one about them until later in life.
“The reality of childhood sexual abuse is they don’t talk about it until they are in their 40s,” he says. By then the person is “dead or just about dead.”
And the victims, Talach says, are afraid of authority figures because of their experiences.
“They live in a small community, if they go to the OPP the sergeant curls with your dad, the patrolman hunts with your brother, you’re worried about it getting out. And they usually have enough issues in their life because of the abuse…and they think ‘I don’t need this extra headache.’ They have an absolute distrust of institutions. When the guy who was God’s sidekick abused you, are you now going to trust a cop…they all the same in a victim’s mind.”
Talach is hoping if an abuse victim reads the story, it may be like “a bat light in the sky…they may be on their last legs and this could be a lifeline…there is something I can do.”
And while some may question if Talach is on a fishing expedition, he says cases in the past have shown that one abuse victim comes forward, more will follow. “It’s not a question of if, it is a question of when and how many,” he says. “It just takes heat and light for the people to feel it is safe to come forward. They will be believed – no question.”
And he says the Catholic church has committed to pay for counselling for victims of abuse, which could help turn a life around. “It is not too late, don’t jump off that bridge, don’t put the needle in your arm again, there is counselling and the diocese will pay..and studies show psychologicaly there is great benefits for people who step forward to begin their own personal healing.”