The episodes of rape, sexual, mental, emotional and physical abuse are events permanently burned into my memory. I don’t go for more than a few days without mental images of my abusers popping into my head. That is not to say that I am not a functioning member of society. I am. I am a survivor, as you know, of abuse. The abuse happened when I was very young and continues to affect my day-to-day interactions. Though I am on the path of healing and forgiveness, there are some things that continue to baffle me when it comes to dealing with convicted sex offenders. In Canada, it seems our legal system does not want to take severe action with those who perpetrate sexual abuse. We must focus on the rehabilitation of the offender. We must address their needs and wants. We must make sure that they will not offend again and re-introduce them to society. This all sounds wonderful in theory – and those who have never been abused applaud our forward and progressive way of thinking when dealing with abusers. But what about the victims of abuse? What happens to them? There are very few services that cater to sexual abuse victims in Canada, and it is near impossible for victims to feel safe when stepping forward to speak out against their perpetrators. In Canada it seems that sexual abuse is a subject best whispered about behind closed doors, and better off to be forgotten altogether. When victims do have the courage to come forward they are scrutinized for their memory of the abuse – inconsistencies in their accounts are obvious holes in the truth and claims are tossed aside, or given little to no weight in sentencing.
This leads to the question about the time served for abuse. Sex offender Graham James is seeking full parole for his crimes against innocent children. He is serving a seven year sentence and has day parole. He is renting an apartment and now wishes to live in the community with the support of his family and his support workers.
James was a hockey coach and abused players who went on to be NHL pros including Sheldon Kennedy. Graham James is applauded for “showing insight into the damage he has caused.”
Kennedy feels the punishment on James is minimal and too light. I agree with him. Unless you have experienced abuse as a child, it is too easy to over-look the impact abuse has upon us.
While I support healing and therapy, I firmly believe that people who have a history of abusing children on multiple occasions must be closely monitored and held accountable for their actions. Five seconds of personal gratification while raping a child leaves a lifelong scar upon that young soul. A scar that keeps hurting and making the child feel as though they are the ones in the wrong for what happened to them – not honouring their lives makes them see that the judicial system places more worth on the abuser than the abused. This must change. While it is important to see and support the healing of the abuser, it is also very important to support the healing of those who were the victims of abuse. They are often the forgotten ones – and when a light sentence of seven years is not even fully served, it feels like another slap in the face of those who are victims of abuse.
Children matter. Children are the future, and an abused child never forgets the injustices that happened to them. With healing and support the victim can be a survivor and grow – but when ignored and forgotten, they can easily remain lost.
While we continue to grow and develop as a society, let’s make sure that there is an equal place for hearing everyone – no matter of race, orientation, victim or abuser. Yes, we all matter – let’s just remember that the victims and survivors count too.
Abuser Graham James – so bold to abuse several children, yet too afraid to show his face in public.