'It was such a big secret': Man waives ban on his identity in father's incest trial
Prominent pediatrician to go to trial this fall
A son who is accusing his father of sexually abusing him in his youth has made the rare decision to waive the publication ban that typically applies to identifying victims in trials involving such sexual allegations.
"I'm really not hiding anything," Richard Chernick said of the decision to be publicly identified during the trial. "I'm 55 years old. It's not really a concern to me now.
"Besides, that's the way it was for my whole life anyways. It was such a big secret, right? That's what covered it up," said Chernick.
The accused, Dr. Victor Chernick, is an internationally recognized scholar and a renowned pediatrician.
Chernick was charged in January 2014 with incest, buggery, indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency. The incidents are alleged to have happened between 1975 and 1979.
Dr. Chernick pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent.
Richard and his sister, Sharon Chernick, also began a civil lawsuit in 2014 against their father, alleging he "sexually, physically, emotionally and mentally abused, assaulted and traumatized" them, and committed incest and gross indecency against them for years.
In the civil action, Dr. Chernick denies the allegations and said they are made out of spite and ill will, and result from "fertile imaginations." The allegations are not proven and have not yet been tried in court.
Decision to forgo ban unusual, says lawyer
Richard Chernick's decision to forgo a publication ban in the criminal trial is unusual, according to one Winnipeg defence lawyer.
"This was actually the first time I've ever heard that happen in Manitoba," said Tony Cellitti, who is not involved in this case but co-chairs the Manitoba criminal justice section at the Canadian Bar Association.
"I'm not saying that it's never happened," he said, adding that he's only been able to find one or two other such cases in Canada.
Cellitti said it is particularly rare in cases where there is a family relationship between the parties involved.
"It's a very rare circumstance to see such an order not be made," he said. "Typically, for a complainant to not request such an order, he or she may have reasons that they feel that's appropriate, given their circumstances."
The Crown attorney in the case, Debbie Buors, declined comment before the case goes to trial.
Victor Chernick's lawyer, Roberta Campbell, said the decision not to have a publication ban won't affect the defence. She declined to say how it might affect her client.
Speaking publicly can empower survivors: counsellor
"Every case is different," said Mandy Fraser, a counsellor in the sexual assault crisis program at Klinic Community Health in Winnipeg. She has worked with people who file sexual assault complaints to police and later testify in court.
"What we hope for ideally is that the survivor has the information and can make an informed choice around whether or not to have that publication ban," Fraser said.
"We've heard from people who have said they wish that their name had not been published in the media, and from people who've said, 'I wish that my name had been in the media,' so then the offender's name is also made public," she said.
She said testifying in a trial can be both overwhelming and empowering for the complainant.
"Some people find strength in naming what happened to them and it can be part of, for example, trying not to have shame attached to their experience," Fraser said.
"There's a lot of shame around sexual abuse, particularly incest. And I do think that being able to speak about it publicly can be really empowering for survivors."
Richard Chernick said he does not regret the decision to go to police.
"I have to say, it's about time," he said. "I wish I had done it sooner."
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