Law Firm, Abuse Survivor Join Forces to Help Victims
The Goal Is to Counsel Victims, Some of Whom Have Kept Their Burden of Abuse to Themselves

By Kate Dubinski
London Free Press [Canada]
August 4, 2006

One of London's largest law firms and a well-known survivor of sexual abuse are teaming up to work with victims who want to talk about their experiences.

Harrison Pensa LLP and John Swales, whose family successfully sued the Roman Catholic church over sexual abuse, have formed the Sexual Abuse Services Group.

"There is an absence of support for victims -- the gulf is just remarkable," said Dave Williams, Harrison Pensa's managing partner.

"People who have brain injuries, are paraplegic, there are a lot of groups and umbrella organizations that support these people. There doesn't seem to be much help on a co-ordinated level for sexual abuse victims."

A phone number has been set up that Swales will answer to help people dealing with abuse.

"I have . . . learned a great deal about the effects of this insidious crime and I believe I can help other victims find their own road to recovery," Swales said.

"I just want victims to know that I am here and that they don't need to feel alone with their terrible burden. They can call me any time, directly and confidentially."

Callers can explore options for recovery with Swales, and, if desired, seek legal recourse for pain and suffering.

The Sexual Abuse Services Group has three aims:

- To empower victims

- To shift the burden of guilt by holding perpetrators of sexual abuse accountable for their actions through legal recourse

- To de-stigmatize sexual abuse by raising awareness and understanding.

"Some people have been dealing with this (abuse) for 10, 20, 50 years, and finally have the courage to come forward, but there's no one to help them," Williams said. "Our experience is that it's very difficult to make the first call, and John is able to relate to that. He can give them a referral and add to their comfort level."

Harrison Pensa was not the firm that represented the Swales family in its action against the church, but Williams said Swales approached the firm to possibly begin a partnership.

"We hope it's the start of something positive," Williams said.

Sexual Abuse Services Adviser
John Swales


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