American Fulbright Scholar 2015-2016
Sheldon Kennedy is one of the people who brought me to Canada, even though we had never met and he did not know I existed. But I knew his story and had studied the practices of the Child Advocacy Centre named after him. I knew the Centre was where I wanted to conduct my Fulbright research on child sex abuse survivors. The quintessential Canadian, Sheldon embraced my arrival in Canada and my research proposal with warmth and optimism, and we quickly hit the road together to raise awareness and build support for the research.
Since then, I have seen Sheldon Kennedy speak many times, and sometimes I even have had to follow him onstage, which is never easy, but never has it been more difficult than recent back-to-back presentations we did at a sexual assault training for Justice Canada. Sheldon opened with a moving keynote that included him reading excerpts from his autobiography. As he began to read aloud the narrative of his sexual abuse as a child, he began to cry and so did I.
As I glanced around the auditorium, the law enforcement officers and prosecutors were moved to tears as well. The conference organizer had to bring in four(!) boxes of Kleenex, but not before Sheldon wiped his nose with his bare hand and declared, "Fricken' Eh!" in his Canadian accent with the ever optimistic upswing on the last syllable, which took me back to the first meeting when I was embraced by Canada’s ambassador for survivors with warmth and optimism. In that moment, I was reminded that sometimes the strength and courage we witness in others causes us to forget the depth of their vulnerabilities, and sometimes the depth of their vulnerabilities causes us to admire their strength and courage even more.
Warren Binford was the inaugural Fulbright Canada-Palix Foundation Distinguished Visiting Chair in Brain Science and Child and Family Health and Wellness at the University of Calgary. She is a tenured Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Clinical Law Program at Willamette University College of Law. She holds a B.A., summa cum laude with distinction, and an Ed.M. from Boston University J.D. from Harvard Law School.