Trial for former Whitehorse teacher accused of sexually assaulting student in the '80s underway

The close-up of the sign on the side of the courthouse in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
The close-up of the sign on the side of the courthouse in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

The trial of a former Whitehorse teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student in the '80s is underway.

Paul Deuling faces a total of five historic charges — two counts of indecent assault and three counts of sexual assault against a female student he'd previously taught.

The woman's name is covered by a publication ban. She took the witness stand for the first two days of the trial, which began in territorial court Monday.

Responding to questions from Crown attorney Ben Eberhard, the woman testified that she met Deuling while she was Grade 4 student at Jack Hulland Elementary School, where he was a gym and social studies teacher. He also taught at nearby Porter Creek Junior Secondary School.

The woman said she had a "chaotic" violent home life and gravitated toward sports at school because of the camaraderie with teammates and because practices gave her a chance to not be at home.

Deuling coached, the woman said, and would give her praise and encouragement. She came to see him as a father-figure, she testified, adding he would give her preferential treatment by complimenting her more than other students, always appointing her team captain and selecting her for opportunities like going to basketball camps in Alaska.

'I felt like my spirit had left my body and died'

The student-teacher relationship, however, allegedly took a turn when, in Grade 9, the woman said she went to Deuling's office to explain she'd missed classes because of a traumatic situation at home.

She testified Deuling "seemed sad," but put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her on the lips.

"I felt let down and I felt disappointed because I really wanted some advice from my teacher," she said.

The woman also testified Deuling would use her to demonstrate throws or plays to other students and would stand behind and press himself against her.

"It felt creepy and wrong but I didn't really understand what it was," she said.

The woman said she didn't tell anyone about the alleged kiss and didn't see Deuling in Grades 10 or 11, when she moved to different schools. However, she ran into him the summer before Grade 12 and he invited her to run on his road relay team.

The woman said she felt like a "special student" again but that, during a training run the following week, Deuling instructed her to run into a wooded area where he allegedly pulled her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.

"I felt like my spirit had left my body and died," she testified.

"I felt ashamed. I felt humiliated. I felt a deep sadness."

The woman said she didn't seek help because she didn't have anyone to turn to and getting harmed by adults wasn't unusual for her. She ran the road relay with Deuling's team and started Grade 12 at F.H.Collins Secondary School.

The woman testified she was depressed because of the alleged sexual assault but kept in touch with Deuling, who didn't teach at the high school but would instruct her to call him.

'I didn't know I could say no'

Sometime in the fall, she testified, Deuling told her he wanted to take her to a basketball camp. The woman said she missed the positivity of playing sports; her father dropped her off at Porter Creek Junior Secondary, where Deuling was waiting to pick her up.

But instead of going to a community centre or gym, the woman testified Deuling drove to the Dempster Highway, where he pulled off into the bush, set up a tent and sexually assaulted her twice.

The woman said she learned before Christmas of that year that she was pregnant, though not with Deuling's child. She alleged Deuling continued to have sex with her during her pregnancy and after she gave birth.

The woman said she didn't want to have sex with Deuling but felt she had to obey him.

"I didn't know I could say no to my teacher and I'd been saying yes to my teacher since I was nine," she said.

In cross-examination, Deuling's lawyer, Richard Fowler, questioned the woman's recollection of dates and events. He said that Deuling had started teaching in the Yukon when the woman was halfway through Grade 5 and suggested that Deuling had actually offered sporting or education opportunities to the student body at large.

He also pushed her on whether she'd been in Deuling's office, suggesting it wasn't possible because she would have had to pass through the boys' change room and girls wouldn't have been allowed in.

The woman refuted that, saying she'd often visited to help with cleaning or other tasks.

Defence question over lawsuit 'offensive' 

As well, Fowler brought up a still-unresolved lawsuit the woman filed against Deuling and the Yukon government, asking if she had done so "for money."

"I was suing for what was done to me," the woman responded. "I find that (question) offensive."

Before breaking for the day Tuesday, Fowler suggested the woman had been in an "intimate relationship" with Deuling. He asked if she remembered attending a number of social events with him, including dinners with other couples, fishing trips with Deuling's friends and going out for meals or drinks.

The woman couldn't recall all the events Fowler listed.

"I remember all the sexual stuff I had (to do) to survive, I don't remember all the dinners I sat there pretending (I wanted to be there)," she said.

The trial continues Thursday, when Fowler is expected to resume his cross-examination.