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Stepfather's Sex Abuse Costs Him $70,000

A woman molested by her stepfather as a teenager made Queensland legal history yesterday when she was awarded nearly $70,000 in civil court damages.
Solicitors for the woman, now 23, said it was believed to be the first time in Queensland that a woman had successfully sued for civil court damages over molestation charges.
Anne Campbell, of Attwood Marshall Lawyers, said it was probably the first case of its kind in Australia.
"The decision will send a strong message to all child custodians who may have engaged in sexual misconduct with children in their care," Ms Campbell said.
"Child sexual offenders must now not only fear the criminal law but should also now fear the full force of civil actions."
Other abused people who had been too scared to take legal action could take heart from the decision, she said.
The woman, who cannot be named, was molested by her stepfather between October 1986 and June 1990.
In October 1990, he was jailed for three years on three counts of carnal knowledge and three of indecent dealing.
The woman took her stepfather to the Supreme Court in Brisbane in a civil trial seeking damages for pain, hurt and suffering, medical expenses, future economic loss and exemplary damages.
In Queensland, most sex crime victims seek redress through criminal compensation claims.
However, in this case the woman's then guardian her mother told the court no criminal compensation claim would be made.
After later legal advice, the woman took action in the form of a civil assault action.
The trial was uncontested, with Justice Des Derrington asked to set damages.
Barrister Tim Matthews, for the woman, said she had attended a school in the south Burnett region of Queensland.
She made a complaint about her stepfather and her mother took her out of the school.
The woman, who was called to give evidence, said her grades had been good up until Year 10.
"I wanted to be a computer and maths teacher," she told the court.
"I had sought Information from a university on the way to pursue the ambition."
The woman said her grades had dropped away badly after the molestation started.
"I just couldn't concentrate on my work," she said.
Justice Derrington said the abuse by her stepfather had seriously disrupted the woman's education.
Even though the woman had later tried to complete her education, the experience had distracted her, she said.
Justice Derrington awarded the woman $69,750, of which $40,000 was for general damages.

Mark Oberhardt

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