While sports are commonly thought to “be a safe, healthy environment which contributes to the positive development of young people, it is also an area where violence can manifest itself in various ways, including sexual assault.” Between 2 and 8 percent of all Canadian athletes are victims in sexual abuse at some point in their careers, a number which may come as a surprise to sports fans and sexual abuse prevention advocates alike.
Concerns for the safety and wellbeing of child and young adult victims have seen a sharp rise in recent years as incidents of sexual abuse in any environment—including athletics—are brought to the public’s attention thanks to the #MeToo movement and similar visibility efforts.
In as many as 98 percent of these incidents, the perpetrators of sexual abuse were coaches, teachers or instructors of the victims, violating the sense of trust and kinship that is highly valued in the context of an athletic team.
Is Sexual Abuse in Elite Sports a Hidden Epidemic?
As the #MeToo movement continues to gain traction across Canada, supporters have continuously called for not only an end to sexual assault victim stigmatization, but also for an improvement in the way that sexual assault incident reports are handled by authorities. In Canada, sexual assault allegations are investigated by local police departments or the RCMP. RCMP statistics indicate an estimated 635,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in Canada during 2014.
Tip of The Iceberg
Unfortunately, as someone who has been representing survivors of sexual abuse for more than 25 years, I can state without a shadow of a doubt that these reports are just the tip of the iceberg.
I expect most Canadians would be shocked to learn that nearly 90 percent of all sexual assault incidents go unreported. A variety of factors contribute to this:
First, victims may feel intimidated by longstanding social and cultural attitudes exhibited towards sexual assault victims, and feel that it is safer or “easier” to say nothing about their experience.
Second, a lack of investigative accountability, victim support and sexual assault education allows many assaulters to “slip through the cracks” unintentionally meaning that even if a report is made, it does not guarantee that an arrest will result. Cases in which an assaulter is determined to have “not violated the law,” or that a crime was “falsely reported” are classified as unfounded.
Recently, we covered CBC’s 2012 report on Scouts Canada that took place following an episode of The Fifth Estate. The investigation on The Fifth Estate sought to find answers to allegations that Scouts Canada had not been entirely honest about reporting each instance of sexual abuse, assault or misconduct occurring within their ranks to the authorities, as they had previously maintained for decades.
As a result, Scouts Canada then pledged to hand over previously-confidential reporting dossiers to auditing firm KPMG, who then launched an independent investigation to determine if (and when) Scouts Canada failed to report instances of sexual abuse that they were made aware of.
What follows is a brief summary of the result of KPMG’s investigation, which can viewed in full here.
Summary of KPMG Report
The 55-page report outlines KPMG’s investigative timeline, and goes into detail regarding the decision to launch the investigation, how the 486 cases were obtained from Scouts Canada (whether they were part of the initial hand-over or acquired later), and the processes through which these cases were analyzed to determine the level of action taken by Scouts Canada to address allegations of sexual abuse and assault from 1947 to 2011.
Scouts Canada has come under fire in past years from critics and victims alike for the organization’s failure to report to the police instances and allegations of sexual abuse and assault by adult leaders against children. This apparent inaction is thought, by some, to be part of a systemic effort to protect child molesters within their ranks. Whether or not these claims are true has yet to be determined, but what has been determined by numerical data is that there has been some level of failure on the part of the Scouts Canada to report all instances of sexual abuse and assault to the authorities.
In October 2011, CBC first reported that Scouts Canada had signed confidentiality agreements out-of-court with more than a dozen child sex-abuse victims, and two months later, Scouts Canada issued a blanket apology to former scouts who were sexually assaulted by adult leaders as children.
In February 2012, Steve Kent, chief commissioner of Scouts Canada, acknowledged that Scouts Canada did not, in fact, report all allegations of sexual abuse and assault to police, despite decades of assurance that they had indeed done so, and handed off previously-confidential dossiers to auditing firm KPMG for investigation.
The KPMG Audit of Scouts Canada
A 2012 CBC article reports that Scouts Canada hired auditing firm KPMG to examine 486 cases from 1947 to 2011 in which adult scouting leaders were suspended or terminated on allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct or assault, following an investigation featured on CBC’s The Fifth Estate which examined how the organization has dealt with past instances of abuse within its ranks.
On Tuesday I posted an article about my concerns surrounding proposed legislation introduced by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax .
The legislation would grant unusual powers to the Bishop to be able to create and control parish corporations. The stated intention was to transfer assets currently held by the Diocese to the newly created parish corporations.
My concern was that the Archdiocese could, if it wished use these parish corporations to divest itself of all of it’s assets and make itself “judgement proof”. In other words, if an abuse survivor obtained a judgement against the Diocese for compensation for childhood sexual abuse the Diocese might be able to avoid paying the judgement, claiming that it had no assets.
Today I appeared before the Private and Local Bills Committee at the Nova Scotia legislature. Why?
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax has introduced legislation through a private members bill that, if passed, would give the Archdiocese sweeping powers with respect to the way in which it manages it’s corporate affairs and could have drastic effects on the ability of survivors of sexual abuse by priests of the Archdiocese to receive compensation for their injuries.
The proposed legislation can be found here.
In a decision released February 8, 2017 SJC-533-2013 Hayes v. The City of Saint John Decision of Justice Grant Feb 9, 17 Justice Grant of the New Brunswick Court of Queens Bench certified the class action filed by Bobby Hayes on behalf of hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse by former Saint John police officer, Kenneth Estabrooks.
Kenneth Estabrooks’ history of abuse
Kenneth Estabrooks worked as a police officer for the City of Saint John for several decades. From 1950 to 1975 the plaintiff’s allege that Estabrooks used his authority as a police officer to abuse 100’s of children. In 1975, he was first confronted with allegations of sexual abuse of children. Estabrooks signed a confession admitting to the abuse.
For years now the Catholic Church has been facing criticism around the world for its inaction in failing to prevent sexual abuse of children by Catholic Priests. Furthermore, the Church has been criticized for failing to hold Bishops who failed to prevent the abuse accountable.
Therefore, advocates for sexual abuse survivors were cautiously optimistic when Pope Francis announced plans to create a tribunal to prosecute Bishop’s under Canon law who covered up sexual abuse by Priests.
However, last week the Pope backed off on his proposal to criminally prosecute Bishops. Instead the Pope issued an apostolic letter to “clarify” the proper procedures available under Canon law to punish Bishops who have been found to have violated the Canon code.
Three Franciscan priests have been ordered by a Judge in Pennsylvania to stand trial on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy for covering up sexual abuse by a fourth Priest.
The priests are charged with enabling Brother Stephen Baker to sexually abuse a number of boys at Bishop McCort High School. According to witness testimony during the priests’ preliminary inquiry, the accused, Father Giles Schinelli, Father Robert D’Aversa and Father Anthony Criscitelli knew that Baker was a pedophile and yet the accused priests continued to assign Baker to jobs where he would have contact with children.
Systemic cover up?
Ghomeshi sexual abuse claims come to court today
Jian Ghomeshi’s criminal trial starts today. He is charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. Ghomesi has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
I found it interesting that CBC news has reported Ghomeshi was facing charges relating to assaults on other women but the charges were withdrawn because the Crown determined there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.