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‘I thank God I found police who believed my terrible story,’ says Leslie Cawley, who first spoke to RCMP in 2014 about the abuse that began when she was just 7 years old. (Philippe Morin/CBC) After "holding the secret" for decades, a Yukon woman confronted her abuser in Yukon’s Supreme Court, leading to a conviction.

"I thank God I found police who believed my terrible story," said Leslie Cawley, who first spoke to RCMP in 2014 about the abuse she says began when she was seven years old.

David Couch was in his 20s when he sexually assaulted and abused his niece in Yukon. He was charged with indecent assault and found guilty of crimes committed between 1971 and 1980. Monday, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Cawley said she wants to tell her story in order to encourage others to come forward. The court lifted a publication ban that prohibited identifying her by name. ‘I held your secrets for decades’

Cawley, who is now in her 50s, spoke before the court and read a victim impact statement Monday, surrounded by relatives and friends.

She wore a traditional button blanket and beaver-fur headpiece as well as copper and turquoise jewellery, noting this was a symbol of the strength and healing she has found in culture.

Cawley said Couch had repeatedly abused her when she was a child. This included taking her to a remote cabin on the Mayo road for sexual abuse. She also said her uncle took pornographic photographs of her as a child. She said the sexual abuse lead to depression, eating disorders and attempts throughout her life.

Couch listened to Cawley’s statement keeping his eyes fixed downward. He did not react and his lawyer did not challenge Cawley’s description of events.

"I held your secrets for decades, The silence was as heavy as lead as I tried to cope with the guilt and the pain," she said.

Cawley described the effects of abuse on all aspects of her life. She said at the age of eight she intentionally started to gain weight hoping, in her child’s mind, to become "unattractive" to her abuser.

She said she often worried about what happened to the Polaroid photos taken and said she’s never learned the answer. She described a lifetime of pain and stress and even nightmares, which still affect her today.

Speaking to Couch, she said "I am stripping you naked to the world. I am exposing your evil deeds to the world." The defence had asked for house arrest but this was denied. David Couch has been sentenced to 18 months’ incarceration and is headed to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC) Cawley told the court her uncle pressured her not to say anything when she was a child. She later, "wondered if she was too late" to come forward.

She told the court she hopes her testimony will inspire others to do the same and "end the cycle of abuse." ‘No acceptance of responsibility’

During sentencing, Justice B.L Keyser said Couch had "taken advantage of a vulnerable child," and shown "no acceptance of responsibility."

She added the victim impact statement was a "devastating portrayal of the emotional damage [Cawley] has suffered from being abused as a child."

Couch was granted a chance to speak.He told the court he had been a good citizen, raised two children, been a minor hockey coach and lived a good life during the last four decades.He is now retired from having worked in the aviation industry."I have been an honest employee for 48 years," he said, his voice shaking. "This is my first and only legal offence. I am […]

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