Windsor

Survivor speaks out, Bishop attends emotional screening of 'Prey' at WIFF

It was an emotional screening of the acclaimed documentary 'Prey' during its Windsor premiere at WIFF Wednesday night — following the credits, an audience member spoke up with his own story of abuse.

'Come forward and speak, that's the only way that we'll get real change in this world of ours'

Gary Parent spoke up after the screening of 'Prey' to say that he too experienced abuse. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

It was an emotional screening of the acclaimed documentary 'Prey' during its Windsor premiere at WIFF Wednesday night — following the credits, an audience member spoke up with his own story of abuse.

The film, directed by Windsorite Matt Gallagher, focuses on one perpetrator in particular: Father William Hodgson "Hod" Marshall, a retired priest and teacher, who several years ago pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 16 boys and one girl at schools in Toronto, Sudbury and Windsor.

"It was kind of heart wrenching at times," said Gary Parent, a member of the audience. 

Watching the film brought Parent to his feet upon its conclusion, compelled to address the entire theatre and claim that he too had been abused in the church.

Supportive audience

It was an emotional moment that brought many others to stand with him, call out with words of encouragement, and applaud him for sharing his story.

Rod MacLeod encourages other victims to come forward and speak. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"That was a very dramatic expression of what I've been experiencing with people coming up to me after the event and sharing their stories," said Rod MacLeod, whose lawsuit against the priest was at the centre of the documentary.

He added that Parent's expression was a "level of intensity" he'd never experienced before.

"We saw how the audience responded.... When someone poured out their soul, everyone in the room was touched and rose to support that individual. That's what is possible and that's what we need to do more of when it comes to sexual abuse."

'The church really needs to listen'

Bishop of London Ron Fabbro was at the screening, having been invited by one of the other survivors featured in the film. 

Bishop Ronald Fabbro says his goal is to take "concrete action to serve those who are struggling to meet their basic human needs." (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"It was very emotional for me. Very hard," Fabbro said, noting that he is a former student of Marshall's, but would not comment on this specific case featured in the film.

"I think the message for me is that the church really needs to listen to the victims."

Fabbro said it was important for him to be there to show his support of the survivors.

"Our message to them is certainly we invite them to come forward. We know that they're hurting, and certainly we want to find justice for them," said Fabbro.

"We have put in place ways to respond to any victim coming forward, and what we do to prevent what happened in this case, is that we remove the priest who has abused from any future ministry — that moving a priest from place to place, that cannot happen anymore."

Fabro added that at the Diocese in London, they are doing more to educate priests and employees about how to respond if they have any knowledge of abuse, and making sure that it's clear that according to the law, they must report abuse to children's aid or police. 

'Come forward and speak'

MacLeod said he no longer considers himself a Catholic, but that he would like to see the institution change for the better. 

The documentary 'Prey' had its Windsor premiere at WIFF Wednesday night. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"It's supposed to be the crucible of our ethics and our beliefs and our way of behaving," said MacLeod. "[There's] nothing I would like more than to see that start to happen. I'm not very hopeful though."

MacLeod said that dialogue must continue around sexual abuse, a subject which he says has been swept under the carpet for decades. 

"What I'm saying today is that my experience with telling my story is that people almost invariably come to support and to be with you in whatever way they can. So don't be afraid of that," said MacLeod.

"Come forward and speak. That's the only way that we'll get real change in this world of ours."