POLITICS

New Calgary facility to provide wide range of support for victims of child abuse

03/16/2012 04:34 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT
CALGARY - Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy knows the pain and fear a child can suffer when sexually abused by someone in a position of trust.

He was the first to come forward in the 1990's to tell the world how he was abused as a teenager by former coach and mentor Graham James. Now an advocate, Kennedy proudly announced Friday a new one-stop facility in Calgary aimed at helping young victims get their lives back together.

"I couldn't help thinking as I attended the sentencing hearing for Graham James recently how difficult it would be to have to face both our court system and the abuser, as a child," Kennedy said.

"I am confident that the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre will eliminate the revictimization of our children and their families and increase the accountability of perpetrators."

The centre melds four agencies — Child and Family Services, Crown Prosecutors, Calgary Police and Alberta Health Services — under one roof.

The idea is to help young victims and their families with a team of social workers, medical experts, therapists, and police.

"The agencies wrap around the child. The child doesn't have to navigate a bunch of systems and a bunch of buildings," said Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson.

"The partnership with health services and social services makes sure that those kids and their families get not only the crisis counselling, but the ongoing counselling to help develop through the rest of their lives so they don't have to deal with the trauma and the victimization that was forced on them by no fault of their own."

The city estimates about 10,000 children in Calgary are abused each year.

Kennedy said it has finally gotten to the point that the pain of sexual abuse victims is recognized.

Hanson said he wants children who leave the centre to be able to put the dark period of their lives behind them.

"The real magic in this centre is not just limited to how we deal with victims when they're victimized but how we deal with them over the course of their developing years," he said.

"It's so that when they come out of this as adults they don't have to carry that horror with them, that it's behind them locked up in a box somewhere, properly dealt with so that they are productive, healthy, caring members of society."