Stories of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation are often found in the news.
On Monday, the sentencing of disgraced Bishop Raymond Lahey continued on charges relating to his possession of child pornography.
Lahey was found to have close to 600 images of child sexual abuse on his laptop when he arrived at the airport in Ottawa in 2009.
On Friday, an investigative report was released in The Netherlands showing that as many as 20,000 children endured abuse at Dutch Catholic institutions over the last 65 years.
It prompted an apology to victims by the archbishop of Utrecht, Wim Ejik, who said the report “fills us with shame and sorrow,” according to an Associated Press report.
On Wednesday, Dec. 14, Roman Catholic priest George Smith was charged in provincial court in Corner Brook with 38 sexually related offences involving nine complainants, in six communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. The complainants have said they were abused by the priest between 1969 and 1989.
None of the allegations against Smith have been proven in court. The case is scheduled to continue Feb. 23.
All of these stories have the potential to stir unwanted feelings and remembrances in sexual abuse victims at what is already a difficult time of year for some, Jamie Marsolais told The Telegram.
Marsolais would know — he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of two men as a boy growing up in Cornwall, Ont.
One of the two committed suicide. The other would be sent to jail, in part, because of testimony from Marsolais.
“I’ve read the (recent) stories,” he said, speaking to The Telegram by phone from New Brunswick. “I saw the stories and I knew every time a story comes out there’s people who are wondering where to turn.”
Marsolais said his wife has family in Botwood so he feels a bit of a connection to this province and, having read about the recent allegations arising from the Smith case in western Newfoundland, he wanted to offer his help to anyone — not necessarily connected to the Smith case — who needs to talk through their options as victims.
“Because it does become overwhelming, and the most important part, I think, is to not be re-victimized,” he said.
“And that happens so often. People don’t know where to turn, who to trust.”
Being “re-victimized” refers to being injured emotionally, psychologically or even financially by things offered to you in the name of recovery.
It can happen in any number of ways. Interactions with lawyers, therapists, family, police officers, reporters and others, all come with challenges.
That is where Marsolais offers help — free of charge, anonymous if you wish, and no sermons involved. He said he is simply available to listen and answer questions, and is willing to provide as much information as he can.
“It’s very important to empower the victim. They need choices. They need options. Because they need to take control now of their own life and their own healing,” he said.
Marsolais’ story is publicly available, recorded in inquiry records and the final Cornwall Public Inquiry report. He was one of over 30 victims and alleged victims who testified before that inquiry into the sexual abuse of minors in the Cornwall area. The allegations were against adults in a wide range of supervisory positions: foster parents, children’s aid workers, priests, probation officers, shop owners.
When it comes to questions, Marsolais said his life is an open book. His aim is to help others improve their quality of life — something he considers key to his own well-being.
“You can ask any question, no matter how personal,” he said. “I’ve had questions where some people might ask about sexuality, sex addictions, some things that people just don’t talk about.”
Anyone wishing to talk can contact Marsolais at (506) 233-2330 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
He said he will be in Newfoundland at some point in January and is willing to schedule a meeting with anyone interested.
Meanwhile, as The Telegram has previously reported, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has opened a new branch for the Maritimes and is also reaching out to victims of abuse in Newfoundland and Labrador.
That group has said it will offer what help it can to those abused by adults in positions of authority.
SNAP can be reached through chapter leader Dave Mantin at (506) 654-8524 or via email to email@example.com.
Finally, for anyone potentially having a hard time over the holidays, Eastern Health offers a mental health crisis line 24/7 at (709) 737-4668 or 1-888-737-4668.