Little Aid for Male Sex-Assault Victims, Inquiry Told
And Pedophiles Might Easily Go Undetected in Smaller Towns, Expert in Abuse Case Says
By Tara Brautigam
Globe and Mail [Canada]
February 15, 2006
CORNWALL, ONT. -- Men who were sexually abused as children have virtually nowhere to turn to help them overcome years of emotional scarring and ensuing psychological fallout, an expert testified yesterday at the public inquiry into allegations of rampant child sexual abuse in this Eastern Ontario city.
"More public awareness for men -- in other words, how to access proper services and of course, to provide those proper services -- is very needed," said psychologist David Wolfe, a psychiatry and psychology professor at the University of Toronto.
"Even if you did decide to seek help or are under pressure of your family . . . it's not easy to find the right service."
When told that only one organization in the province provides help for male victims of sexual assault, Dr. Wolfe said, "It wouldn't surprise me."
Pedophiles might be more able to prey upon children and get away with it in smaller communities such as Cornwall, a blue-collar city of 46,000 bordering Quebec and New York, especially if they are highly regarded, Dr. Wolfe testified.
"I'm not sure I can establish risk on the basis of size of community, but . . . smaller communities may, because they're closer knit, put more value into the few people they have there in authority," Dr. Wolfe said a day after national media outlets stormed this normally quiet region formerly known for its pulp and paper industry.
The independent judicial probe is examining how authorities, including Cornwall police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Children's Aid Society, responded to persistent allegations that prominent people in the Cornwall area sexually abused children for nearly half a century.
After a sweeping investigation known as Project Truth began in 1992, police laid 114 charges against 15 people, including a doctor, a lawyer and three members of the Roman Catholic clergy.
In the end, only three cases ever made it to court; one man pleaded guilty. Police said they found no evidence that a pedophile ring operated in the city.
The inquiry will hear from experts in child sexual abuse, child welfare response and police protocol to set a framework of the issues at stake before testimony specific to the allegations begins near the end of March, lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann said.
Ontario has 34 sexual assault centres for women, none of which has a mandate from Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney-General to help men, the inquiry heard.
Most social services geared toward male abuse victims are offered through prisons, said Dr. Wolfe, who was first to testify at the inquiry.
In testimony on Monday, the inquiry's opening day, Dr. Wolfe emphasized the need for all abuse victims to seek counselling to limit mental anguish later in life.
When asked his opinion on the state of child welfare investigations, Dr. Wolfe said there is much room for improvement.
"They've come a long way, but it remains a difficult area," he told Peter Chisholm, a lawyer representing the local branch of the Children's Aid Society.
Nicholas Bala, a law professor at Queen's University in Kingston, was called yesterday to outline the evolution of Canadian law on child abuse.
Stories have been spreading since the late 1950s about a purported group of pedophiles in Cornwall. The inquiry, tentatively scheduled to last until the end of the year, is to resume today.
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