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Simi Man Ordered to Pay Daughter $525,000 in Molestation Suit : Courts: Victim testifies she had flashbacks of the assaults during a phone conversation with her father in 1991.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In one of the first cases of its kind in Ventura County, a Superior Court judge has ordered a Simi Valley man to pay his daughter $525,000 for sexually abusing the girl nearly 30 years ago.

Superior Court Judge Barbara A. Lane ruled that the daughter, identified only as Diane T. in the civil case, had proved conclusively that her father sexually molested her more than 150 times from 1964 to 1967, when the girl lived with him and her stepmother in Lancaster. The assaults began when she was 8 years old.

At the time, the father was convicted of a sex-related criminal charge in connection with a complaint filed on behalf of his daughter, now 37.

Lane awarded the daughter $475,000 in compensatory damage for “intentional sexual abuse.” The judge awarded an additional $50,000 for the father’s negligence in not providing his daughter the psychological care she needed to overcome the trauma of the assaults.

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The ruling is unusual because the lawsuit was filed under a state law that went into effect about three years ago. The law waives the statute of limitations for filing a legal claim in certain civil matters and is designed to assist victims such as Diane T. who are involved in sexual-abuse cases, court officials said.

Jeffrey S. Fraiser, the father’s attorney, said his client is considering appealing the judge’s decision. As he did in court, Fraiser insisted the woman brought the lawsuit as a ploy to gain leverage with her father in a dispute over her grandmother’s estate.

“We still think that to be true and correct, but obviously the judge didn’t feel that way,” Fraiser said.

Kelton Lee Gibson, Diane T.'s attorney, did not return phone calls.

Psychological experts testified at the trial that the woman’s recollections of the sexual abuse “flooded” back into her mind in January, 1991, after she and her father had an argument in a telephone conversation about her grandmother’s critical illness.

The psychologists testified that until that phone conversation, Diane T. had never been made aware that she had been sexually abused as a child.

Diane T. lived with her father, who had remarried after splitting up with her mother. The sexual abuse of the girl was first discovered by her stepmother, the court decision says.

The ruling says that evidence presented during the trial showed that the girl was intimidated into keeping the abuse a secret by her father’s admonitions that she would be embarrassed if anyone ever found out about it.

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The abuse included molestation and oral copulation, it says.

Diane T. testified that “out of nowhere” she had flashbacks to the incidents during the January, 1991, phone conversation with her father.

“While he was talking, she saw herself as a little girl with no clothes on, lying naked on a coffee table in the living room of her childhood house . . .,” the decision says.

Psychologists testifying on the woman’s behalf told the judge she had daily, recurring nightmares after that point. They testified that such repressed memories are common for victims traumatized by war, accidents and sexual assaults.

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Judge Lane found that Diane T.'s testimony was credible, while that of her father’s was “evasive and inconsistent.”

After his daughter went to live with her mother in 1967, her father pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor child annoyance sexual offense, the court decision says.

The father served 15 days in jail. He also was ordered to get psychiatric help and register as a sex offender.

In determining a verdict for compensatory damages, Lane took into account the duration, repetition and extent of the defendant’s sexual abuse of the woman; her age at the time and vulnerability when the incidents occurred; and the serious psychological injuries that the woman suffered.

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