I was a victim of sexual assault as a teenager. My abuser was the music teacher at Bell High School. His crimes spanned three decades, beginning in the early 1970’s. I was the first victim to share my story with the police and since then have become an advocate for male victims of sexual assault and the prevention of it.
Like so many other victims, I suffered with mental health challenges, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse. I disassociated my abuse for years, until May 2016, when I saw a news story about a music teacher at Bell High School who had been arrested for sexually assaulting a student. That music teacher was the man who was hired to replace the teachher who sexually abused me. After reading the article I made the difficult decision to talk with the police. My abuser was then arrested, charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, and convicted of sexually abusing ten other students over decades.
In my final year of high school, after I quit music class and the band to get away from my abuser, I made the decision to tell first another teacher, then the school principal about my abuse. After telling the principal what my music teacher had done, he looked at me and asked what I wanted done about it. My response was to ask that he not be at Bell anymore, since I wanted to protect my younger brother. My music teacher was moved to another high school where he continued to sexually abuse other victims for years.
The principal never:
- called my parents
- called a child welfare organization
- called the police
- looked into or investigated anything.
The principal’s lack of appropriate action left me with the feeling that what happened to me wasn’t really a big deal. Except it was a big deal for me, the victims who came before me, and the ones who came after.
Since 2018 when my teacher was sent to prison, I have met with, both virtually and in person, dozens of victims of sexual assault, both male and female, who all share my dream to end this crime in our society and help those who have been victimized.
To date my advocacy work has taken many forms. Initially I just added my name publicly to the long list of people who have been victims of their teachers. From there I worked with CBC on an investigation that spanned over one year looking into the systemic abuse and institutionalization of sexual abuse by both the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and The Royal. This investigation lead to the CBC story No More Secrets and subsequently CBC Ottawa’s first Pod Cast, The Band Played On.
I have had the opportunity to speak publicly about the dangers children face within the education system. My goal is to change how victims of sexual abuse are supported.
Stopping educator on child sexual exploitation requires fundamental change in the way we, as a society deal with the ongoing sexual abuse still happening in our schools. It will take bold action on the part of our policy makers and politicians to make our schools safer.
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Peter Hamer is the Chief Executive Officer for a Family Health Team west of Ottawa.
Peter has worked as a consultant in the healthcare sector, working for OntarioMD, (a subsidiary of the Ontario Medical Association) and the Canadian Medical Association.
Prior to his work in healthcare, Peter was a full-time martial arts instructor, having achieved the rank of 3rd degree black belt in jiu-jitsu.