Former NHL player says expansion of his sex-abuse centre in the works

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy says the sexual-abuse support centre that bears his name has been deluged with cases since opening more than two years ago.

CALGARY — Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy says the sexual-abuse support centre that bears his name has been deluged with cases since opening more than two years ago.

Kennedy, who brought to light sex crimes by former junior hockey coach Graham James, says the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre has seen about 120 cases a month.

“We’ve really become a specialized service to really handle the worst of the worst cases, if you may,” said Kennedy.

“The sexual assaults, the really bad child neglect cases, the physical abuse cases. Pretty much we take the 10 per cent of the really heavy-loaded cases, the cases that consume the systems.”

The centre brings together police, social workers, medical staff, psychologists and prosecutors under one roof to try to avoid making child victims constantly relive incidents of abuse.

He said about 68 per cent of the children brought in have suffered some sort of sexual abuse and are between four and 12 years old.

“These kids are presenting three or more issues — suicidal ideation, sexualized behaviour, self-harm and violent behaviour,” he said.

“We may be doing child abuse investigations and treatment but the reality is what we’re dealing with is mental health issues.”

Kennedy was one of the first to reveal publicly that he’d been sexually abused by James, his junior coach and mentor. Kennedy’s revelations led to James being convicted in 1990s and in 2012 for doing the same to other players, including retired NHL star Theo Fleury.

Kennedy intends to offer support to James’s latest alleged victim when he appears next week in a court in Swift Current, Sask.

He said the amount of traffic at the Calgary facility will likely lead to some form of expansion.

“We’re working closely with the RCMP and looking at satellite centres and building capacity by building expert pockets throughout our province.”

The Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton also offers assistance to victims.

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