WASHINGTON -- Sheldon Kennedy is in the U.S. capital this week, eager to appear as the marquee witness at a congressional hearing delving into sexual abuse of children in the aftermath of shocking Penn State allegations that have stunned a nation.

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WASHINGTON -- Sheldon Kennedy is in the U.S. capital this week, eager to appear as the marquee witness at a congressional hearing delving into sexual abuse of children in the aftermath of shocking Penn State allegations that have stunned a nation.

And the one-time NHL player, the public face of Canada's own version of the college football scandal, says he'll brook no nonsense from right-wing U.S. lawmakers who oppose government regulation on almost every front.

Sheldon Kennedy

CP

Sheldon Kennedy

"Bring it on," Kennedy said at a downtown D.C. coffee shop on the eve of his testimony. "We're going at them hard."

Canada is a world leader in the prevention and investigation of child sexual abuse, Kennedy said.

That's largely because Canadian victims, officials and stakeholders have worked together to put in place an array of tough anti-abuse measures in the years since Kennedy came forward to accuse his junior hockey coach of sexually preying on him for years.

"And we're going to continue to be world leaders on the prevention of abuse, and this is going to propel us to go even further in Canada," he said.

"We're over the hump, we're about solution in Canada. People are now coming forward in Canada because they feel safe... Americans have a lot to learn from us; we're a lot further advanced."

That could very well mean more stringent American laws and regulations surrounding children's and teen sports teams and other institutions in order to prevent future Penn States from happening, he added.

"Laws are not easy to change, and social change is hard," said Kennedy, a spokesman for violence and abuse prevention programs with the Canadian Red Cross who also started up his own advocacy company, Respect Group Inc.

"But when you look at what we've done and what we've been able to do in Canada, I think we've been able to accomplish both. We've learned a lot and we're talking solutions up there more than they are down here; they're talking disbelief."

Last month, Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a period of 15 years. Investigators say several high-ranking university officials knew of the abuse, but failed to notify police.

The scandal resulted in the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. Penn State president Graham Spanier also lost his job, and two other college officials have been charged with perjury and failing to report the assaults, some of which took place on campus.

For Canadians -- and Kennedy in particular -- the scandal is sickly familiar.

Kennedy, now 42, stunned Canada in 1997 when he stepped forward to accuse his former junior hockey coach, Graham James, of sexual abuse.

Kennedy says he didn't tell his teammates about the abuse for fear they'd believe he was gay. He didn't tell his mother because he was afraid she'd pull him from Canada's revered junior team.

James was convicted of some 350 sexual abuse charges and served 3 1/2 years in prison. He was quietly pardoned in 2007 -- a fact that touched off a national firestorm when it was revealed to The Canadian Press by Greg Gilhooly, another alleged James victim.

Last week, James pleaded guilty to fresh allegations of sexual assault from two more of his former players, one of whom was NHL star Theo Fleury. Charges related to Gilhooly's allegations were stayed.

Kennedy says he's travelled to D.C. with Gilhooly top of mind. The one-time Winnipeg goalie had the publication ban on his name lifted last week so he could speak out about the abuse.

"That's where my thoughts are; Greg's done more behind the scenes than a lot of people have," he said.


-- The Canadian Press