Northeastern Ontario isn't the only place where a silent epidemic of sexually abused children is going unnoticed, says a pediatrician.
It's a problem that is occurring all across Canada, and someone must step up and show leadership to address the issue, says Dr. Nicolas Steinmetz.
The retired associate professor of pediatrics at Montreal's McGill University said in an area the size and population of northeastern Ontario, almost 40,000 children will have been sexually abused by the time they are 18.
He chided health planners in the northeast for not recognizing the importance of programs to treat sexually abused children, but said the problem is a national one.
Steinmetz was keynote speaker at the annual general meeting Thursday of Health Sciences North. He is a past executive director of the Montreal Children's Hospital and has been involved in developing pediatric services in northern Quebec, Baffin Island, Kenya and other locations.
"These children are damaged," he said of sexually abused children, and many will grow up to have problems that will affect society.
"You need to do something about this," Steinmetz told about 50 people at the hospital meeting.
Sudbury could be a leader in offering programs and treatment. "I don't see anybody in Canada taking this on," said Steinmetz.
He explained that abuse affects child development, even resulting in their brains being smaller than normal because of their experiences.
If the stats at the top of this page are accurate, approximately 855,000 girls, and 567,000 boys have been or are likely to be sexually abused before they turn 18. That's a total of more than 1.42 million children. If you are in the US, those numbers should likely be increased by a factor of ten.
Stats in the UK reveal that about one in 35 men have pedophilic tendencies. What are we doing about that? We are responding to those child sex abuse cases that are reported to police or social services - that's it. We are doing absolutely nothing proactively to reduce or eliminate CSA which has such devastating effects on its victims, usually life-long, very negative effects.
There is no inquiry happening to document the true numbers and types of abuse, or the actual tragic effects it has. These stories need to be told in order for the victims to move on in any meaningful way. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission dealing with the abuse of First Nations children in residential schools was a good beginning but has barely scratched the surface of child sex abuse in Canada. We need to look at other institutions - I'm sure Mount Cashel was not an isolated case.
We also need to study CSA in homes and communities where parents, siblings, other relatives, or neighbours are the perpetrators. We need to develop strategies to prevent, and identify such abuse, and to arm the children with the knowledge of what sex abuse is, how to stop it, and how to report it. Believe it or not, most kids are not capable of doing any of those three actions.
Most of our sex education in schools deals very little, if at all, with child sex abuse. Far more time and energy is spent trying to prevent bullying of gay students, which is likely to affect about one in 100 kids, while the sexual violation of more than one in five children is largely being ignored. This must drive God crazy!
We also need to investigate whether child sex exploitation, such as has happened on a massive scale in the UK (Rotherham, Oxford), is happening here. We know there is significant child sex exploitation occurring, but we need to better identify who is doing it, who are most vulnerable to it, and educate them on how to recognize it and protect themselves.
We also need more and better strategies for dealing with cyber sexploitation in its myriad forms. And we need to toughen laws and increase sentences for these crimes.
In other words, we need to do a lot more than we are doing, otherwise, we are leaving our children at great risk, knowing that about 80,000 children will be introduced to sexual abuse every year; and who knows how many tens of thousands fall victim to recurring CSA each year. It would not surprise me if the number of Canadian children being sexually abused each year exceeds 150,000. In fact, it would surprise me if the number is not between 200,000 and 250,000.
Please, let everyone know this extreme atrocity exists and we are doing very little about it. Please contact your MLA, MPP, and MP and inform him/her.
Governments either don't know the horrific extent of child sex abuse, or they are unwilling to face it. We must force them to do so. God help us if we continue to ignore this most evil of crimes.