Susie’s Story

This story was sent to us with Susie’s permission.  It is rather shocking and quite sad.

Childhood’s stolen innocence

When Susan Duncalfe summoned the courage to report her father’s sexual assaults on her, her story would uncover not only the calamity of a childhood’s stolen innocence, but also how a religious fellowship in the Fraser Valley failed her.


When Susan Duncalfe summoned the courage to report her father’s sexual assaults on her, her story would uncover not only the calamity of a childhood’s stolen innocence, but also how a religious fellowship in the Fraser Valley failed her.

Over the past 20 years, scandals involving illicit sexual relations within churches and the way they were either ignored or covered up have caused untold damage to reputations of churches in Canada and resulted in civil damages that have entered the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In an Abbotsford courtroom earlier this month, Provincial Court Judge John Lenaghan sentenced Susan’s father, Kenneth Duncalfe, now a frail 69-year-old, to nine months in jail.

Lenaghan passed judgment, too, on Duncalfe’s Mennonite church, the Abbotsford Church of God in Christ, for knowing of his transgressions since 1990 but failing to report them to the police.

His behaviour had first been reported to the church’s minister 19 years ago by another family member. As a result, he was summoned before a church assembly and excommunicated for “lasciviousness,” a punishment that lasted for a number of months, at the end of which he was allowed to rejoin the congregation.


In a telephone interview from her home in Nelson, Susan Duncalfe, 43, said she had been subjected to hundreds of sexual assaults and molestations starting in 1980, when she was 14.

“It began the night I became a Christian and it lasted until the very day I left the church when I was 22,” she said.

“I left the church because I realized once I left, he would stop touching me. Being a member of the church was a very sheltered thing, men were the authority figures, and while I was a member he could touch me with impunity because he knew I wouldn’t complain,” she said.

“The night I told him I had left the church, it stopped.”

By the time he was “outed” to the church assembly, she was 24 and not living at home.

It would take her years before she took the matter to the police. But in 2006, after becoming concerned for the safety of grandchildren who were within her father’s orbit, she gave police a statement.

Asked why she didn’t complain earlier, she said she was too naive. “I was scared. You don’t know if anyone would believe you,” she said.

It was the failure of the church to help her — “I was made to feel like I was not worth looking after” — that caused her to have the court-imposed ban on publication of her identity lifted when the issue finally came to trial.

“They have to open their eyes and change their practices,” she said.

Susan had initially avoided going to the police and wrote a letter to her parents saying the family needed counselling, and that her father needed psychiatric help and therapy.

“Our whole family is dysfunctional and we all needed help. I thought if he got help, and we got help, we could get through it and heal the family,” she said.

The letter resulted in a visit to her home by Pastor Bev Toews of the Abbotsford Mennonite Church of God in Christ.

“He came to Nelson and wanted to see reconciliation between myself and my dad, and didn’t think laying charges against him was the way to go. He told me he was going to get Dad the help he needed and so I left it at that,” she said.

However, she would later discover that Toews was the one doing the counselling, not an outside professional.

“That wasn’t good enough. I went to the police. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Kenneth Duncalfe pleaded guilty to two counts — sexual assault and indecent assault against his daughter.

His lawyer urged the judge to impose a conditional sentence that could be served at home, but Lenaghan rejected that as inappropriate.

“The degree of culpability of this defendant is enormous. Instead of nurturing and protecting his vulnerable young daughter, he callously and selfishly exploited her for his own sexual gratification,” Lenaghan said.

“The effects his criminal behaviour has wrought on his daughter’s person and life are manifest and tragic. Every child is entitled to an innocent childhood, and to believe that his or her parents are wonderful people who will take care of and protect him or her from harm.

“The defendant robbed his daughter of such a childhood and inflicted great harm upon her. As a result, her life has been characterized by physical and psychological problems, some of which persist,” the judge said.

In a victim impact statement, Susan said the attacks had left her afraid of the dark. She sleeps with her back to the wall, usually on a couch, still needs counselling, suffers flashbacks and has experienced difficulty establishing intimate relationships, she told Lenaghan.


Crown counsel Laura Berman asked for a jail sentence of a year to 18 months for each count.

Lenaghan found a sentence of 15 months for sexual assault to be appropriate, but taking into account the accused’s age and bad health, he reduced it to nine months, with the indecent assault warranting six months. The sentences will be served concurrently.

But Lenaghan was clearly disturbed by what he had heard regarding the church’s response to Duncalfe’s confession, “which occurred in 1990 when he admitted his sexual involvement with his daughter to members of his church.”

Had Duncalfe owned up to his crimes [to the civil authorities] at that time, his daughter might have enjoyed a happier life and “been relieved to some extent of the horrors that bedevil her to this day,” the judge said.

“It is clear from the letters of reference written by members of the defendant’s family and members of his church that … they seem to regard his actions as sins and to be of the opinion that the actions taken by the church should suffice as far as punishment is concerned. …

“The defendant’s actions were not merely sins which could be expiated by confession to spiritual mentors, but crimes, offences against the social order which fall to be dealt with by civil society,” he said.

“Both the defendant and members of his church appear to have forgotten or ignored the biblical injunctions to render unto Caesar those things that properly belong to Caesar,” Lenaghan said.


Prof. Ross Hastings, who teaches pastoral ethics at the University of B.C.’s Regent College, said Lenaghan couldn’t have put it better.

“The judge was quite right in viewing it like that,” said Hastings, who teaches clergy their ethical responsibilities at the college, an interdenominational Christian graduate school.

“There is no question these were crimes and should have been reported by the church to the civil authorities,” he said.

Any pastor who is told such a thing must report it to the police, he said.

“It’s simple and clear. This sort of thing can’t be dealt with in-house, although the Mennonite church is of the Anabaptist tradition and tend to be ‘antinomian,’ that is, to put the church above the law. They have the tendency to believe everything can be solved in-house,” he said.

“I categorically tell pastors they can’t guarantee confidentiality when someone comes into their office. If they are going to confess a crime — if they tell them, for instance, they have molested a child — the pastor has to tell them he is duty-bound to report crimes to the police.

“That position is supported in the gospel, where it is clear that Christians have to obey the law of the land, except when any law violates the law of God,” Hastings said.

He said he knows of an instance where a person confessed to a murder “at the communion table.”

“The pastor sought advice from a lawyer and in the end, counselled that person to go with him to the police where he confessed his crime,” he said.

The Vancouver Sun was unable to contact Pastor Toews for comment.

But he was interviewed by the Abbotsford News following Duncalfe’s sentencing, and said the church didn’t inform police of the abuse because the victim was an adult at the time and no longer a member of the congregation.

As for Susan, has the experience shaken her faith?

“I still believe in God. I know what’s right and wrong, but my church now is my beliefs. I’m not suggesting the church didn’t teach me good things, it did. But I hold on to the more powerful things,” she said.

To comment on this story go to

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

Man Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Teen DaughterCBC
March 7, 2009

Susan Duncalfe’s father, Kenneth, was sentenced Friday to nine months in jail.

A man who pleaded guilty last year to sexually assaulting his daughter while she was a teenager was sentenced to jail Friday afternoon in Abbotsford, B.C.

Kenneth Duncalfe was handed a nine-month jail sentence, along with two years’ probation, for his role in repeatedly molesting his daughter, Susan Duncalfe, 43, while she was between 14 and 22 years old.

He pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of indecent assault against his daughter last September.

At the time of Susan’s abuse, her entire family held memberships in the Mennonite Church of God in Christ in Abbotsford.Susan said the church knew about the abuse, which took place in the 1970s and 1980s, but never took action to deal with it.

“My father was excommunicated from the church and then reaccepted a couple weeks later, and it was never talked about.”

Susan Duncalfe came forward with allegations of abuse by her father seven years ago

Daughter left church

Susan left the church when she was in her early 20s and came forward with her allegations of abuse seven years ago.

Judge John Lenaghan blasted church leaders for inaction in his reasons for judgment Friday.

“They have known about the sexual abuse of this young woman for 18 years and did nothing about it,” Lenaghan said.

The judge also admonished Duncalfe for failing to show remorse towards his daughter

Judge lambastes Abbotsford sex offender and church
By Rochelle Baker – Abbotsford News

Published: December 05, 2008 3:00 PM
Updated: December 05, 2008 4:12 PM


Editor’s Note: This story contains some graphic content and may not be appropriate for younger readers.

A provincial court judge blasted an Abbotsford father Thursday for atoning to his church for sexual assaults of his daughter before seeking forgiveness from his victim.

Judge John Lenaghan questioned whether true remorse had been displayed by defendant Kenneth Duncalfe, 69, who pleaded guilty to a count of sex assault and of indecent assault against his daughter. The charges came 18 years after he confessed the crimes to the members of his faith.

“A significant display of remorse surely would be vis-a-vis his victim rather than to his church,” he told defence lawyer Clarke Burnett.

“The defendant was moved to confess to his congregation, but was not moved to confess to police. Which is the more significant factor?” asked the judge.

Lenaghan also expressed reservations about the support Duncalfe received from members of the Abbotsford Mennonite Church of God in Christ who packed the courtroom in support of the defendant.

“None of them contacted police. They have known of the sexual abuse of this young woman for 18 years and did nothing about it,” he said.

“They knew the offender and the victim, and even probably the effect the assaults had upon the victim, and did nothing.”

Lenaghan made his comments during Duncalfe’s sentencing hearing in Abbotsford provincial court.

In September, Duncalfe was convicted of assaulting his daughter Susan Duncalfe, now 43, during the years 1979 to 1986 when she was 14 to 19 years old.

Duncalfe admitted to touching his daughter’s genitals while the two were in a car, and years later entering her bedroom and performing oral sex on her.

During cross-examination, he also admitted to touching her breast.

A publication ban was lifted at the victim’s request.

Lenaghan noted that, during previous testimony, the victim had alleged there were more assaults than her father admitted to. The judge said while he didn’t doubt Susan’s testimony, he could only convict her father for the charges he pleaded guilty to.

“I am not casting aspersions on the [victim’s] honesty, but Crown was simply unable to prove there were more assaults that were beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Lenaghan said he was “appalled” that Duncalfe had suggested his daughter was responsible for one assault that had taken place, because she was sitting immodestly.

He also said Duncalfe showed a manifest lack of insight into his actions when he compared assaulting his daughter to smoking cigarettes.

“[The offender] is oblivious to how inappropriate it was, and how it objectified his daughter who he sexually assaulted whenever he felt like doing so.”

Crown Lauren Berman asked the judge for a jail sentence ranging from 12 to 18 months, three years’ probation; that Duncalfe be registered under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act (SOIRA); and that he provide a DNA sample.

Defence lawyer Clarke Burnett said he had no dispute with most terms suggested by Crown, but asked Duncalfe get a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.

Burnett said his client had shown remorse for sexually assaulting his daughter when he disclosed the offence to his church in 1990 and was excommunicated for some time before being brought back into the fold.

After confessing to his church, Duncalfe also wrote a letter to his daughter, apologizing for the assaults, he said.

Burnett conceded the assaults were indeed a serious breach of trust, but there were mitigating factors in the case, such as the length of time since the complaints occurred, the health of the offender who had heart problems, that he had pleaded guilty, and the assaults had not involved intercourse or violence.

“I don’t see how anything productive will come of sending Mr. Duncalfe to jail,” he said.

Burnett read out a letter his client had written to the court.

“To this day I agonize over how sinful it was, and what damage it has done to my family and Susan,” Duncalfe wrote.

“To this day, I still have true remorse for what I did . . . to be reconciled to Susan is uppermost in my hearth.”

After hearing sentencing recommendations from the Crown and defence, Lenaghan decided to take more time to consider the sentence.

Just before the hearing ended, Duncalfe – his face red with crying – took the opportunity to address the court. Turning to the back of the courtroom, he choked out an apology to his daughter.

“I just want to tell Suzie how terrible I feel.”

Susan Duncalfe, in tears, turned her face into her husband’s shoulder.

Duncalfe’s sentencing has been set for March 6 in Abbotsford provincial court.

This entry was posted in Reporting Abuse, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Susie’s Story

  1. It is our understanding that Mr. Duncalfe has served his sentence, has been reaccepted into the Church of God in Christ Mennonite, and now serves as a Sunday School Superintendent. I believe he has also been a youth leader since his release from prison. If this information is incorrect I will retract it. Very odd that a convicted pedophile is given positions of responsibility regarding young children…..

  2. Bryon Schmidt says:

    It is unfathomable that a church will allow a convicted child molester to shepherd children but if a member dares to disagrees with church doctrine is shunned for the rest of their life.

    • Godfather says:

      You make such an obvious point that it is almost ridiculous, and yet, there are many who never see the insanity. It all seems perfectly normal and reasonable to them. The real sin in this church is disagreeing with the leadership.

  3. Godfather says:

    lotsaquestions, an even more bizarre thought is that he is perhaps not the only one…how many perverts have been secretly dealt with and are now in positions of authority, while others who merely questioned are shunned forever. I’m scratching my head.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s