Bike-a-thon Plus Kick-Off Breakfast with Peter O’Brian

Peter O’Brian says child sexual abuse has to be ‘out of the shadows’

Award-winning filmmaker and TVO board chairman, Peter O’Brian, says the topic of children being sexually abused is probably the “subject to avoid at all costs.”

But the guest speaker at the Children’s Treatment Centre Bike-A-Thon Plus Kickoff Breakfast on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, told the audience the only way to battle abuse it is to talk about it and “bring it out of the shadows.”

Sexually abused by teacher Hugh Henry at a boarding school near London, England in the 1950s, O’Brian decided to come forward about his ordeal nearly 50 years later.

He decision was triggered by seeing the film Chosen on TVO – about abuse of boys at boarding schools. O’Brian had been at the school when his father was a Canadian officer in the Royal Air Force.

O’Brian detailed for the audience of 600, how he had been groomed by his abuser and after refusing a request to come to Henry’s room at the boarding school, only then did he realize he “had some power of (his) my own…I didn’t know I had the right to say no,” he reflected. After breaking the cycle of sexual abuse he was sent home to Canada.

Fifty-some years later and looking back on what happened, like many victims of abuse, O’Brian kept his “huge secrets” bottled up thinking it would ruin his life and family if it was exposed. He also believed that coming forward would have led to victim-blaming – that he would be “blamed rather than rescued” and that he was alone in believing that he was “the only one.”

Based on his accounts and the testimony of other victims, Hugh Henry was convicted on 13 counts of indecent assault against nine minors but committed suicide two days before he was supposed to be sentenced.

Now that O’Brian is sharing his story, he doesn’t “intend to go back into the shadows…let’s be silent no more.”

The Children’s Treatment Centre is celebrating its 20th anniversary in June.

The Bike-A-Thon Plus – the second largest yearly fundraiser for the CTC – is on May 28, 2016 at St. Lawrence College and will feature 14 different activities.

The center has helped at least 2,380 children and over 2,050 families and with referrals increasing to 17 per month, CTC board chairman Don Fairweather says it’s a “stark reality” of the need of the services of the CTC.

The centre, which relies solely on community funding, is hoping to meet or beat its 2015 fundraising total of $131,000.

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