A Yukon man has been charged with sexually abusing a former student in the 1980s. (Yukon News file)

A Yukon man has been charged with sexually abusing a former student in the 1980s. (Yukon News file)

Court hears from woman who alleges Whitehorse teacher sexually assaulted her in the 1980s

Witness testifies and is cross-examined between Sept. 12 and 20. Trial will go at least another week

The following story contains explicit details of sexual assault. Rapid access counselling is available in the Yukon at 867-456-3838. Mental health support is available 24/7 at the Wellness Together Canada hotline at 1-866-585-0445. 

A Yukon court is hearing the charges that a Whitehorse teacher sexually abused a former student, who was still a teen when the alleged assaults occurred.

Paul Deuling faces allegations relating to events in the 1980s. The alleged victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, also accused Deuling of the sexual assaults in an ongoing civil suit launched in 2018.

Criminal charges followed the next year: two counts of indecent assault and three counts of sexual assault.

Deuling is charged under criminal code sections which are no longer in force, but were at the time of the alleged offences.

The criminal trial began on Sept. 12 with the complainant taking the stand to give evidence, led by Benjamin Eberhard, the crown counsel. Deuling sat in court represented by Richard Fowler and Matthew Smith. The trial is being presided over by Judge Brian Neal and no jury is present.

From the witness box, the complainant described her troubled home life around the time she first became a student of Deuling’s. She said he first taught her when she was in Grade 4 at Jack Hulland Elementary School and first played on sports teams that he coached around the same time. She testified that she was later taught and coached by Deuling at Porter Creek Jr. Secondary School.

The alleged victim states she received preferential treatment from Deuling when he was her gym teacher and coach and that physical contact between them was common during classes and practices, as he instructed her and other students in basketball and other sports. She said sports offered her a way to escape the chaos and violence she was experiencing at home. The preferential treatment from Deuling consisted of regular praise, something the witness said she wasn’t used to at home. She said she was also selected as team captain and for basketball camps out of the territory.

The woman testified that when she was in Grade 9, she went to Deuling’s office after school hours to tell him that she had missed a long period of school due to issues at home and to seek his advice. She told the court that she decided to speak to Deuling about it because she found him trustworthy and like a father figure. While they were alone in the office, the woman said Deuling put his hands on her shoulders and then kissed her on the lips; she described the kiss as not reciprocated and unwanted and said she left after a brief stunned silence.

Her testimony went on to describe how Deuling later assisted her in getting into a boarding school outside the territory by providing the registration paperwork and a letter of recommendation.

The woman told the court that she did not see Deuling for more than a year when she was away at school, and then attending another Whitehorse school where he did not teach, but then ran into him in a grocery store parking lot. She said he asked her to join his team for a running race and offered to train with her.

Deuling and the alleged victim met up to run around the neighbourhood that summer, she said. The court heard that they ran into a wooded area, where he dragged her to the ground by her wrist, put his forearm on her neck and pulled her sweatpants down before raping her.

“I felt like my spirit had left my body and died,” the alleged victim said, becoming tearful on the stand.

She testified that she ran the relay with Deuling’s team in the early fall.

Later that fall, she said Deuling offered to take her to a basketball camp and her father dropped her off at Porter Creek Secondary School early in the morning. Deuling was waiting. The alleged victim said her father asked a few questions about who else was going on the trip, and where they were, before leaving for work.

“I did what I was told because that’s the way I was as a kid,” she said of going on the trip.

She added that despite being uncomfortable around Deuling, she was still hopeful that the basketball camp would be a positive experience. From the witness stand, she said she didn’t know where they were going or the last town they passed through but said she eventually recognized it as the Dempster Highway, which she told the court she recognized because her great aunt and uncle lived in that area.

The court heard that eventually Deuling stopped the truck. The witness said it was a grey and snowy day, no one else was around and Deuling began setting up camp. Once a tent was up, the witness said Deuling told her to zip their sleeping bags together, undress and get inside. She said she felt that doing what she was told was her only option. In the sleeping bag, she said Deuling climbed on top of her and raped her again.

The witness testified that Deuling had a rifle with him and shot a bear near their camp before making her help with skinning it. She said she was not dressed for the weather, having believed she was bound for an indoor basketball camp. The woman said she shivered through a sleepless night and then didn’t even bother to fight when Deuling wanted to have sex in the morning.

She said she was made to hide on the floor of the vehicle when they passed another teacher on the road back to Whitehorse and Deuling stopped to talk to him.

The woman testified that she became pregnant around this time but it was not Deuling’s child, a fact she did not find out until after her stepmother had confronted Deuling about it at the school where he taught.

The woman was asked to leave school because she was pregnant; she left before Christmas of that year.

The court also heard that the woman’s high school education ended before Christmas of that year. She said she would go to the house where Deuling was living and they would have sex while she was pregnant and after she had given birth. The witness described this as a desperate time for her when she was financially vulnerable, homeless or living with her former stepmother who had been abusive in her childhood.

Cross-examination by Fowler dealt with inconsistencies between the years the witness said Deuling was her teacher and when school records showed he was at the schools. He also asked questions about the supposed preferential treatment the witness said she received while being taught by Deuling and suggested that opportunities offered to her were extended to other students as well.

At many points throughout the cross-exam, Fowler suggested that portions of the witness’ testimony about Deuling and the events in the 1980s were made up. The defense suggested the kiss in Deuling’s office never happened; that everyone had agreed on a hunting trip when she and Deuling camped together, not a basketball camp; and that they only had sexual intercourse once on the camping trip.

Fowler also challenged the testimony about the location where they camped, bringing the harvest report Deuling submitted after shooting the bear to suggest that they had actually driven the Alaska Highway to the Kluane River area rather than the Dempster Highway.

The witness maintained throughout that she was being truthful but also repeatedly expressed the difficulty of recalling things that happened more than 30 years ago. Fowler highlighted differences between the witness’ police statement dating back to 2017 and her testimony on the stand. The witness explained the difficulty of speaking to police because the events she described had taken place so many years ago and were traumatic for her.

Fowler suggested that the association between Deuling and the witness when she was in her late teens was a consensual sexual relationship. The witness denied this, refusing more than once to refer to it as a relationship on the stand. The court heard that the alleged victim and Deuling stopped seeing each other around the time that she moved out of her former stepmother’s house to a trailer that had been bought on her behalf.

She also denied that money was the primary motivation for her civil lawsuit against Deuling.

The alleged victim was on the stand, either giving evidence or being cross examined through much of the trial’s first week and again on Sept. 20. The trial had been set to break the week of Sept. 19 and pick up again for the last week of the month, but disruptions in the schedule due to health concerns mean the crown may call more witnesses at the end of this week and further proceedings may need to be scheduled in the future before the judge can rule. 

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com