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Women describe lingering effects of sexual assaults by Alberta neurologist


CALGARY — Several of the 28 women a Calgary neurologist sexually assaulted over three decades told a judge Tuesday that what happened during their 15-minute appointments led to years of anxiety, shame, self-doubt and fear of doctors.

Court heard 20 victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing of Keith Hoyte, 72, who pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

Prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood read half of the statements on behalf of victims in the Calgary Courts Centre's spacious ceremonial courtroom, where those in the gallery could adhere to COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines.

One by one, the rest stood or sat behind Plexiglas, removed their face masks and detailed the pain their assaults caused.

Greenwood and defence lawyer Alain Hepner jointly suggested Hoyte serve three years behind bars.

Queen's Bench Justice Jim Eamon questioned whether that was a harsh enough punishment, given the number of victims and the vulnerable position in which each found themselves.

But Eamon said he was bound by legal precedent to accept the proposed sentence.

"They rightly hoped you could relieve their suffering," Eamon said of the women, as Hoyte stood in the prisoner's dock.

"You used them as sexual objects."

He called Hoyte's harm to his former profession a "sorry state of affairs."

"You brought dishonour upon the medical system."

An agreed statement of facts described how the victims, between the ages of 17 and 46, were seeking help for brain ailments such as migraines or seizures. The assaults took place between the early 1980s and 2013, when Hoyte retired.

Yet the victims described how Hoyte fondled their breasts and pricked them with pins, while he made little eye contact or conversation.

"I carried this dirty secret with me, letting it destroy me," said one woman who, for 14 years, only told four people about the assault.

Many of the women who spoke out said they refuse to refer to Hoyte as doctor, because he broke his oath to do no harm.

Virtually all described how the assaults sowed a sense of mistrust in the medical profession and fear of seeing doctors.

One woman told the courtroom she was uncomfortable with male doctors even before she was assaulted by Hoyte.

"I couldn't avoid you. You wore the armour of the specialist. You knew we had nowhere else to go," she said.

"You caused this sense of betrayal."

She said she felt like "a desperate soul seeking help reduced to nothing more than a plaything."

Another woman, who described Hoyte as a "monster," said she relives her assault like a video playing in slow motion in her head.

"Every little detail is highlighted, from the chairs in the waiting room to the pictures on the wall. 

"I'm on guard all the time and the feeling of being vulnerable never goes away."

The woman said she can't forgive Hoyte.

"We are here because he got caught, not because there's any remorse for his actions."

Hoyte told court that his sense of remorse is "palpable."

"I wish I had a magical power to help you heal from the memories. I don't," he said in a prepared statement.

"I do not expect forgiveness, but I am truly sorry."

Court heard one victim went to police in 1991, another in 2008 and a third in 2018. Police charged Hoyte with three counts of sexual assault in June 2018. After media reports, 25 more women came forward.

Some complainants said they did not report Hoyte sooner because they thought they wouldn't be believed, would be judged or would be thought of as difficult patients.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press