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Wounded Boys - Courageous Men

Photo Essay, Male Survivors' Stories

This exhibition WOUNDED BOYS - COURAGEOUS MEN is dedicated to the survivors of institutionalized child abuse.

Over one thousand formers wards from two Catholic operated reform institutions for boys have come forward with stories of horrendous abuse. The abuses suffered by these children were at the hands of the Christian Brothers and other adults in position of authority entrusted in their care. Over thirty Brothers, former Brothers and lay staff have been charged and convicted with more than two hundred crimes. These crimes included physical, sexual, emotional, cultural and spiritual rape. This is the largest sexual abuse case known in Canadian history. Charges continue to be laid.

The students were from different cultural economic backgrounds. They were sent to the schools for a variety of reasons: delinquency, incorrigibility, abandonment, poverty and for protection from abusive homes. Some students were placed in the schools at six years of age and remained there until eighteen.

This exhibition WOUNDED BOYS - COURAGEOUS MEN is a random sampling of the stories of these men. I had the privilege of meeting, interviewing and photographing each of these men and their families. As I shared the pain of my child sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy the climate of safety was created and their sharing stretched my levels of courage to its limits. The barriers between men and women dissolved as we moved past our fear and I found strength to listen to over forty men.

I have images of men next to the photographs of the little boys they once were. Some men have no photographs of themselves as children. The absence of this image speaks louder to me . . . . a childhood lost. Once they were all vulnerable children.

Sexual abuse to children is not confined to institutionalized environments. It happens wherever there is an imbalance of power and lack of respect for human dignity. The misuse of power knows no economic or social boundaries. Therefore perpetrators come from all walks of life and wear many masks.

The selection of poetry has been written by survivors from these institutions. Through poetry these men are able to express the pain and effects suffered from their childhood as well as their healing process. This is part of their healing journey.

I thank all the men who had the courage to break the silence and share their stories. Through this sacred sharing my voice too, has been restored. I would like to thank you, the viewer, for your courage and openness. I hope this presentation allows you to listen and to hear these voices.

The messages contained within each piece of art work have been rewritten to make concise what each man wanted to share. The interviews of these men produced many pages of transcribed material. I was respectful of their voice and have tried to keep their message intact as it was told. I take the responsibility of presenting their voice seriously.

Comments from the Exhibition

 

Your work has captured the pain, humiliation, degradation the victims experienced. Thankyou. Lynn Kainz

May God continue to heal and richly bless each hurting soul in this exhibit - I wept. Jenny Burridge

Your exhibit is truly an honour for all the lost children, those who survived and those who didn't, my brother didn't. Bonnie Nerman

Imagine what took place in the residential schools, and what its doing to our children. While I was here I can hear the echoes of crying children not hear and I am one of them. Keep the journey going. Thanks. Marlene Etherington

I too hear the children screaming and crying. I was there. Alice Niganobe

You've healed my view of men - Thank you. Mary Guentner

Your passionate commitment continues to inspire me. Thank you for the great gift you have given to the world. Rev. Sarah Reith

It's a fantastic exhibit and I only wish more and more people to see it. I've been here three times in three days and I go away feeling worse each time. The room is full with a chill! The energy is strong. Best wishes for your future endeavours. John C. Barnett

I was raised in Jersey Channel Islands, by the Christian Brothers, De La Salle College. I witnessed the beatings in class, but as most of us learned to be quiet not a word was spoken in defence of the students as this was the custom at that time. What a penalty was paid for these early lessons in being educated. Henry Meri

I think many people knew of this for years and years but "no one spoke about it." Thankyou for your courage to speak out. B. Onisnenko

My son is ten years old. He has a learning disability. Reading for him is extremely difficult - in fact its' not his favourite thing to do. He took the time to read everything (it took him three hours). His comment to me "Mom why were these children treated like this? People are much to cruel." My heart hurts. Mother of Simon a ten year old from Alberta

As a therapist, who has worked with survivors of St. Joseph's and St. John's this exhibit brings home the horror of what went on in these places. The truth stands out and hits you right in the face. As I read and look at the photographs, I have flashbacks of what I was told. I admire the courage of these men. Gsele Martin


Childhood should be a happy time, nurturing time, caring time, loving time, and a time to learn and develop. At St. John's it wasn't happy. I was placed there in November 1957 after my mother suicided. I was an illegitimate child and I had to pray for forgiveness for my mother's lust. I was twelve years old.

Healing through group sharing I could begin by listening to other people and realize their story was my story - their abuse was my abuse. I wasn't alone and I realized I wasn't dirty or bad.

They abused a sacred trust and took that trust and misused it for their own self gratification. This authority was a gift from the Creator and they abused it as they ruined the lives of many generations to come. It will take seven generations to heal this evil.

      Paul Goulet
      Windsor, Ontario


Yesterday I took a walk down the alleyways of my mind. As you know there are places you dare not go alone. I was drowned by the tears of a little child. His sobs would have broken the heart of any living person. As I drew near I was taken with the fears of the unknown. Everything said ... NO DON'T GO! But I was driven to get help because everything became darker and more frightening. I was leaving this hard unforgiving world and returning to forty years ago.

As I came closer I saw ... he was me. As I reached out to help him, he turned on me like a vicious hurricane. With the voice of a hardened man he said ... Are you like them? This inner child was a child who never had a chance to play. In his eyes I saw fear, misplaced trust and enough anger to take a life. I remembered the gospel ... suffer the little children to come to me. So I sat behind him and shared his pain.

This bastard child, an outcast, a social leper. I spoke to him softly and told him I was there to help. I cried and played with him. My many years of surviving as a victim began change. We can be restored to wholeness.

      Leo Mongeon
      North Bay, Ontario

THROUGH EXPRESSION I RECLAIM MY VOICE ....

MY WORK IS MY VOICE TO ....

SPEAK THE UNSPEAKABLE ....

      Wayne Rempel

      Toronto, Ontario

 

Related stories:

"False" Memories, Repressed Memories, by Scott Abraham.

Domestic Violence: By Women as Well as Men. Our domestic violence page has an article Working with Violent Women by Erin Pizzey, author of Prone to Violence, a summary and full transcript from a segment of Great Britain's BBC1 show Panorama that focused on woman who sexually abuse children, facts about domestic violence by women and men, and information on dealing with anger.

Battered Husbands. We hear a lot about domestic violence against women, but not nearly so much about domestic violence against men. But it's there. One reason that domestic violence against men keeps happening is that men don't speak out. And when they do, all too frequently, nobody listens. Our Battered Husbands section has feature articles from the Detroit Times and Orlando Sentinal that speak to the seriousness of the problem.

Take Care of Your Mother - Or Else, by Scott Abraham.

Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold, by Scott Abraham.

Be Gone!, by Scott Abraham.

Climbing Out From Hell, by Jeffrey Miller.

Survival and Living, by Scott Abraham.

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse: Book Reviews, by Scott Abraham.

Yes, Women Do Abuse, by Scott Abraham

John Lee on Anger, an interview with John Lee


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