By TOM GODFREY
A fundraising drive is underway to restore a Toronto landmark agency that has helped thousands of sexual abuse survivors to heal and cope with their daily lives.
The Gatehouse is a non-profit grassroots charity that comes to the rescue of children, women and men who are victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Brad Hutchinson, the executive director of Gatehouse, said it is the only program of its kind in Canada that helps children and other victims of sexual abuse.
“Childhood sexual abuse occurs to people of every colour, race and creed,” Hutchinson told Share. “This sort of abuse occurs right across the board and knows no boundaries.”
The program was started in 1998 and has helped more than 15,000 sexual abuse survivors, who can be of both sexes, he said.
“What we do here is very unique,” said Hutchinson. “This is a big issue and we have a little house and we hope it does go away.”
The facility, that is located on the grounds of Humber College at Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Kipling Ave., is always in use by victims or social workers counselling others.
The well-kept grounds feature a Transformational Healing Garden with flowers and a small fountain that is maintained by some of the agency’s more than 70 volunteers. The garden is a popular spot for victims in the healing process.
“One of four women is sexually abused in an offence that knows no bounds,” said Hutchinson. “It is horrific what some of the victims have to go through.”
The Gatehouse provides information, referrals, linkages and support to address the vulnerable population.
“We provide a safe environment for victims where they have a sense of security,” said Hutchinson. “We are the only place in Canada where children and adults who suffered sexual abuse can come and be healed.”
The agency offers a 15-week support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse through social reconnection, education and information. The peer-led groups offer support in a secure and comfortable environment.
It also provides a child-friendly neutral location where investigating police officers and child welfare workers can interview children/youth and their families during child abuse investigations.
Hutchinson, who is a black belt and instructor in Shaolin Kung Fu, teaches a weekly martial arts class that helps victims, staff and community residents reduce stress.
“Martial arts exercises provide a great outlet for victims and their families,” he said. “The lessons are open to the entire community.”
The historic Gatehouse, a building for which the program is named, was built in the 1890s as a home for a doctor serving patients at the then Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.
The building was left abandoned for more than three decades before being renovated and restored through the efforts of hundreds of Etobicoke volunteers and some companies.
“Our history is an important part of who we are and we’re very proud of our roots,” said Hutchinson. “The beauty of this community mobilization project is the support from volunteers and businesses that have been involved.”
Childhood sexual abuse has been in the news ever since NHL stars like Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury came forward publicly to report being abused by their former coach, who has since been convicted and imprisoned for the offences.
The Gatehouse is now raising funds to expand its tranquil healing garden and for a new roof, that is expected to cost more than $5,000.
For more information or to donate online visit: www.thegatehouse.org.