Canadian Press, July 24, 2003
TORONTO (CP) – A woman who received $5,000 in damages after accusing the Canadian wing of the Jehovah’s Witnesses of negligence over their handling of allegations of sexual abuse is being asked to pay part of the religious group’s $160,000 in legal costs in the case.
Vicki Boer, 32, who says she suffered sexual assaults between ages 11 and 14, sought $700,000 from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada and three of its elders in a 1998 civil suit that claimed they were negligent and breached their duty. A judge awarded her $5,000 in June, but no criminal charges were ever laid in the assault allegations.
“It’s really a slap in the face for them to think that I should be paying for costs,” Boer said in an interview Wednesday from Fredericton.
“I paid for the abuse, I paid for everything happening, and now they still want me to pay again.”
She had previously asked Watch Tower to cover her legal costs, which she estimated as $90,000.
Colin Stevenson, the lawyer representing Watch Tower, confirmed Wednesday that the religious group is asking Boer to pay part of its legal tab.
Stevenson said Watch Tower is not being vindictive.
“Watch Tower is not on any vendetta to try to collect costs from Vicki Boer,” Stevenson said.
Justice Anne Molloy is expected to make a decision on the awarding of legal costs, if any, in late August.
In the civil suit, Boer claimed that rather than immediately notify the Children’s Aid Society, elders told her not to seek outside help or report the alleged abuse. She also said they made her confront her father to allow him to repent his sins in accordance with biblical principles.
But Justice Anne Molloy ruled that while Boer was certainly put through a traumatic experience, the church was ultimately not responsible for all of her pain and suffering.
Molloy cleared the three elders of wrongdoing, but ruled that the church pay Boer $5,000 because one of its elders – who was not named in the suit – talked her into the confrontation with her father, which was an inaccurate application of their faith.
Molloy ruled the church never told Boer not to seek medical help, nor was she told the alleged abuse should not have been reported.
While victims of sexual abuse normally aren’t identified in public, Boer agreed to allow her name to be publicized as part of her effort to promote what she has alleged was abuse within the confines of the church’s congregations.