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Angela Kennedy and her son Brian, who is a teacher.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Angela Kennedy, chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, was a vocal critic of Ontario's sexual education curriculum, which was rolled out in schools last fall. That is, until one of her seven sons made her rethink her views with a shocking revelation of what happened to him as a boy.

Brian Kennedy was 11 when he was sexually abused. He said he was promised money for sexual acts. He kept the secret from his family for almost two decades by busying himself with sports, music and drinking.

Now 30, Mr. Kennedy, a high-school teacher at his mom's board, attends a weekly support group and blogged about his story. He has taken time off from work to recover and hopes to return to his classroom in the fall.

"I'm a living example that we need more dialogue around sexual health, not less. We need to encourage boys and girls to ask questions, or risk that they'll bury them, like I did," Mr. Kennedy wrote.

The Globe and Mail sat down this week with Ms. Kennedy and her son to talk about their emotional journey after learning about the childhood abuse.

Brian, why did you feel compelled to tell your story in a blog post in February?

Part of the recovery is going through the process of looking back at what happened and making sure that you cast off any guilt and shame that you have. For me, it's always been easier to write. Writing my story out was the most therapeutic way to work on my recovery. It was a way to tell the story in my own words. I'd been telling people about the abuse for a couple of months at that point and I'd been going to a male support group since September.

As a teacher, if we want to have courageous students, if I want them to write about their challenges, it would be important for me to also be that model and to show them that it is okay to be vulnerable.

When did you open up to your family about the abuse?

It was hard to tell my parents because I can see there would be a lot of guilt and sense of responsibility that they would feel. My ex and I, when we were still together, we set up a lunch last summer, some time around June. I remember we went for lunch and we're a pretty chatty family so it's hard to segue into that topic.

I didn't end up bringing it up till we were done and in a parking lot. At that point in my recovery, I wasn't ready or capable of answering questions or talking more in detail. I just wanted to let them know this is what happened and I'm getting help, getting support and I'm okay.

Angela: We were a little taken aback and it felt like somebody punched me in the stomach, actually. On the drive home, we were both very quiet and we had all kinds of questions. I respect Brian for the fact that he told us and I respect the fact that he couldn't give us any details. The details will come later, I was sure.

Brian, at that time how did you feel about your mom's opposition to the sex-ed curriculum?

We try not to talk too much about politics. We're not really aligned that way. When we talked about the sex-ed curriculum, there were discussions about people taking their kids out of schools. I was just bringing up the point that a lot of people don't take the time to read it. It's very much fear-mongering … and it's complete nonsense.

Angela: My children reacted very strongly against what I was saying, which was in opposition to the sex-ed curriculum being implemented. The criticism is that the curriculum is not aligned with the Catholic religion. I thought there must be something really objectionable or, if there isn't, then I really need to support it. So I went in-depth, and I looked at it and I took notes. I had read it. But I was reading it probably as a trustee at that point in time. But now I'm reading it as a parent. And now I'm reading it as a parent who's got a mission. I'm looking for some objectionable information in there, and I couldn't find any at all. … In fact, I found it very interesting reading and I thought this is really good for parents and really good for students to be able to learn about different things like the consent issue, like healthy ways to look at your body and sexual activity.

Was it Brian who changed your mind?

I said to him: "What can I do?" He said: "For one thing, you're going to embrace the sex-ed curriculum. Just plain and simple." I think basically I wasn't being true to myself. I was a leader in the Catholic community, but is this how I felt?

Brian, why did you want your mom to embrace the curriculum?

A lot of the struggles that I've had with the abuse that happened is a feeling of complicity, that I was to blame for it. I think I would be much more prepared if I had that knowledge. The curriculum is trying to inform students to protect themselves and I think the curriculum is rooted in love and safety of kids and is not rooted in trying to manipulate or trying to encourage some type of behaviour. It's about protecting kids. I can write a piece and a lot of people will read it. But I think that it's important that those in decision-making roles see the importance of it. I don't know if parents are going to read my blog, but if the chair of the board says this, they may say, "You know what, I need to think about it twice." As teachers, as parents, we avoid the topic of sexuality and that doesn't help anybody. We need to talk more about it, and we need to talk about it at a younger age so it [the abuse] doesn't happen.

Did you tell your family who the abuser was?

No. I don't want to give that person a single more moment of my time. It's not a situation where I feel like I want that person to be prosecuted and charged. That process to me, it would seem to be more destructive towards myself, if I had to go through this process of tracking this person down and doing that kind of stuff. It wasn't a person in any influential role. It wasn't a police officer, priest or coach. So as much as I understand why people want to know, there's not one more ounce of me that wants to talk about him, think about him, give energy towards that person, and I don't want other people to. I'm focused on my recovery.

Brian Kennedy wrote a blog post in February titled "Tough Enough to Talk."