Outside Charles Duncan's medical practice, in Fonthill, September 2019. VOICE PHOTO

On Friday, Jan. 21, Charles Duncan, once a doctor with a family practice in Fonthill, was found guilty on five charges of criminal sexual assault. His sentencing is set to occur in early April.

The Voice reached out to women and their family members who had contacted the newspaper in 2019 with allegations of Duncan’s conduct to ask for their reaction to the guilty verdicts. The news media is under a publication ban from revealing information about the plaintiffs sufficient to identify them. It should not be assumed that any of those commenting below were necessarily among the plaintiffs in this case.

 

Age 65

I re-read my earlier letters to you about the experience I had in 2019 involving an examination. I am still confused and uncertain about whether my experience crossed the line of appropriate clinical assessment.

The fact that Dr. Duncan was convicted on several counts does not clarify the matter for me. I remain confused and uncertain. The uncomfortable feeling of what he did remains. I almost wish I was more definitely angry and vengeful about all this. At least there would be certainty of some kind. And given the obvious pattern of his towards his female patients, I should be more upset. But I am also sad and I don’t understand it.

His conviction should tip the balance for me to conclude his behaviour was also inappropriate in my case. But it doesn’t, at this point.

I recall an article in the Voice following the original allegations, an interview with a psychologist who talked about the fact that there are good people who also do bad things. It is difficult to reconcile these perspectives. I guess that is what I am feeling. Dr Duncan took care of me from 1995 and did it properly for the most part. I chose to remain his patient for many reasons, not the least of which is the immense difficulty of finding a new family doctor in Niagara. The devil you know versus the devil you don’t. I suppressed my earlier uncomfortable feelings about him (re: breast exams and Pap smears) and continued as a patient. So, am I somehow at fault? I took the risk? Yikes. That is such a cliche.

If his behaviour was more egregious toward me, possibly I would be ecstatic about the convictions.

Yet, in some small way, I am “happy” the trial is over and a conviction secured. Now I can continue to process my experience within that context.

 

Age 62

Dr. Duncan was our family doctor from 1991 until 2019. Initially he seemed to be a pleasant and competent doctor, but started exhibiting inappropriate behaviour towards me for the last 15 years. This involved making comments about my appearance, breasts, grabbing my knees when I was in for a simple B12 shot, and asking for a hug when my consultation was over. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing, but he would always try to cover his behaviour with an attempt at humour. I noticed his behaviour escalating in the last few years, to the point where I would dread having to see him. Both of my daughters later informed me that they had similar experiences with Dr. Duncan once they reached their mid teens.

My daughters and I are pleased to read about the guilty verdict. We hope that his sentence will be a just one. I only wish I had voiced my concerns and reported him much earlier.

 

A victim’s sibling

The backlash these women received from this community was shocking. Dr. Duncan made each of the women question not only their worth but their perception of men, and men in a position of power. Dr. Duncan broke their trust in the most reprehensible way. Dr. Duncan’s job was to protect them—he took an oath—and he violated them for his own personal pleasure. It really is as simple as that.

To those members of the community who doubted the women who came forward, questioned their truth and their character, those who commented on social media posts and voiced their opinions as fact, I hope they take a moment to reflect on the verdict. I hope that next time—and there will be a next time—we do better.

 

Age 66

I was not surprised by the verdict as we all basically had the same sort of assault happen. While I didn’t hear the ladies in court and their specific details until the closing comments, it appeared he had the same MO and propensity. A few of us had contacted the physicians’ college and our claims were well substantiated and documented.

Hearing Her Honour read guilty to all six charges was a surreal moment. It was relief and release of all the emotions we had for a number of years. I really can’t imagine that Charles Duncan would have been shocked or surprised at the verdict. If a person does these deeds to that many women and feels he’s innocent, then he is truly kidding himself and mentally sick. I personally was surprised at my own reaction throughout the rest of the day. I just sobbed.

While I’ve given it much thought I haven’t really come to any conclusion about his sentence. He deserves jail time, but I think the real punishment is that his reputation as an upstanding former doctor and citizen has been tainted to say the least. It’s truly sad for his family and grandchildren.

 

Age 58

May justice be served.

 

Age 41

Yesterday’s verdict means so much more than simply the finding of Dr. Duncan guilty of all charges. For myself it signifies the end of a three-year journey. There were many dark days when I didn’t think I had the strength to sit with my fear and also show up as a mother/employee/daughter/friend. But this was always bigger than just me. I knew in my heart that there were more victims out there and that was the motivation behind my decision to reach out to the newspaper.

So to the women who came forward, I thank you. I put out my hand and you grabbed ahold of mine in solidarity and shouted, “Me too!”

To the women who didn’t come forward and still carry the weight your experience, I see you and I fought for you too.

To the young girls growing up, we are one step closer to a world where you don’t have to be afraid anymore.

I invite every person who has experienced the shame of sexual assault to rejoice in this small victory with me.

Ananya Roy said, “Patriarchy is emboldened by shame and silence.” We do not have to be silent anymore.

 

Age 67

This has been a long two years for those people who pushed through with their charges.

I would like to commend and congratulate all the women who were successful for their steadfast strength in following through with all of their charges.

My tears of joy for their success and validation went to tears of relief that this harrowing experience is now behind them

I do not believe this doctor will get anything more than a house arrest. He is a privileged white male.

I do take great joy in the fact that he has been publicly shamed and everyone else has been validated.

I would also like to express my extreme appreciation for all that the newspaper did to bring this forward. I’m sure that otherwise much of this would have remained “under the examination table.”

 

A victim’s parent

I am sure the guilty verdict on all counts comes as a great relief for the victims. I have followed this case from the beginning and have been deeply saddened to witness the revictimization of these women in the courtroom by Duncan’s lawyers. It is no wonder that women do not come forward to report sexual assault. There has to be another way to ensure victims of sexual assault are not revictimized in court. Thank goodness that one victim had the courage to speak to a Voice reporter. That story gave other women the courage to come forward. Up to that point it appeared that Duncan was just simply retiring in good standing in his community without thought of the women he had assaulted over many, many years.

He is a sexual predator who has foisted pain and suffering on innocent women without remorse. He has violated the most sacred of oaths, that being the Hippocratic oath, the foundation of which is “First do no harm.”

As for sentencing, I would expect a custodial sentence but his lawyers have already set the stage to avoid this with their numerous references in court regarding Duncan’s medical condition. He can receive his necessary medical care in prison—many criminals do and he is no different. He should be given no preferential treatment whatsoever.