nnocense lost BY VANESSA BROWN • A Toronto author and journalist says Canadian legislators should take a lesson from their colleagues south of the border when it comes to punishing pedophiles. “We don’t sentence appropriately at all, given the damage done,” said Judy Steed, who wrote the book Our Little Secret: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in Canada. A youth sex study, published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality in November, suggests children under 12 years old are not adequately protected from sexual abuse. Of the 711 children who were 12 years of age at the time of the study, almost 40 per cent said they were under 12 when they first had sexual intercourse, while their partner was at least 20 years old. A little over one per cent of 14-yearolds said their first partner was over 20 years old. Sex with youth under 13 is illegal in Canada, and punishable under the Criminal Code. “Given that existing laws do not seem to be protecting the most sexually vulnerable group of children, those less than 13 years of age, future policy in Canada should focus on effective strategies to address the problem of child sexual abuse, including increasing the enforcement of existing child abuse laws,” the study concluded. Steed could not agree more. She said the sentencing for pedophiles in this country is “ridiculously light.” Her 1994 book detailed the 15-year sexual stranglehold John Gallienne, an organist at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, held on teenaged boys in his choir. In 1990, Gallienne was sentenced to six years in a Kingston medium-security prison. He served four. Last August, he was again charged with sexually abusing two more choirboys in the late ‘70s. It remains to be seen whether a national dialogue about curbing sexual abuse belongs in Parliament or school sexual-education classes. In the meantime, experts say parents cannot be afraid of talking to their kids about the issue, even before they are 10 years old. “We have to take the moral issue out of it in the sense that there are people who will say, ‘We can’t have that kind of talk with younger kids,’” said Liberal MP (Willowdale) Marsha Hall Findlay. “I think that’s somewhat boring. We know
YOUTH SEXUAL CONDUCT
Data courtesy of The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality
that there are problems out there…If these things are happening to young kids, they should have that information.” Dr. Ruth Gallop, a childhood sexual abuse expert at the University of Toronto, said a particular kind of education is needed. Rather than lecturing, she said parents should instead help their kids develop a sense of inappropriate adult behaviour. Children readily trust adults, she said, and can be easily seduced. “It’s helping these kids understand that this may not be in their best interest,” Gallop said. “And that’s really hard because often it’s the most vulnerable kids who are targeted, the ones who don’t have such a good sense of self.” Pedophiles prey on vulnerability, according to Steed. She said that Gallienne was able to go undetected for years because he was highly revered by the Kingston upper class who attended St. George’s, many of whom were professors at Queen’s University. Gallienne knew which boys needed the most attention, Steed said, and zeroed in on them. When rumours of his sexual abuse began circulating, most parents refused to believe them, which is very common, according to Gallop. Many adults cannot bear the thought of children being mistreated sexually, so they refuse to entertain the thought.
The notion that such a highly respected individual could never violate children that trusted him is also common, she said. “It’s counter-intuitive,” Steed said. “You can’t understand it, but many people are in denial, and many people don’t want to have to deal with unpleasant subjects. What I saw in Kingston was the embarrassment that (parents) felt, too, at being exposed.” Denial is one of many factors that impedes honest discussion about child sexual abuse, according to Alex McKay, a sexual health education expert at the Toronto-based Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN). “The more that parents and educators together are able to have frank, relevant discussions with youth about sexual health, including issues like sexual exploitation, the more effectively we’re going to be able to deal with these issues,” McKay said. That dialogue will not begin until parents come to terms with the prevalence of child sexual abuse, Steed said. The issue too often remains out of the national consciousness until it is too late, until another victim comes forward, she said. “Children don’t stand a chance if they’re not being carefully protected by vigilant parents.”
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