Those who work with victims of sexual abuse believe more people will come forward, after a plea from the City of Saint John.

Earlier this week, the city announced it had reopened an investigation after receiving a new complaint about a former Saint John police officer convicted of molesting children.

In the 1990s, Kenneth Estabrooks was convicted of sexually abusing children in cases that dated back to the 1950s.

“It’s a huge step certainly for the city to ask for people to come forward,” says Elsie McGraw, founder of a support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

McGraw is not one of Estabrooks’ victims, but she says the City of Saint John was right earlier this week when it hired private investigators to look into a new complaint against the former police officer.

McGraw believes more victims will come forward, but acknowledges it won’t be easy.

“It’s hard to get anybody to speak out because, first of all, survivors feel so guilty,” she says. “They’re ashamed, and even if new people are coming forward about Mr. Estabrooks, I’m sure it has taken great courage to go talk to one person and not even mention their name.”

Mayor Mel Norton says Saint John wants to do the right thing. However, it is unclear if the city could be facing lawsuits from victims wanting compensation. In that regard, there has been an important change in the law in recent years.

“Historically, we know people will not come out and disclose their abuse,” says lawyer Norman Bosse.

Bosse represented victims of the notorious pedophile Karl Toft in the 1990s. Bosse says New Brunswick law was changed two years ago to remove the statute of limitations when it comes to civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse. 

“A straight no limitation period for any damages that you claim as a result of abuse, assault, trespass of a sexual nature, anything of a sexual nature,” says Bosse.

However, financial compensation is often secondary to victims.

“I couldn’t name you one survivor that I know who wouldn’t be thrilled to have gotten at least an apology and a sincere one,” says Bosse. “We are so sorry, we understand the trauma that you’ve gone through.”

Bosse says that before the law was changed, a judge in a civil lawsuit could take a look at a case that goes back decades and say ‘this is too old’ and throw it out.

Now, in matters of sexual assault, the time period is no longer a reason to deny a claim

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron