The victim of a childhood sexual assault in northwestern Ontario is sharing his story for the first time, despite a court order meant to keep him silent.
Raymond C. Jacob, from Webequie First Nation, is one of hundreds of victims of former Anglican priest and boy scout leader Ralph Rowe.
Rowe travelled through remote First Nations in northern Ontario during the 1970s and early 1980s preying on young boys. He’s been convicted of more than 50 sex crimes and more victims continue to come forward.
Still, Jacob said many people, especially elders with strong religious beliefs, deny the abuse.
"People have to come to terms with the fact that it did happen on the reserve and to their kids," Jacob said. "A lot of people are in denial, especially the old folks. The old folks would say ‘ahh, don’t talk about this person because he is a priest and he didn’t do things, he was a good person.’ Some people tell their kids not to say anything about that. But it did happen to us."
Silence comes at a cost
Jacob has been silent because of a confidentiality clause in a 1998 settlement agreement made after several men sued the Anglican church and the boy scouts for the abuse.
But that silence comes at too high a price, he said.
"I want to be a positive person to other people so they can come out saying that it happened to them too," Jacob said. "Because a lot of kids go through with suicide and they’re always asking, 'why are we losing our youth and people?' You have to break the circle if you want to move on."
Jacob said he never wanted to sign the deal that bought his silence more than a decade ago.
"I would have liked to see our story be heard and told, that would have been something," Jacob said. "I would have probably liked that more than taking the money."
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Jacob said the claimants were supposed to get about $100,000 each, but once legal fees were paid, they received less than half that.
"I just blew it on being a big shot," he said. "Buying stuff for people, going to bars and buying drugs, everything, because I didn’t like that money that we were given."
'"I used to blame myself and blame my parents, if this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be like this.' —Raymond Jacob
For breaching the confidentiality agreement, Jacob could be ordered to pay the money back.
He says he’s not worried about that, but London Ontario-based lawyer Rob Talach is.
Talach’s client list includes many sexual assault victims. He said perpetrators benefit from confidentiality clauses, while victims suffer in keeping their silence.
"The government needs to get involved here," Talach said. "There is a Victims’ Bill of Rights already. You simply amend it to add a provision that says in cases of civil lawsuits involving crime, gag orders are not allowed."
Ontario’s Attorney General’s office does not have any plans to change the Victims’ Bill of Rights. A spokesperson said, generally, people involved in civil suits should be free to negotiate the terms of settlement.
Talking brings healing
Jacob said after the lawsuit he felt silence was the only option, but he has since found that he needs to talk about the abuse in order to heal. For years, Jacob said he buried the pain with alcohol and drugs. He has lost a leg and several fingers to diabetes, and recently had to move to Thunder Bay to receive dialysis.
Still, he said, sharing his story makes him stronger.
Here’s what Jacob said happened to him when he was about eight-years-old, living in Wunnumun Lake First Nation:
"I guess Ralph approached my parents to see if I wanted to join boy scouts and sure enough I did. We would have trips, outings and sleep overs.
"Most of the abuse happened at night time at the house where Ralph was living. I remember the first time when Ralph abused me because I was sleeping with the other boys and he came and took me from one of the rooms and took me to his room. I remember clearly what he did and I remember what I did to him too. It’s hard to deal with the abuse sometimes.
"I used to blame myself and blame my parents, if this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be like this. Well eventually we found out that Ralph is just sick. He’s a pedophile."