Church Settles First Abuse Suits - Payments go to Charles Sylvestre's Oldest Victims; Amount Undisclosed

April 7, 2007

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Windsor native Vivian Dobbs flew home to British Columbia Friday a "whole new person" after she accepted a settlement from the diocese of London for the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a priest, said her lawyer.

Dobbs had triumphed over her childhood oppressor and felt free, said Robert Talach, a lawyer representing 24 of 59 women who have sued the diocese over the sexual abuse committed by convicted sex offender and pedophile priest Charles Sylvestre, who died in January.

Dobbs, 65, is one of four women who will receive an undisclosed sum of money in a settlement reached Thursday with the diocese.

The other victims who will receive money include another 65-year-old Windsor woman who was abused in 1954, a 56-year old victim who attended St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Sarnia and a 44-year-old victim who attended St. Ursula's in Chatham. At least two women reported the sexual abuse to authorities, which resulted in the diocese transferring Sylvestre to another parish, according to a news release issued by the Ledroit Beckett law firm in London.

"We are not disclosing the amounts because the women don't want them known and it complicates future settlements," Talach said. These four cases were fast-tracked partly because they involve some of the oldest victims, but also because of the fragile health of some of the women, Talach said.

After the settlement was reached Dobbs told Talach that the colours around her looked different and brighter.

Dobbs, a Sacred Heart parishioner, was in Grade 7 in 1954 when Sylvestre molested her on a picnic.

"She was in a play Sylvestre had written and as a reward to cast members they went on a picnic with him," Talach said.

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