More than 200 individuals have come forward with new allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Boy Scouts of America in recent weeks as a trio of law firms seek to uncover unidentified child abusers.
A few of the victims are young, still underage or in their 20s, but many have held their secrets close for decades.
“Nobody would have listened to me,” said James Kretschmer, 56, who says a leader groped him at a Boy Scouts camp when he was in middle school. “The problem is, then you think, ‘Is it something I did? What was I doing, was it my fault? If I hadn’t done whatever, he wouldn’t have done that.’ It took me years and years to realize it wasn’t that little child’s fault. It was the adult who had control.”
Samuel, 17, said he was fondled by a leader a decade ago, who told him, “Don’t say anything.
“For awhile, I lived with those three words,” Samuel said. “That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
Advised by Tim Kosnoff, an attorney who has litigated more than a thousand cases of sexual misconduct against organizations such as the Scouts and the Mormon church, the group of attorneys said it has identified 150 alleged pedophiles never before publicly accused.
The law firms began running TV and Google ads encouraging victims to sign on as clients for a potential lawsuit after a report in December that Boy Scouts of America prepared for a possible Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The volume already gathered could double the number of legal cases the organization already is facing, although a bankruptcy would halt existing and future litigation, the attorneys told USA TODAY. MORE
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has claimed in a new memoir that a taekwondo coach sexually abused him when he was 10 years old.
“When it happened, I didn’t know what to think,” Singh told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti. “I felt a lot of shame and guilt, which I know is normal when you go through something like this.”
The politician revealed the abuse claim in his new book, Love & Courage: My Story of Family, Resilience, and Overcoming the Unexpected, released Tuesday.
Singh told Tremonti that the coach spotted the young boy’s enthusiasm for the sport and singled him out for extra training at his home through a special program.
“The program, really, was a guise to sexually assault me,” Singh said.
“Even now when I think back, it’s almost unimaginable that someone would go to such lengths to set up a way to assault a little kid.”
Singh said that the coach is now deceased. A representative for the politician, referring to the coach as “Mr. N”, said that he was never charged in relation to the abuse, which is alleged to have happened in Windsor, Ont., in the late 1980s.
The CBC has not independently verified the account, and is not revealing the coach’s full name. MORE
Chris Dallin was a teenage track and field star who set two Canadian records in hurdles, won gold at the 1981 Canada Summer Games, and caught the eye of national coaches dazzled by his speed and strength.
On the outside, Dallin was a tall, attractive athlete with an intense determination to succeed and a growing collection of medals. On the inside, he said, he was wounded, struggling to understand why he had been “sexually assaulted” by one of the most important people in his life.
“It was the single most excruciatingly difficult event of my life,” the Ladner resident said.
“The world is basically your oyster. And then the world is a closed loop and there is no freedom — everything has been taken away from you in a matter of a second.
“I remember the sadness rolling over me. And the confusion.”
Dallin is one of at least five men who have provided statements to the Athletics Canada Commissioner’s Office, which is investigating sexual-abuse allegations against high profile track coach Ken Porter, who for 50 years turned hundreds of talented youth into the country’s highest performing track stars.
No criminal charges have been laid, despite a complaint being made to police in 2007, and none of the accusations has been tested or proven in court. Through his lawyer, Porter maintained his innocence.
“Mr. Porter categorically denies the allegations made against him. He has been a well-respected volunteer in track and field for over 50 years and has always conducted himself in a professional manner,” said lawyer Fady Mansour.
Postmedia has spoken to four of the men who contacted Athletics Canada, the national governing body for track and field. All were teenagers competing for the Edmonton Olympic Club in the 1970s and all were coached by Porter.
None of them told club officials, their parents or police about the alleged abuse at the time, because of a combination of shame, confusion and not wanting to ruin their chances of making the national track team or winning university scholarships.
“I should have told somebody. But when you are young and you want to be a great athlete and you know that your coach is your ticket to greatness, you will do anything to stay with him,” said Dallin, 56, a branding consultant who said he has struggled since the alleged assaults with low-self-esteem, major depression and anxiety. MORE
Following the death of a nine-year-old Syrian girl in Calgary, those working with young newcomers say it is an extreme outcome of a larger issue that many are facing.
“It’s extremely real. If you go and visit schools with refugee kids, you can see they are isolated, they are struggling,” said Zainab Ibrahim, a counsellor with DIVERSEcity in Vancouver. “My biggest fear is already happening … a young girl took her life.”
Amal Alshteiwi died in March after her parents said she told them she had been bullied at school for months. Amal’s parents insist they reached out to their daughter’s teacher, but the Calgary Board of Education disputes this. One thing is clear: the little Syrian-Calgarian girl’s well-being was in serious jeopardy, and some worry she may not be the only one in trouble.
“Yes, they left war, but the trauma is still alive. My biggest fear is that those kids won’t heal or thrive from the post-migration trauma that they could experience,” said Ibrahim, who came to Canada as a refugee from Iraq when she was 15. MORE
‘Everyone can agree that prison is not a healthy place for people,’ lead researcher of AJPH study says
About half of Canada’s inmates were abused as children, suggests a new study out of McMaster University.
Medical student Claire Bodkin led a team that studied data from 30 years of research into Canadian inmates. Their work was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).
The researchers found 65 per cent of female inmates experienced abuse in general, and half of them were sexually abused.
Bodkin said only one study in the data evaluated reported the prevalence of abuse among men. The researchers found abuse rates involving male inmates were at 35.5 per cent, with 21.9 per cent of them having experienced sexual abuse.
If we had more resources at the preventative level, before people got in conflict with the law, that would be really amazing.– Ruth Greenspan, John Howard Society
The team did a statistical analysis of the results to reach the conclusion that half of inmates had been abused, Bodkin said.
“That’s an alarmingly high number.”
These are the other researchers involved in the work, which included going over 34 studies from territorial, federal and provincial prisons and jails:
Fiona Kouyoumdjian and Lucie Pivnick, both McMaster.
Susan Bondy of the University of Toronto.
Carolyn Ziegler of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital.
Ruth Elwood Martin of the University of British Columbia.
Claire Bodkin, lead author of the article in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, says one purpose of the research is to help determine: ‘How do we prevent childhood abuse from happening in the first place?’ (Sara Alavian)
Bodkin said understanding people who have been incarcerated — including reoffenders — will go a long way in helping prevent crime.
Prisons need to take trauma into account in how they deal with inmates, Bodkin said.
“Regardless of where you stand politically, I think everyone can agree that prison is not a healthy place for people, and that it’s a symptom of multiple other things that have gone wrong.”
So “how do we need to think about the impact of childhood trauma? How do we prevent childhood abuse from happening in the first place?”
The findings aren’t surprising to Ruth Greenspan, executive director of the John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington and area in Ontario.
“Many resort to their own abuse of themselves,” she said. “There’s a lot of addiction, self-mutilation, self-harm, and suicide, which again, are all indications of having suffered a lot of trauma. PTSD is something you see when you work with this population.”
There have been some great programs over the years to address trauma among people who commit crimes, she said. But the funding comes and goes.
On the whole, there aren’t enough free resources for individuals — before, during or after prison, said Greenspan.
Prevention ‘would just save so much money’
“If we had more resources at the preventative level, before people got in conflict with the law, that would be really amazing,” she said.
“If we prevented it, we would just save so much money in the criminal justice system. And I don’t think we’re there yet.”
For her part, Bodkin has done some clinical training with men during and after prison. Some have “really expansive trauma histories,” including severe abuse as children, she said.
“We suspected it was high, but there wasn’t good research out there that led to a national perspective in Canada.”
As for what constitutes abuse, Bodkin and her team used a World Health Organization definition, which means attendance at a residential school wasn’t considered, although that research would be useful too, Bodkin said.
At any given time, 41,000 people are incarcerated in Canada, and a disproportionate number are Indigenous.
Canadian Olympic athlete Kaillie Humphries poses for a photo at the Olympic Summit in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, June 3, 2017. Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton has confirmed that former Olympian Kaillie Humphries filed a harassment complaint with the organization. Humphries stepped away from competition in October before the World Cup season began. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Olympic bobsledder Kaillie Humphries says she has filed a harassment complaint with Canadian officials, and that her case is why she is not competing in World Cup races this season.
Humphries told CBC for a story published Saturday that she “can no longer be silenced because of other people’s actions,” though she stopped short of specifying what type of harassment she is alleging took place.
She is a three-time Olympic medallist and two-time Olympic champion. Humphries announced in October that she was not competing this season, though never detailed why until now.
“I found myself in a position where my workplace environment was impaired and I couldn’t compete,” Humphries told CBC.
Bobsleigh Canada spokesman Chris Dornan told The Associated Press that the federation “has been made aware” of Humphries’ allegations, and that triggers an probe by an independent investigator.
“We take any allegations of this nature very seriously,” Dornan said. “A safe training and competitive environment for everyone involved in our sport is Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton’s No. 1 priority. This is a highly confidential case. Out of respect to all parties involved, and the process, we will not be commenting further on this matter until the investigation is complete.”
Humphries has been one of the most dominant women in bobsledding, with four World Cup overall titles in the past six seasons. She was the Olympic gold medallist in 2010 and 2014, and took third at last year’s Pyeongchang Games.
“My entire career is at stake, who I am personally,” Humphries told CBC. “I’m risking everything to be in this position. It’s not something I take lightly. So yeah, for me personally there’s a lot at stake.”
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As some of Canada’s World Junior hockey players caught some harsh criticism on social media following a quarterfinal loss this week, it served as another look into the darker side of the culture of the sport.
It can start at an early age through a slightly different lens.
Matt Bell, 19, is a youth hockey official in Stratford, Ontario, and recently posted an open letter on Twitter.
He described getting some nasty verbal feedback from one parent in particular, and is trying to remind everyone that hostility in the face of something you don’t agree with isn’t the best way to go.
Sean Raphael, the referee-in-chief for the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association, says much has been done to take that kind of thing out of youth hockey.
However, he admits it still exists.
“There’s going to be some of that negative feedback, frustration,” Raphael tells NEWS 1130. “People maybe not understanding what the officials are doing when they’re right, or not understanding the human component to it — that they are going to mistakes and how to appropriately, maybe, address their frustration when they see somebody maybe make a mistake.”
While some of the verbal abuse on and off the ice can be extreme, Raphael says everyone needs to continue to work to phase that element out of the game.
“If we want to eliminate checking from behind or head injuries, and we implement rules to address them, overnight the philosophy doesn’t change, right? It takes time to condition it into what the new expectation is. And we maybe need a little bit more focus on what that expectation is of conduct.”
Work is ongoing to try and address the issue, he adds, however, Raphael says sometimes it’s still easy to forget where the line is.
“I think it’s just a matter of everybody in the culture understanding that everyone has a role to play in the game, and that everyone’s an individual person on the ice and that we shouldn’t really get too caught up on trivialities of the sport and that we’re all there for the same goal.”
The University of Michigan athletics department said Sunday that it would end its contract with a former U.S.A. Gymnastics executive connected to the Lawrence G. Nassar sexual abuse scandal, just days after the university hired her as a coaching consultant for its women’s gymnastics team.
The university’s decision to move on from the former executive, Rhonda Faehn, is the latest fallout from the scandal, in which Nassar, a former doctor for the United States women’s gymnastics team and Michigan State University, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sex crimes against female athletes.
But outcry built after she was hired on Thursday, with some university regents and members of the public demanding an end to the contract with Ms. Faehn, The Detroit News reported Sunday.
“I have come to the conclusion that it is not in the best interest of the University of Michigan and our athletic program to continue the consulting contract with Rhonda Faehn,” Athletic Director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “It was the wrong decision, and I apologize.”
The athletics department did not answer further questions about Ms. Faehn’s firing. Efforts to reach Ms. Faehn, who led the women’s gymnastics program at the University of Florida to three straight N.C.A.A. titles, were not successful.
During her testimony before Congress, she described how she had told the former president of U.S.A. Gymnastics, Steve Penny, about a coach’s concerns about Nassar in July 2015. She said that she assumed Mr. Penny would quickly report the concerns to law enforcement, and that he had directed her not to discuss “the current issue” about a member of the medical staff with anyone.
In an announcement about her hiring, Mr. Manuel said that after the university’s “exhaustive due diligence,” it “felt comfortable that coach Faehn reported all information available to her regarding Larry Nassar and that she cooperated fully.”
“Neither an internal investigation by U.S.A. Gymnastics or a criminal investigation by the F.B.I. have assigned culpability or resulted in any charges against her,” Mr. Manuel said in the announcement.
It is not clear what exactly led to the university changing direction or when Ms. Faehn’s contract is set to end. As of Sunday night, the university’s website still listed her as an assistant coach.
Peter MacKay, former federal justice minister and attorney general, is the board chair of the Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Center. Karyn Kennedy is the organization’s CEO.
Many Canadians have paid close attention to the criminal proceedings involving students at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, which have included assault and gang sexual assault. At Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, we have been supporting victims and families involved in this case, as we have been doing for thousands of victims and their families in Toronto for more than 30 years. The storied history of the school has made the St. Michael’s case seem exceptional; but sadly, it is not. Even in the weeks after the St. Michael’s story emerged, we’ve had calls from parents across the city seeking help because their child was abused at other schools.
This is a problem that exists in every part of the country: Each year, there are more than 200,000 cases of reported child abuse and neglect in Canada. This number alone is shocking enough. Consider also that the impact of unresolved childhood abuse can be lifelong and cut across generations. This present reality makes us angry. It makes us sad. It must also drive action on improvement, because improved prevention is possible. That number can go down.
We must appreciate that this isn’t just about one school with a problem. In fact, this isn’t just a school problem. The St. Michael’s case has opened a window into the dangers of abuse that face children and youth across Canada in a variety of settings.
With younger children, the safety imperatives can seem more obvious. We regulate things such as car seats and playground equipment. We teach children in our lives to look both ways when crossing the street. We child-proof our homes.
When children become adolescents, they have new experiences that can sometimes present new risks. They spend more unsupervised time with other young people. Various adults can play significant roles in their lives and in reaching goals related to sports or other activities. Adolescents are not always as well prepared for the risks in these new environments because awareness and prevention aren’t discussed as openly as those childhood risks. This must change. Protection of adolescent children is also on our watch – the responsibility belongs to all of us.
Let’s start by losing our complacency and pledging to never permit, mask or make excuses for any type of abuse. Let’s call hazing and initiation what it truly is: a deliberate, often illegal use of power to abuse and degrade another human being. We also need to consider whether the term bullying really captures what is happening when boys and girls are physically or sexually assaulted by older children or youth. When such acts are committed against an adult, we call it sexual assault and call the police. Young people should be made more aware that committing such acts can lead to criminal charges and are, in fact, very damaging to those victimized.
Active, honest communication is vital. Children and youth must know that they will be heard if they tell an adult that they have experienced or seen abuse. There are children who have told our staff about wanting to tell an adult in their life about abuse but feeling there was never the right moment when they would have their full attention and understanding. Everybody has a responsibility to create those moments. Young people must know there is no higher priority than their safety. No other goal – not championships or scholarships – is more important than their well-being.
We need to build a stronger culture of prevention in places where youth spend their time. There should be active and transparent plans, understood by all – school administrators, principals, teachers, coaches, youth and parents – for mitigating the risk of assault and sexual assault.
Children who come forward to report abuse are heroes who open our eyes. We can’t look away. We owe it to them to protect them and other children from harm. All Canadians must join us in taking action, right now, to prevent abuse and build a future in which children and youth grow up in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.
Dave Trafford had an incredible time at St. Michael’s College School four decades ago. He was the student body president, played on the hockey team, performed in musicals and ran its newspaper. He had a close group of friends who all had a great time.
Or so he thought.
Last week, as the all-boys private school in Toronto was rocked by allegations of assault and sexual assault by students, Trafford discovered that two of his best friends had struggled with bullying and felt unsafe at St. Michael’s.
“I did not see it then,” Trafford said. “It’s shocking, disappointing and heartbreaking.”
A criminal investigation triggered by a video that police sources say shows several members of a St. Michael’s sports team pinning down a student and sexually assaulting him with a broom handle has now expanded to include at least six incidents. Six students – aged 14 and 15 – are already facing sex assault-related charges and police have warned more charges could follow.
The school has admitted that it has failed in its responsibility to keep students safe, saying the recent incidents clearly indicate it has a problem.
“We need to do much better at our culture and our student’s ability to talk to us,” the school’s principal, Greg Reeves, said earlier this week after police announced the criminal charges against the six students.
The growing scandal has forced alumni to grapple with the past and a number of them are coming forward with their own experiences of bullying and harassment at the school that stretches back decades.
“There’s a real opportunity for the school to take a good look at itself and go deep and figure out how and why it happened and how they missed this,” Trafford said. “And to find out everything that has happened in the past.”
A number of former students who spoke with The Canadian Press said they’re eager to share their stories as part of an internal review promised by the school.
Nathan Goveas graduated from St. Michael’s in 2003.
“I was bullied the entire time I was there, right from day one,” said Goveas, who’s now a teacher.
He wasn’t involved in sports.
“I’m a skinny brown kid. People made fun of my appearance. It was mostly verbal bullying,” he said.
He never complained, but said his mother grew worried when she noticed he was feeling “down” in Grade 11. So she went to the administration.
“The principal dismissed it as boys will be boys,” Goveas said. The bullying continued.
Kyle Fraser said he left St. Michael’s in 2013 after Grade 10, unable to deal with the bullying.
“Leaving was the best decision of my life,” he said.
“I was bullied non stop, very relentless, not only by the students (but also) by the staff.”
He said he was picked on because he struggled with math and science and also because he wasn’t as good at hockey as some other students there.
“All that stuff affected me for a very long time,” he said. He became depressed and anxious.
“I was suicidal at one point. It got really bad.”
Fraser, who now studies at a university in Ohio, shared his story at an alumni meeting at the school on Tuesday night and received a lot of support afterward.
“It was very warming and put me in a peaceful state of mind,” he said. “There are a lot of good people there.”
Fraser and Goveas said there was a wide range of opinions at the meeting.
“I think some alumni aren’t willing to recognize the issues,” Goveas said.
Jean-Paul Bedard went public with his story last week in wake of the scandal. He lived through a violent, sexualized hazing incident at the school in the 1980s. He didn’t attend the alumni meeting, but has offered his services to the school as not only a survivor of sexual assault, but also as a trained trauma peer mentor. The school has yet to take up his offer.
“I’m skeptical of this review, but I will certainly be sharing my story,” he said. “Their attitude seems to be ‘we know how to fix this and don’t need outside help.“’
D’Arcy McKeown said he had a great time at St. Michael’s. Just a few months after graduating from the Roman Catholic school in 2005, he says he was sexually assaulted with a broom handle at McGill University as part of a hazing with the football team.
He left after just two weeks and returned to his alma mater, St. Michael’s, which he called a “safe space to recover.” He volunteered with the school’s football program for a time, before eventually resuming his studies at the University of Toronto.
McKeown applauded the school’s desire to take a victim-centric approach as it deals with both the current incidents and the historical “deep dive” into its culture.
“You need to get everything out there,” he said. “If others’ unfortunate experiences can help guide St. Mike’s in preventing these things going forward, it’s for the best, as painful as it may be for some to tell these stories.”
St. Michael’s alumni will be helping the school with mentorship and workshops in the coming days and weeks in an effort to help the current students.
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