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?
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.
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.
School for the Deaf Students make sexual abuse claims
Recently former residents of the Nova Scotia School for the Deaf have come forward with allegations about childhood sexual abuse. I have been representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse for almost 25 years. In most cases the allegations that give rise to the claims are decades old. So the most common question that I get asked about by survivors is: “How do I prove that I was abused?”
What is “The Burden of Proof”?
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.
Nova Scotia has proclaimed a new Limitation of Actions Act. That is the law that establishes the statute of limitation period (how long a plaintiff has to sue) for various claims.
There are a number of important changes in the new statute of limitations. Specifically it shortens the limitation period for many claims to two years.
Court still has discretion to extend limitation periods
It has been suggested that Ralph Rowe is one of Canada’s most prolific pedophiles. Rowe was an Anglican Priest and Scoutmaster. He was also a pilot and he flew to 20 remote First Nations communities in Northern Ontario and Manitoba. Rowe would lead church services, organize youth group outings and scout camping trips where he used his position of trust and authority to prey on children.
In 1994 Ralph Rowe pleaded guilty to 39 sex abuse charges. He was sentenced to 6 years. But part of the plea bargain that resulted in Rowe’s guilty plea involved an agreement that Rowe would not be sentenced to further prison time for similar convictions.