When Rick Watkins (formerly Despatie) appeared in court to face numerous charges of sexual abuse, the Crown prosecutor called his police case file “enormous.”
The former high school teacher taught math at St Matthew High School in Orléans, where his conduct towards students was the subject of student and parent complaints for more than a decade. Although the Ottawa Catholic School Board claims to have acted “immediately” upon hearing the allegations, Despatie was not suspended until March 2021.
As of the date of Despatie’s first court appearance, the Ottawa man faces 54 criminal charges involving 16 former students, all of whom were under the age of 14 at time of their alleged abuse.
Ottawa police believe there are even more students who have yet to speak out about their experience with their former math teacher. The current charges against Despatie span from 2004 to the present year. He had been a teacher since 1989.
In addition to his position as a math teacher, Despatie coached his school’s basketball team and operated a private hockey training program for children.
The allegations against Despatie have not yet been proven in Court since his criminal trial has not yet proceeded.
Surviving sexual abuse can have long-term emotional repercussions, including pervasive feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, low self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many survivors go on to experience self-destructive behaviours as a result of the trauma they suffered. This is especially true for those who were sexually exploited as children or teenagers.
If a person that holds a position of authority or trust within an organization, like a schoolteacher, uses their power to carry out sexual abuse against the students in their care, the leadership of these organizations may be considered partially to blame. If a school board was aware that one of the teachers it employs was accused of sexually abusing or exploiting their students but failed to adequately address the crime or take measures to prevent future crimes from occurring, essentially, the institution facilitated favourable conditions for this criminal behaviour to continue without consequence.
People who have survived sexual abuse are entitled to pursue legal action against their abusers and, in many situations, against the abuser’s employer.
In Ontario, there is no statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims. That means, even if the abuse took place many years in the past, survivors of sexual assault in the Ottawa area may be able to pursue accountability and financial compensation.
By working with sexual abuse lawyers serving Ottawa, survivors of sexual abuse may be able to recover the following damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income
- Loss of earning capacity
- Treatment costs
- Mental anguish
- Medical expenses related to their physical or psychological injuries
- Spiritual harm
- Punitive damages
- Aggravated damages
- And possibly more
If you were a student at St Matthew High School and were the victim of sexual abuse, our Ottawa sexual abuse lawyers may be able to help in your pursuit of justice and restitution. By speaking with Preszler Injury Lawyers in a free initial consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss your case and learn about legal options for financial compensation that may be available to you.
To book a free, initial consultation and learn more about how our sexual abuse lawyers serving Ottawa may be able to help, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers today.