Sexual Abuse Claims at Nova Scotia School for the Deaf

by John McKiggan

Former residents of the Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf, more commonly called the Nova Scotia School for the Deaf have come forward with allegations that they were physically and sexually abused while they were students of the school.

The school was originally in Halifax and children from all the Atlantic provinces were sent to the school for education. In 1960 the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick assumed joint responsibility for operation of the school and moved it to Amherst Nova Scotia where is was renamed the Interprovincial School for the Education of the Deaf.

While these allegations have not yet been proven in court they follow a string of other institutional abuse claims from various Residential Schools across the country where children were forced to lived in isolation, separated from their parents. Many of these children subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Some people may wonder why these types of allegations tend to surface, sometimes decades after the abuse occurred.

Sexual abuse frighteningly common

Internationally, epidemiological studies estimate prevalence rates of 7 to 36 per cent for females and 3 to 29 per cent for males (Finkelhor, 1994).
The Center for Disease Control has estimated that 1 in 4 girls and between 1 in 7 and 1 in 12 boys are victims of sexual abuse.

Many abuse claims not reported

It is well known that the majority of sexual assault crimes are not reported to Police. For example, one study found that 78% of sexual assaults were not reported to Police.

May take decades for victims to disclose

In Australia a Royal Commission interviewed more than 1400 persons and found that 70% of victims were 50 years or older.

A survey conducted in 2003 found that 34% of sexual abuse survivors took 20 years or more to disclose their childhood sexual abuse.

Premiere Encourages Sexual Abuse Victims to Come Forward

In response to the allegations, Nova Scotia Premiere Stephen McNeil has encouraged sexual abuse survivors to come forward:

“I would say to anyone who feels that – first of all – that they have been a victim of any type of abuse that they would seek out support and come forward to help build an understanding of what happened”

McNeil went on to say:

“The Crown has a responsibility that when we take on the ability for care of any individual, whether its young or old, we have a responsibility to ensure that they’re in a safe environment.”

I have to congratulate Premiere McNeil for recognizing the government’s responsibility to children placed under the care of the government. His encouragement to survivors to come forward is a message that I have been sharing for years.

That’s one of the reasons why I wrote Breaking the Silence: The Survivors Guide to Abuse Compensation Claims. Unfortunately, survivors of childhood sexual abuse carry with them a burden of shame and a preceived stigma that they are somehow to blame for what happened to them. These psychological burdens frequently prevent survivors from coming forward to seek help to deal with the mental, emotional and psychological consequences of their abuse.

I would echo Premiere McNeil’s comments. If you have been a victim of childhood sexual abuse the first thing you need to do is break your silence. Talk to someone, reach out to someone you trust to get help.

If you want more information you can contact us for a free copy of Breaking the Silence.

As a public service, we have published the Maritime Directory of Services for Survivors of Sexual Abuse. Selecting a counsellor to talk about childhood abuse is a highly personal matter. A professional who works well with on individual may not be a good choice for another person. So, as a public service, we have complied a list of professional who work with survivors of childhood abuse so that survivors can find someone to help them. The directory also talks about the different potential services of financial help that may be available to help pay for counselling treatment.

You can get a free copy of the directory by contacting us through this blog.

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