From despair to redemption: The remarkable survivors
John Fox breaks the silence of child abuse in new doc Survivors Rowe
It leaves a broken place inside that never truly heals. And for many it is still a secret, unspoken.
But a new film hopes to break the silence around childhood sexual abuse.
Survivors Rowe is a documentary that just premiered at Hot Docs in Toronto, one of North America's largest documentary festivals. It profiles the lives of three men whose lives were torn apart by the same man — an Anglican priest named Ralph Rowe.
The charismatic Boy Scout leader flew into remote Ontario First Nation communities during the 1970s and 80s. He gained the trust of elders and parents who revered him as a man of God, and children who adored him for his plane tricks and games.
But Rowe had a dark side. In the 70's and 80's he sexually abused as many as 500 boys.
Children, once filled with light, fell into darkness and despair. If they made it to adulthood, many battled addictions, abuse, suicide attempts and denial.
Rowe, now 75, was eventually convicted of more than 50 sex-related crimes. He served less than five years in jail. A 2012 conviction on an additional seven counts of sex-related crimes dating back to the same time period yielded a two-year conditional sentence.
But this film is not so much about Rowe as it is about the survivors.
One of those survivors is John Fox. He grew up in Big Trout Lake First Nation in northern Ontario and remembers snowshoeing with his dad, fishing and hanging out with his friends. That all changed when Ralph Rowe came to his community.
He shares his story on Unreserved and tells us why he forgave Ralph Rowe.
Filmmaker Daniel Roher calls Rowe's crime and the silence around it, "a great injustice." In this online interview we speak to Roher about how the film shows the strength of the survivors and the triumph of reclaiming their lives.
The documentary plays in Thunder Bay on May 9.
Also on Unreserved
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Tune into CBC Radio One after the 5 p.m. news in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut, and after the 4 p.m. news in Yukon and the N.W.T. for these stories and more on Unreserved.