Whitehorse Daily Star

Uncle sentenced to 18 months for sexual assault in ’70s

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse has received justice after over four decades.

By Emily Blake on July 13, 2017

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse has received justice after over four decades.

Leslie Cawley, 53, said she is on a healing journey after speaking out about being assaulted by her uncle between 1971 and 1980. She waived a publication ban on her identity so her story could be shared.

David Couch, 66, was convicted of one count of indecent assault for sexually assaulting his young niece when he was in his 20s.

On Monday, he was sentenced to serve 18-months jail time in the Yukon.

In an emotional statement to the court, Cawley said she was first a victim that became a survivor and is now becoming a thriver.

She detailed the long-term mental, emotional and physical impacts that the abuse has had on her life. This included struggling with depression, PTSD and an eating disorder, suicide attempts, experiencing a cycle of abuse, and developing physical symptoms including migraines and fibromyalgia. Cawley said the trauma she experienced has also impacted her own children.

“There is no doubt that if you had not introduced me to sex at such a young age, maybe I would’ve had a more fulfilled life, maybe I would’ve laughed more, maybe I would’ve been able to trust and respect men,” she told Couch. “Instead I looked through the filter you placed over my heart, mind and emotions.”

Cawley said she kept silent about the assaults for years out of fear that she wouldn’t be believed and that it would hurt her family.

“I should’ve never had to deal with your crimes as if I was your accomplice,” she said. “You made me an accomplice to my own abuse.”

But through her healing journey, Cawley said she now has the strength to look Couch in the eye and confront him.

“I am stripping you naked to the world. I am exposing your evil deeds,” she told him. Since Couch was convicted, she said she feels better and wants to find peace. She also hopes that Couch will begin to heal.

“I am finally speaking my truth and people are listening and willing to help me heal,” she said.

Given the opportunity to make a statement to the court, Couch said he has been a good father, grandfather, and a hardworking and honest employee.

“I’ve always been a respectable and law abiding member of the community,” he said. “I am a good person, I have not and will not cause harm to anyone.”

When asked by Supreme Court Justice Brenda Keyser if he had anything to say to Cawley, Couch said, “I’m sorry Leslie for what you’ve gone through.”

“I wish you had talked to me about this, nobody deserves what you went through.”

During trial, Cawley testified about two specific incidents where she said her uncle assaulted her. One was at her family home while he was babysitting, and another at her grandparent’s farm where he took her to a cabin where he was staying.

In a taped statement to RCMP, Couch admitted to a maximum of three instances of sexual contact with Cawley. But on the stand, he said he had lied to police to get out of the interview room because he was feeling pressured.

Justice Keyser found that Couch’s claims about lying were not credible. She noted that on several occasions he was advised by police that he could leave at any time but he continued to stay and discuss the matter even after he was charged, cautioned and told he could get a lawyer. She added that the admission came after only one hour of questioning and that the officer had not been aggressive.

Couch’s defence lawyer fought for a conditional sentence with house arrest for the conviction. He noted that Couch is at low risk for re-offending and the sentence will have a great impact on Couch’s life and that of his family, friends and community.

Crown prosecutor Noel Sinclair, however, argued that house arrest would not be any different from the life Couch is already living as a retired grandfather. He said that a jail term of three to four years was needed to send a message to others that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated and will incur a significant sentence.

The maximum sentence for indecent assault as it existed under the Criminal Code in 1971 is five years.

Justice Keyser noted the difficulty in sentencing historical sexual assault cases. She agreed that a conditional sentence would not adequately address the harm done but found that a sentence of three to four years would be excessive.

Comments (6)

Up 0 Down 0

Leslie Cawley on Jul 31, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Thank you everyone. I appreciate all you say, even if there are people who think otherwise. Everyone is at different levels of their healing journey. Prayers for all people who walk in fear, despair, silence, anger, pain, loneliness, addictions, poor coping techniques, eating problems, unable to hold together a relationship hates being under the control and would rather live alone than be disrespected like me and with a firm voice keep speaking out not to create lynch monument but to start the healing circle with input from both male and female victims and male and female abusers because we are still losing young ones to the agony they carry with the soul crushing silence it demands.
There will always be ppl who feel differently for different reasons. It's alright. My message I hope gives at least one person strength to face their own bogeyman or to not walk ahead before their time. I want to open up conversations regarding child sexual abuse. The big elephant so many know in one way or another needs to be brought out of the shadows and silence and brought into the harsh reality that so many people live with across the generations. Let's unite in stopping this plague of child sexual assaults in a dignified healing way. May our Creator bless and give you strength on your healing journey.

Up 18 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jul 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm

I am pleased to see these brave and courageous women coming forward and exposing the sad secrets that have occurred for a very long time. Back in the early spring famed Inuit singer Susan Aglukark told the sorry tale of her childhood and sexual abuse by relatives and others she should have counted on to protect her from such crimes. I doubt there are more difficult things for these young children to do and I suspect some of them may have been counselled by some family members not to tell others of the indignities they suffered at the hands of uncle Jim and grandpa.
Suicide rates are too high and are preventable if everyone does the right thing and begins to take a renewed interest in the welfare of all children. Don't be afraid to ask children if all is well and make it easy for them to answer.

Up 14 Down 4

Josey Wales on Jul 15, 2017 at 8:20 am

Hmmm....currently it would appear there are at least 4 folks that support destroying a future. Geez folks even if ya loathe seeing OJW in a thread how could one possibly hate my pov so much to even suggest this is acceptable 1st world behaviour. Perhaps those 4 folks could reach into their cognitive reasoning...and elaborate on why exactly you could down thumb this one?
Now that should encourage a meaningful discourse on the absolute Herculean strength and courage it took Leslie to undress the monster.
There are many more monsters that need be bare in these parts, hopefully this will encourage others to undress the monsters in their world.
....I so stand by my feed the pos to the bears, freely expressed opinion.

Up 19 Down 11

Josey Wales on Jul 13, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Wow takes a lot of courage to share such a dark time Leslie.
Monsters are monsters, regardless of how one is alleged to be now.
A few months in jail maaaaybe, for a life in turmoil for decades....seems typically Canadian.
Given the citing of how the law was...by that revisit? Anyone convicted of a cold case file for murder say before we ceased hanging convicted scumbags...gets hanged?
Yeah...thought not.

Legal system....can't keep gramps from his wee ones... only in Canada
you say...pity.
Feed the pos to the bears, they eat garbage.

Up 29 Down 1

June Jackson on Jul 13, 2017 at 7:54 pm

Ms. Cawley, I wish you the best in your struggles. I am sorry you had to suffer this, not only the assault but later going public. That just can not have been easy.

I think ALL predators names should be made public...every single one of them hung out to dry in public, with public censure. I have 0 tolerance for people that prey on children and consider his sentence to be a slap on the wrist. He should rot in jail until he dies there.

Up 23 Down 0

jc on Jul 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm

An Uncle. Shame!

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.