David Charles O’Reilly, 73, was given a suspended sentence and 18 months probation last week for the 1980 indecent assault of a female student.
Next month he’ll be tried on another count of indecent assault that dates back to the 1975/1976 school year.
Both charges involve students who once attended Ellerslie Campus school. Their identities are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
O’Reilly’s victim in 1980 asked CBC News to call her Casty.
Now a 55-year-old divorced mother of two adult daughters, she has suffered from depression over the past four decades and has been diagnosed with PTSD because of what happened to her when she was 15.
Before she had O’Reilly as her Grade 9 homeroom teacher, she was always happy.
“I was very social,” she said. “I was in the 4H Club, trying to do scorekeeping and baseball. Just continue to grow as a young person in the community.”
In hindsight, Casty thinks O’Reilly began grooming her on the first day of school in 1980.
“I thought he was a really cool teacher,” she said. “He had a reel-to-reel eight track in his homeroom that he would play the Rolling Stones on. He was always known as the cool teacher.”
At first, Casty said she was flattered that O’Reilly was paying attention to her.
“I was quite enamoured at that age to be told that I was pretty,” she recalls. “That I was developing. Different things that I was being told were very complimentary.”
Casty said the first time O’Reilly became physical with her was in December 1980 when they went to Sherwood Park in his TransAm to purchase Christmas decorations for the classroom.
“He actually kissed me in the car and told me he could get fired for this,” Casty said. “I was scared. I froze. I just became a frozen person in the seat of the car.”
At 15, she couldn’t believe an adult had done that to her, she said.
“I didn’t know how to react or behave really after that happened.”
He drove her to a fast food outlet to pick up lunch for the class.
“He was touching my leg and in towards my groin area,” Casty said. “I just wanted to get out of there. I became aware that this behavior was wrong and I could sense that it was wrong.”
Back in the homeroom, O’Reilly pulled her aside to give her a Christmas gift. She said he made sure no one else could see what he was doing.
“He gave me an action figure,” she said. “It was an Incredible Hulk doll [with] a card that said, ‘May this serve as an at-home reminder of your ideal man.'”
Casty put the action figure in her closet and never looked at it again.
“That really set something off in me that I knew that this adult was wrong,” she said.
Still, she told no one.
‘Being isolated is very difficult’
After the Christmas break, Casty kept her distance from O’Reilly. But then he asked if she wanted to ride with him to a tournament in Nisku. She agreed after he said two of her friends could join them.
She thought that would keep her safe.
“Then on the way home, the teacher stopped at the liquor store and bought liquor for us,” she said. “I drank it. And I got drunk.”
When O’Reilly dropped the students off drunk at the end of the night, their parents called the principal and the teacher was quietly dismissed.
Casty said she suffered her first panic attack in May 1981. In a victim impact statement, she said she had lost trust in adults.
“I would have to move forward, grow up and I guess just forget about it,” she wrote.
But that took a major toll on her mental health. She has been hospitalized in the past and unable to work full-time.
“Being isolated is very difficult,” she told CBC News. “I lost my marriage. I relive this situation every day because it’s a fight or flight.”
After a 10-year break from teaching, O’Reilly got a job at the Grande Cache Community High School.
He taught there for 29 years until his retirement in June 2016.
According to a spokesperson for the Alberta Teachers’ Association, O’Reilly was a member in good standing at the time of his retirement.
Breaking the silence
After decades of silence, Casty reached a turning point in 2017 when she took a self-esteem course at Alberta Hospital. She was asked what held her back from healing.
“And the answer to the question was, I was sexually assaulted when I was a kid,” she said.
Casty contacted police and an investigation was launched. She praised the Edmonton police detective and Crown prosecutor for their hard work and support.
A volunteer from the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton was by her side when she testified at O’Reilly’s trial last month in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench.
Casty called it healing to face her abuser in court.
“It was probably the best feeling that I could ever imagine,” she said. “To be able to speak the truth and say it directly to him was one of the most healing things that I’ve felt so far in my journey.”
O’Reilly took the stand in his own defence. Casty watched him testify.
He denied any sexual wrongdoing against Casty.
Ultimately, Justice Melanie Hayes-Richards believed Casty, not O’Reilly.
Casty said her daughters are proud of her.
“My kids have said, ‘Mom, you’ve really done well. You’re very brave and we see that you’ve healed.'”
She encourages other victims to break their silence as does Staff Sgt. Terrie Affolder with the EPS sexual assault section.
“We encourage all survivors of sexual violence to come forward and report it, no matter how far in the past it may have occurred,” Affolder said. “We take reports seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and we can and do lay charges wherever possible, regardless of how much time has passed since the offence.”
O’Reilly’s next trial is scheduled to last five days and will be held the week of Nov. 23.