Leona Huggins travelled to Victoria from the Lower Mainland on Tuesday to follow an alleged case of child abuse by a priest.
Huggins, a 50-year-old Coquitlam teacher, said the Victoria case hit close to home: her own past involves abuse by a priest in the 1970s, when she was a teenager. That man was eventually convicted in 1992 after pleading guilty and served 10 months in prison, but Huggins found out last year that her abuser had re-emerged in a parish across the country.
Discovering that he had been recycled by the church was devastating, Huggins said.
It sort of threw me back to the beginning.
The situation prompted her to speak up, Huggins told members of the media outside the Victoria courthouse. She said she hoped that making her voice heard would help children.
I think that education is the key, letting people know that [abusers] dont look like bad men, but the damage is overwhelming.
Huggins was part of the courtroom gallery Tuesday as the Victoria trial of Philip Jacobs was set to begin. The trial is scheduled for two and a half weeks, although that could change, since the defence is seeking an adjournment. Jacobs is charged with four offences at Victorias St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, including two charges of sexual interference with a person under 14, one of sexual assault and one of touching a young person for a sexual purpose.
His time at St. Josephs from 1998-2002 came after two years at St. Rose of Lima in Sooke. He resigned from St. Josephs in 2002 when it was revealed that he had been previously dismissed from a church in Ohio, following allegations of inappropriate conduct with teenage boys. He left the Ohio church in the midst of those allegations, but no criminal charges were laid.
Saanich police began investigating Jacobs in 2002, but had insufficient evidence to charge him. A subsequent complaint received in 2009 led to further investigation and the approval of charges in 2010, resulting in a Canada-wide warrant and Jacobss arrest.
Huggins said she knows nothing has been proven in the Victoria case, but she still felt the need to attend.
They are absolutely allegations to this point, she said. I dont know whether he is guilty or innocent, I just know that the story sounds very familiar to me.
Huggins touted the work of an American organization known as SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which she said helped her a great deal.
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