Sex abuse secrets darken life in small towns: social worker
Alleged victim hopes coming forward will help others do the same
In small towns like Mary's Harbour, victims of violence often hide what happened to them out of fear of community backlash. But at least one woman is hoping that the more people who come forward with their stories, the more vocal other victims will become.
Earlier this week, CBC Investigates reported on 28 new charges laid against Ralph Rumbolt, 52.
He still lives in Mary's Harbour, a community with fewer than 400 people.
"As a kid, I was afraid to tell, afraid that I'd be in trouble or something," said one of Rumbolt's alleged victims.
She said Rumbolt sexually abused her when she was nine years of age, but she's only coming forward now with charges.
Gwen Watts, a social worker in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said there's a big struggle for victims of sexual abuse to come forward in small communities like Mary's Harbour.
Watts said when parents find out about alleged abuse, they tend to make the decision not to come forward in order to protect their children.
But she said the consequences of not coming forward outweigh the risk of harming the victim.
"It's the opposite of reality. The reality is, if you don't talk about it, if you don't acknowledge it, if you don't talk about justice, the child is hurt much deeper," Watts said.
Hoping more will come forward
Watts said the victims who are told to keep quiet still feel the shame and pain of the abuse when they get into their senior years.
"They were so scared to come and tell people that it just keeps happening, it just keeps happening," she said.
"But now I guess that we're talking and this, and everybody else is talking about it, hopefully something will be done about it."
Watts said she's certain more people will be encouraged to come forward with their stories, knowing that other victims were able to do the same.
"The fact that those women in Mary's Harbour are speaking up, the fact that they're setting aside their fear and their shame, that's amazing," Watts said.
"And other people are watching, men and women ... as they're watching, they are making decisions about whether they're going to speak up, whether they're going to do something. The more we do that, the greater the change."