Dear Graham James: All Lives Matter! or: Remember the Victims of Abuse Too.

The episodes of rape, sexual, mental, emotional and physical abuse are events permanently burned into my memory. I don’t go for more than a few days without mental images of my abusers popping into my head. That is not to say that I am not a functioning member of society. I am. I am a survivor, as you know, of abuse. The abuse happened when I was very young and continues to affect my day-to-day interactions. Though I am on the path of healing and forgiveness, there are some things that continue to baffle me when it comes to dealing with convicted sex offenders. In Canada, it seems our legal system does not want to take severe action with those who perpetrate sexual abuse. We must focus on the rehabilitation of the offender. We must address their needs and wants. We must make sure that they will not offend again and re-introduce them to society. This all sounds wonderful in theory – and those who have never been abused applaud our forward and progressive way of thinking when dealing with abusers. But what about the victims of abuse? What happens to them? There are very few services that cater to sexual abuse victims in Canada, and it is near impossible for victims to feel safe when stepping forward to speak out against their perpetrators. In Canada it seems that sexual abuse is a subject best whispered about behind closed doors, and better off to be forgotten altogether. When victims do have the courage to come forward they are scrutinized for their memory of the abuse – inconsistencies in their accounts are obvious holes in the truth and claims are tossed aside, or given little to no weight in sentencing.

This leads to the question about the time served for abuse. Sex offender Graham James is seeking full parole for his crimes against innocent children. He is serving a seven year sentence and has day parole. He is renting an apartment and now wishes to live in the community with the support of his family and his support workers.

James was a hockey coach and abused players who went on to be NHL pros including Sheldon Kennedy. Graham James is applauded for “showing insight into the damage he has caused.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/graham-james-seeks-parole-1.3691965

Kennedy feels the punishment on James is minimal and too light. I agree with him. Unless you have experienced abuse as a child, it is too easy to over-look the impact abuse has upon us.

While I support healing and therapy, I firmly believe that people who have a history of abusing children on multiple occasions must be closely monitored and held accountable for their actions. Five seconds of personal gratification while raping a child leaves a lifelong scar upon that young soul. A scar that keeps hurting and making the child feel as though they are the ones in the wrong for what happened to them – not honouring their lives makes them see that the judicial system places more worth on the abuser than the abused. This must change. While it is important to see and support the healing of the abuser, it is also very important to support the healing of those who were the victims of abuse. They are often the forgotten ones – and when a light sentence of seven years is not even fully served, it feels like another slap in the face of those who are victims of abuse.

Children matter. Children are the future, and an abused child never forgets the injustices that happened to them. With healing and support the victim can be a survivor and grow – but when ignored and forgotten, they can easily remain lost.

While we continue to grow and develop as a society, let’s make sure that there is an equal place for hearing everyone – no matter of race, orientation, victim or abuser. Yes, we all matter – let’s just remember that the victims and survivors count too.

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Abuser Graham James – so bold to abuse several children, yet too afraid to show his face in public.

 

No really does mean NO….

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Perhaps the most difficult word for me (as an abuse survivor) is “NO”. We know what that word means when we hear it. There was a campaign years ago that encouraged people to respect the word NO. The slogan read “No means No”. Simple and easy to understand, right? Not so much.

My childhood was stolen away from me at the hands of pedophile priests and abusive adults charged with my care in school. When I was not being raped, fondled, beaten or locked in closets, I was trying to tread lightly ever hopeful that what had just happened was the last time. The “last time” went on for almost five years of my early education. When I was finally out of that school the next several years would involve me learning to establish boundaries. “No” was not a word that held power. The other day I recalled one event involving the principal of the school forcing my little body over the pummel horse in the auditorium stage of the school, his breath reeking of stale coffee and rancid cucumbers as he pinned me down from behind. Hot tears ran down my cheeks as I cried out “no, no, no, no no….” over and over – he punched me in the back of the head, grabbed my hair and forced my face down into the vinyl padding of the pummel horse, muffling my feeble cries for help. “NO” was ineffective and simply saying that word inflicted more pain and abuse on my young soul and body.

As the years and the abuse passed, my own personal boundaries were fragile negotiating grounds – having been easily annexed by my childhood abusers. I wanted strong boundaries, believe me – but the act of saying NO and holding to it was, and still is, a difficult choice for me. This probably seems so simple to many who will read this. However, it is difficult. Conflict is something I have tried again and again to stay away from. Resistance to pressure resulted to unimaginable acts of abuse against me as a child. Even though I am a fairly strong adult now, there is a fragile child within this body who is terrified at attracting attention to himself. I often feel that when I give in to someone’s will after initially saying no, that child inside has been ignored and devalued. It is so important for those who have not been abused to respect people’s choices when they say NO. Here is an example from my experience of compromising my boundaries:

Person A: “It’s a nice day. Let’s go for a walk”

Seems relatively simple. It’s an honest suggestion.

Me: “You know what, I don’t really feel like it today.

My answer to this question is a little weak as my boundaries are fragile.

Person A: “Why not?

Okay, now I am starting to feel a little bit on the defensive.

Me: “I’d rather not go.”

Person A: “Come on! It will be good to go.”

Me: “No. I don’t want to.”

I am now starting to feel backed into a corner.

Person A: “Why not?”

Me: “I said I don’t want to.”

Here I am trying to hold my ground – shaky as it is. Now I am just wanting to hold steadfast to protect my inner child.

Person A: “Give a good reason.”

Now I am back to feeling as if I am back to being told I am a bad person if I don’t let the other person get their way.

Me: “I said no.”

That should really be the end of it – now I am getting a flood of emotions including fear, anger, shame, hatred and so on. It is not logical, it’s just how the abuse survivor’s mind is working.

Person A: “Give me a good reason and I’ll let it go.”

Yeah, right. Now I am just wanting this to end. What was once perhaps a nice day has turned to an inner feeling that I am now a bad person who has to let the other person have their way and my fragile boundary is shattered once more. This is the point where I will likely just go along with the other person. It won’t be a nice walk for me as I will be feeling resentful and ashamed of myself for giving in and not honouring what I wanted to do in the first place. This may make sense to you or you may not understand what I am trying to say here. It is just an example of one of many ways my self-worth gets eroded when NO is not heard.

All I would like in situations like the above that I have described, is to be heard. Chances are I would love to walk with you, I would love to do things, but when I am put in a position when I give an answer and the answer is not the one that you wanted me to say, please let it end there. Another time perhaps. Please don’t question my boundaries. Here is another example:

Person B: “These are great. Have one.”

Me: “I’m sure they are, but no thank you.”

Person B: “Why not?”

Now I am feeling bad that I may have done something wrong. But I have developed a food addiction as the result of being abused as a child and food was a comfort when alone consoling myself.

Me: “I don’t want any.”

Person B: “Try them. Come on.”

Here we go again.

Me: “Okay fine.”

Sure, I’ll take one – then when person B goes away I will shame eat the rest away. And so the boundaries are easily destroyed once more.

I know I write a lot about survivors and abuse. Believe me, I have come a long way in my healing. I write these in hopes of shedding light for those of you fortunate enough to not have been abused, yet who may know people who have been. If you were abused, I write these posts to ease your mind in knowing that you are not alone, and that there is no time line to “be better”. I take my healing one step at a time, and sometimes it feels like I am walking backwards. My boundaries continue to strengthen, but are at times renegotiated or challenged. I guess what I am attempting to write here is the importance of NO. There are times when NO really does mean NO, you know?

Shame, Art, Elvina Ibru and the Resurrection of Creativity Within

When I was being abused, I took out my anger and frustration through my drawings – primarily using the colors red and black. Art became my escape and my early drawings demonstrated the rage and fear burning inside me like a never ending fire of burning tires.

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As I grew older I started to focus on different characters, and found a form of relaxation when drawing and creating something new. Drawing seemed to calm me. My subjects were usually cute animals or science fiction characters. In grade 5 I created what I thought was a very good drawing of the Starship Enterprise. By grade 7 I was very proud of my Boba Fett rendition. I started to think that perhaps drawing was going to be something I would do professionally. There was something exhilarating about picking up a pencil, sharpening it and putting it to the crisp white paper in my sketchbook. Sometimes I knew where my drawing was going to take me, but often I let the pencil wander on the page, and it created some magical things. Minutes and hours passed quickly when I escaped into my imagination. Errors or imperfections did not matter. What did matter was that I was taking time to be with me, and that calmed me and gave me a sense of control and power that I had not been able to attain when I was enduring the years of abuse at the private school. I loved creating images from my imagination and from my favourite shows. Drawing and creating made me happy.

When I entered high school I developed some characters that eventually became regulars in the school newsletter. I created a polar bear character that represented the mascot of the school, since the school’s team was named the Polars. My best friend and I drew characters together and we enjoyed sharing our own versions of comics we created. We talked about companies we could create together and storylines we could collaborate on. My high school life was starting to feel pretty good and I was starting to feel somewhat good about myself. My art was important to me.

Then I became sick.

I won’t go into details about my illness, but I missed over a month of school recovering. Upon my return to school I learned that my services for the school newsletter were no longer required. In my absence the artwork was taken over by my best friend. His new character, a koala bear replaced my whimsical polar bear. His bear was more developed and, to be honest, it was drawn with more care and attention to my bear. The bear, and other characters he drew, were much better received by all of our friends. His drawings were way more professional and he was more talented than I. The vice principal loved his work and called me into his office to tell me that I was no longer needed to provide artwork for the school. My best friend had filled in for me during my illness, and his work won over the school and teacher population. What made it hard for me is that I had to agree. He worried that I was going to be mad, and I assured him that I didn’t care. I did.

I never told him how betrayed I felt. I know he did not intend for things to happen the way they did. I was a teenager and it was difficult for me to rise above the petty jealousy I felt towards him. He had it all together. I felt very much like Salieri to his Mozart. I remember taking my drawings and burning them in my fireplace. I hated my feeble attempts at art. I did not see the good, nor the progress of my art, but instead only could see the scribbling of failure and mediocrity. Years of my childhood concentration and imagination were destroyed within seconds of my succumbing to my petty jealousies and feelings of inferiority. I was still emotionally bleeding from the years of abuse, but my cries for help and for want of love and acceptance were often in silence and carefully let out when I knew there was no chance of being rescued. It would be years before I picked up a pencil to draw again.

The resurrection of my artistic endeavours came almost five years later. I took a sketchbook with me to England when I started studying there. It remained untouched for almost a year. When I finally did open it to draw it was when I felt an urge to create something. We were working on Guys and Dolls, and I was playing Sky Masterson. My love interest was another student – Elvina Ibru. I am writing her name here because of who I later found out she was. It turns out (and you can Google her) Elvina is literally the Princess of Nigeria. She and I were friends at drama school, and she was an incredibly funny and wonderful friend during my time in England. Anyway, she played Sarah Brown. It was an honour for me to sing with her. One night as I sat in my flat on Radipole Road I saw my sketchbook and drew for the first time in six years. I did not even start to draw on the first page, but rather somewhere in the middle of the book in case anyone was to look at it. The drawing was my imagination of how Sky Masterson should have looked in the show. I looked nothing like the character I drew, but as my pencil found its way around the page, my visualization of the character slowly came out. It is far from a professional drawing, but I am adding it here so you can see what happened after six years of drawing dormancy:

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This drawing would remain safely hidden among the blank pages, never to be seen – until now. Over the years I would draw when I felt like it. My drawings are far from professional, and I do not draw with the same desire to be an artist as I once did. My drawings are often imitations of pictures I see that interest me – I am a copycat artist I guess. I still use the same sketchbook I used in England, and draw so little that there are many pages yet untouched. Slowly, I am getting back on the drawing horse, so to speak. I was recently happy with my attempts at drawing (copying the art of James Hance) a rendition of Winnie the Pooh as Star Wars Characters. I thought my imitation was not bad and so I posted it:

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Not bad – not good, but still not embarrassing as I thought it may be. A friend asked me to draw Kanga as a Tauntaun – well actually asked me to please not do so. I felt something in my stomach. It was that churning that happens when you find yourself on the end of a high-diving board and you look over the edge to the water far below. It’s a big drop, and though you are scared you feel the spark deep within taunting you to just do it. A sensation of fear and excitement culminate until you breathe in and give in to the feeling. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how that challenge felt to me. I sat down with my pencil and paper – this time creating something new – not a copy of another artist, but my own interpretation. It was a wonderful, exhilarating and frightening experience. But I did it – I created something new. It has been years since I felt this way drawing something of my own. I mean, it was a combination of two previously existing creatures, but the formation and the setting were all mine. It is not a professional drawing, but it is mine – and I am happy to create again. I am not going to run out and start shopping for artist work, but there is a part of me that has once again awakened – an awakening of the artistic force inside of me.

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And now I think back to my friend from so many years ago. He never knew how I truly felt back then, nor how much drawing once had meant to me. As we no longer are in touch, I know he will never know. My anger and resentment towards him all those years ago are just more scars as I continue to heal from the past. Too many years have come between us, but I now accept responsibility for my feelings and my anger all those years ago. He knew nothing of the dark secret that was once inside me, and only now as I heal, do I realize how much power we give to our fear and to our insecurities.

Once again through healing has another door re-opened inside me. Once again I find myself doing an activity that calms me, excites me and challenges my imagination. I may not be a pro, but I am loving what I do for fun. My soul is learning to sing and I am excited for the continued journey of the Jedi within me is taking. Slow and steady I am learning to be one with the Force. The Force is love and May the Force be With You.

Twenty Minutes of Abuse = No Big Deal, or How My Maxim Will Stand For All…

Recently in the news there was a story about a rapist – an ex-Stanford swimmer who raped an unconscious woman in an alley and was sentenced to a six-month jail sentence and three years of probation. The man was twenty years old at the time of the attack and his father feels that the sentence was inappropriate to the crime.

I agree with this.

I don’t agree with the father. I agree that the sentence is inappropriate. I would have hoped for a stronger sentence. Sex offenders are often given too light of a sentence, and this particular case disgusts me – well, they all do, but this one especially.

Here is a link to the story in case you have not heard about it:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/stanford-swimmer-brock-turner-sexual-assault-father-reacts-1.3618571

The thinks that really upsets me (all of it does) is the quote from his father about him being punished “….a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action….”

20 minutes of action. The father equates the crime to a time period. This man raped an unconscious defenceless person. He committed a crime. The unconscious person could not defend herself. Are we to believe that her inability to fight off her attacker is now seen as consent? Disgusting.

When I was raped as a child I did not consent. However, some would argue that by allowing sexual acts to happen to me as a child was consent and that I should “let it go”.

I am sad that we live in a society that attaches small sentences to horrific crimes. Sexual assault affects the victim for life. What services are truly available to victims of sexual assault? Very few. After several months of therapy and getting up the courage to report the crimes against me to the police, I was turned away as the RCMP where I went to report the crime stated I had to report it to the town where the abuse happened. The officer at the desk then excused herself to remove herself from the awkward situation of having to deal with a 6’4″ crying man attempting to report sex crimes against him. I was with my therapist – a wonderful woman who supported me wholly. She was there for me. When I tried to report the crime to the RCMP in Hopeless, they dismissed it as not necessary to report as it happened “too long ago.” Each of these rejections was another step backwards in getting my strength back. It was hard, and I wish I could go back in time to stand my ground more fervently than I did. I was quiet, shaken and uncomfortable. I felt that there were a thousand spies from the Catholic Church plotting to kill me and prevent me from sharing my story. I became paranoid for a while. Everywhere I went I felt as though people could see a mark on my body that identified me as a victim of sex abuse, and a person therefore unworthy of justice. Of course this is not the case, and it wasn’t then. I find that people are uncomfortable with things they don’t want to hear. We live in a world where we want to be comfortable and not have to deal with uncomfortable topics. People will get angry and stand up for their right to have their daily coffee made to their specific tastes, and have no trouble berating the barista who makes the mistake to not get their “half-caf, 180 degree mocha with two pumps of hazelnut and one pump of vanilla in a grande cup with a dry foam mist and a pinch of non-fat coconut puree.” But try and discuss the imbalance within the justice system that victims of sexual assault have to face, and you are at times met with blank stares and the wonderful retort “get over it.”

I remember things. I remember the injustices that people face. I empathize with other victims of assault. It doesn’t matter if an assault was “only 20 minutes” or if it dragged on for a period of days, months or even years. Any assault, any rape or attack is too much no matter how long it lasted. Do murderers get sentenced based on how long it took them to kill?

I made a pledge to myself that I would continue to speak out for victims of abuse. My maxim, “MAXIMA DEBETEUR PUERO REVERENTIA”, is my truth. We owe the greatest respect to the child. Stories about abuse are not popular with the mainstream press. People don’t like reading about abuse – but until there are no more assaults, until people stop abusing each other, then I will never cease speaking out. I am a JEDI and my path is justice for all victims. However, what I have found over time is often that “Probitas Laudatur et alge.” I hope that this will change, and that we can continue to learn to hear the true impact sex abuse has on victims regardless of the length of time they were abused.

Mother’s Day and the Deceit of the Dark Side

At the time of writing this entry it is Mother’s Day. It’s a day when we celebrate the women who brought us into this world and for many it is a day of gifts, brunches, photos and hugs. I will state now that I love my mom more than she will ever know. I wish I could celebrate Mother’s Day with her today. Instead, I have chosen to write this entry.

You see, there is a dark side to the aftermath of surviving abuse. It’s the lingering hurt that affects not only the survivors, but in many cases, their families as well. My half-sister and I were both abused in Catholic school. My parents were not aware of the extent of the abuse. As I have written in previous posts, I have undergone a lifetime of healing. My mother, as a mother, continues to feel the pain of knowing her children once suffered.

I do not blame my parents for the abuse I endured. The priests who abused me were experts in how they groom their victims. However, my mother has continued to feel the guilt of what happened to this day.

My half-sister went into a life of drugs – the dark side. She ran away from home. I remember my mom getting a phone call one time from California. They were requesting my sister’s dental records as they had found a “Jane Doe” and wanted to rule out the body was hers. My mother held together very well. She cried, she worried, but she really did soldier on.

My sister eventually had children. She didn’t care for them well. My sister had dropped out of school with a grade 10 education. My niece eventually turned to a life of deceit, drugs and gangs. My parents took my niece in when she was a teen in hopes they could rescue her. She stole from them, lied to them and any joy they could have as seniors was shattered by their sense of duty to “make things right” taking care of my sister’s daughter.

My mother recently was visited by the Ministry of Children. My niece had inherited the pattern of being unable to care for her children. My mother, in her eighties was put in a position to take on two girls – 12 and 14 for only one night. The one night turned into 28 days. My mother was forced to buy groceries for three on a pension. The girls, like their mother and their grandmother, are going down the same path of drugs, gangs, and theft. They were not taught any type of respect or compassion. My mother was yelled at and mocked by these two girls. They would not tell her where they were going or who they were with when they were out. They were rude and selfish. When they finally left to go live with their grandmother in a hotel, my mother – their great grandmother – was left to clean up the mess they had made. Among the pile of dirty dishes, empty bottles and garbage left behind, my mother found a knife at the door of one of the rooms.

It’s Mother’s Day. My mother was a professional banker and was a proud woman. She had laboured hard to provide for her family. The Dark Side continues to haunt her and I have seen the effects of abuse through three generations now. My half-sister never found help. Instead she turned to a life of crime and drugs. Her daughter, my niece, following her path down the Dark Side into escape and destruction now has allowed her children to follow again the path to the Dark Side.

My mother, ever punishing herself for the past, tried again and again to help her children, grand children and great grandchildren. She needed help from the Ministry of Children, and they failed her. She needed the help from the Senior’s advocate and they failed her. She now sits in silence, wondering how her great grandchildren are. Even though she has been called terrible names, been yelled at and treated with no respect while she had these girls in her home for almost a month, she still has the compassion all true mothers have. She loves them, though there is no love in return.

If there were ever a true Jedi Master, it would be my mother. She is resilient. Even though she was at risk of being harmed when the girls were there, she let them in. She locked her door in her bedroom at night because she was afraid. She gave the girls money every day so they would have food. She bought their bus passes so they would be able to go to school. She never, not once, received thanks for any of the things she did. As a senior on a pension these things were not easy. She worried – the way all loving mothers do. In return she received nothing. Not that she was asking for anything, but I think it is a real crime how this can happen.

When my sister and I were at Catholic school, what would have happened if we were not abused? Would my sister have turned to a life of drugs, lies and crime? Would I have immersed myself in martial arts and education? Would the lives of my niece and her daughters have been better? I believe that we can trace all of the unfortunate events back to priests who could not keep their genitals to themselves. I blame those monsters who hid behind the Catholic Church.

For three generations the after-effects have plagued my half-sister’s side of the family. The after effects have also plagued my poor mother.

They say the senior years are the Golden Years. I wish I could do something to let my mother know she is amazing. What has transpired is not her fault. She owes nothing to any of us. I have watched my mother taken advantage of time and time again by my sister and her children who only want money. I know they are hurting too. However, when will they understand that they have a choice in what they can do.

Yoda warns Luke that once a person starts down the dark path, forever will it dominate their destiny. The Dark Side visits me sometimes, but I make the choice to the light. My sister and her family however continue to dwell in the dark. Maybe one day they will see the light. My mother, as a true mother does, always tries to show the light to her family. However, it is up to them now to choose the path they want to follow. My mother will always be there if the light is chosen.

This Mother’s Day I want my mother to know I love her truly, deeply, wholly. It is a day to celebrate moms. My mom was and continues to be my beacon. She is the light to which I strive to keep in my life. She is the person who taught me compassion and kindness. She is not a failure. She is the strongest person I know. Mom, I know you read my blog – I wish I could give you the best Mother’s Day present ever. You will have to settle for my love and for my support. The Province may not be there for you – but I will. The two of us. I have learned so much from you Mom. You are a strong, powerful woman and I love you. May the Force be with us. P.S. I found you some flowers…..

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A Night of Healing, Sharing, Music and Using the Force with the BC Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (BCSMSSA)

The British Columbia Society of Male Sexual Survivor’s Association (BCSMSSA) recently hosted a fundraiser at a small theatre venue in the city. I received a phone call from the organizer who was an old friend from film and theatre productions we have worked on together. He asked me to speak about abuse at the event, and I agreed. I had no idea where to begin preparing a speech. To confess, when I sit down to write a new blog entry I simply do it and post it. I write about issues I am feeling at the moment. As for a speech about abuse, where was I to begin?

The evening was filled with musicians. Fantastic musicians. Smack dab in the middle of the program was my slot. They had allotted fifteen minutes for me to simply speak about abuse. Honestly, I didn’t think too much about it. When I tried to think of what to say I became overwhelmed. I decided the best course of action was to simply “be” when it was my turn. I was going to simply speak from my heart.

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Finally the night of the event came. I wore my newest Star Wars shoes – Skechers with the original 1977 A New Hope print on the tops:

SKECHERS-STAR-WARS-COLLECTION-15.jpgThey helped me feel grounded. I also printed off a picture of myself when I was in kindergarten – when it all began. Finally, I brought along my long time companion, Artoo and placed him inside my blazer pocket. That particular droid has been with me since I first acquired him decades ago. He is my touchstone, my device I use when I need to feel grounded.

Speaking from the heart is not an easy thing to do. This was the first time I was going to speak my truth to a theatre full of strangers – and I was not sure how I was going to be received. Imagine going to an event to hear top musicians play and in the middle of a great time a giant of a man comes out and says “Everybody having a great time? Fantastic, now let me talk to you about child abuse”. It really is a formula for losing a crowd. But I had agreed to do it, and I was going to do it.

When the host introduced me to the stage I felt my heartbeat in my throat. It was too late to turn back. I walked on the stage and took my place in the lights at center stage. Lights were in my eyes and that prevented me from seeing the people in the house. Only the people directly in front of the stage I was able to see. I adjusted the microphone and took a breath. I was introduced as Dr. Nicholas Harrison, and I began with jumping on that introduction. I cannot recollect exactly what I said, but I am going to attempt to paraphrase it now:

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Thank you for that introduction. Yes, I am a doctor and I am an expert on child sexual abuse. I am going to speak to you tonight on that very topic. However, I want to make it clear to all of you here tonight that I am an expert not because I am a doctor, but because I have lived with this for most of my life. You see I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I want to show you this picture of me. It is not this giant you see here who was abused, it was this former version of me – this five year old dependant upon the trust and protection of adults who was abused – this mini me.

I attended a Catholic school in the north and I endured five years of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, and mental abuse, at the hands of the priests and teachers I was supposed to respect and to listen to. And I want to make it clear that though I was abused for a number of years – beaten and raped, whipped and violated – it doesn’t make my story any worse or less significant than anyone who is here tonight who may also have been a victim of abuse. I want to tell you right now, that even if you were only touched once inappropriately, or more, or if you raped, fondled, coerced, or beaten one or more times, it is just as wrong than if it continued for a time. You see, no matter what you have endured, what victims have endured, even once is too much. There is no excuse for abusing a child or anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, transgendered, or male or female, none of that matters – abuse affects us all the same. And it doesn’t matter if you were abused by a priest, teacher, coach, or whoever it was – the lifelong effects of abuse are the same. Shame. As survivors we feel shame, fear, hate. The dark side. I was scared when I was being abused. And when I tell people that I was abused sometimes they say, “Why didn’t you say anything?” and I tell them “because I was being groomed.” Let me explain. It began with my abusers earning my trust – making me feel special, unique. I was given candy at first, then it was given to me in different locations, then in secret discreet places, then the candy was in their pockets, and so it escalated. The first time I was raped it was terrifying – why me? And then I was told if I ever told anyone God would kill my family. Now I know that sounds outrageous. But remember, this was told to a five and six year old child – not an adult. Suddenly I had a burden to keep this to myself – at such a young age I was responsible for my family and whether they lived or died. And so I kept it to myself and hated my school.

How did I manage to escape this? A teacher at the school who was not a priest had whipped me, and she used the end of an electric kettle. The prong was large and made of bakelite. I was whipped because I was the last one in class – she would whip the last person in the line with her kettle chord. It was the spring and one weekend it was warm and my mother asked me to put on short clothes – I was wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants. I refused at first but she insisted. I then realized that the teacher who whipped me was not a priest and so if I told on her then I would not be killed or have my family destroyed. My mother saw the dozen or so welts on my body and I was immediately removed from that school. But it wouldn’t be until I was an adult in my twenties before I would reveal to my parents the full extent of the abuse and rape I had endured.

It took years of therapy for me to let go of the shame I carried. It’s a life long event too. It’s funny, because I am a fight director as many of you know and now you know why I am a martial artist. When I was old enough I wanted to surround myself with weapons and abilities to ensure I would never be abused again. I am who I am because I had support and love from my family to help me heal, to become a Jedi.

That’s why organizations such as this are important. Therapy is important – and knowing that there are people that you can safely speak to is so so important. It may take a community to raise a child, but it is important for us as a community to listen to those who have been abused, to hear the stories of abuse and to allow victims to become survivors. In sharing our stories of abuse, and listening to those who have been abused we are all Jedi – we become stronger. And there is no shame in being a survivor. In order to let go of the shame we need help – and groups like this are so important for us to do so.

You came here tonight to support this organization and I am here tonight to speak about abuse. If it wasn’t for the support and help I received from my therapy and family I shudder to think where my life would be now. I am a Jedi. I know many of you here tonight are also Jedi – for the safety and support you have for each other makes us all strong.

If you know me, you will know I am always wearing something to do with Star Wars – that movie was the first thing I gravitated to after my abuse. I loved the message of hope. If you look at my shoes, you will see that I am wearing Star Wars shoes. These are from the first movie – A New Hope. For that movie was my first hope towards getting my strength so speak out. And if you ever get an email from me you will notice I have a Latin phrase on the signature line – it reads “MAXIMA DEBETEUR PUERO REVERENTIA” it means “WE OWE THE GREATEST RESPECT TO THE CHILD”. That is my motto. I believe in that as much as I believe I am a Jedi. And I always carry my first Star Wars toy – my Mom bought this for me soon after I was out of that school. He’s been with me for many adventures – my Artoo. Please tonight, if you have been abused, no matter who you are, start telling your story. You have the power inside to do so – and you can always contact me. I will support you and listen. As a community it is time for us to listen and to be heard. We are all Jedi and the Force is strong with us.

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I think that is mostly what I said. I saw the people in front of me stand up and applaud and Laura – the sound woman extraordinaire – played the Star Wars theme. I returned to the audience and after the show several people approached me and thanked me for being there. I was told I was brave, and I was an inspiration. I went to my car and cried as I drove home. I know I affected some people that night. I felt surprisingly good that I shared what I did. I am thankful to the organizers of the fundraiser to have me there that night.

Finally, after so many years of working towards my own healing, I really feel as if I am graduating from padawan to Jedi. As I drove home I could feel the Force within me.

 

I AM a Jedi.

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Truth and Reconciliation, or Something We Can Ged Rid Of In Fifteen Years…

The Truth and reconciliation Commission was an important step acknowledging the horrific abuse endured by thousands of survivors of “Indian” residential schools across Canada. These institutions were established by the Canadian Government to “take the Indian out of the child” and there is no excuse for the atrocities these schools committed. What ended up making the news recently is that it was ruled that the stories must be destroyed after fifteen years, though individuals may have a right to see their personal stories archived if they choose.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/stories-of-residential-school-abuse-can-be-shredded-after-15years-1.3520210

As a survivor of abuse at the hands of Catholic educators, it is hard for me to put into words how I feel about this. I will attempt to do so here, in my blog – my archive of surviving abuse.

I first need to explain something that is bothering me. While it is important to understand the nature and scope of abuse towards the students of the residential schools, it is also important to understand that in Canada the abuse endured at the hands of Catholic private schools is also in issue that needs to be addressed. If you were to look at the news reports you may mistakenly conclude that in Canada the only victims of physical and sexual abuse by priests were people who attended residential schools, and once they were disbanded everything was resolved. The only news worthy reports of sex abuse against children in Canada appears to then shift to those abused by coaches. Yet in the United States the abuse scandal by priests is so large they made a film about it. What about every child? What about every child, male and female, of every race? Is not one child abused too many? How come Canadian media is not interested in the stories of children who were abused by priests? Because we don’t feel comfortable knowing the extent of emotional and physical collateral damage that has been inflicted upon our children. Survivors of sexual abuse often live their lives without ever disclosing it to their families. Sexual abuse is devastating. Imagine how horrific it is to a child who is unable to comprehend or understand why they are being targeted. One Bishop argued in court that a child of seven years of age is culpable if they are abused because they should know the difference between right and wrong. This argument disgusts me.

https://www.atheistalliance.org/regional-reports/north-america/1150-ny-bishop-rape-shames-abuse-victims-boys-are-culpable-for-their-actions-at-7-years-old.html

Let me explain something right here and right now. Imagine you are five years old – FIVE. Do you remember what the world was like when you were five? Here are some of my memories of being five – the feeling of the living room carpet against my chest while I watched Mighty Mouse in black and white on our television set – The smell of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s morning – The men of God who told me I was a dirty boy who had to be punished – being told God, GOD would punish me and actually kill my family if I ever told anyone what was happening to me – having my body manipulated forcibly by adult males for their sexual gratification – being punched, whipped, strapped, slapped, pushed, shoved, and raped in the name of God. Yeah, I am sure I was responsible for all of this.

If you have any empathy what I have written may be hard to read. If you really are curious what abuse feels like to a survivor of childhood abuse I suggest you read my original paper about abuse which can be found early on in this blog. Are children really culpable when they are abused? Is any group any more deserving of having their stories heard? Is any celebrity’s story of enduring abuse any more important than any other survivor? Am I allowed to share my story if I am not a famous sports star? In Canada it appears this way. And in Canada when a person tries to stand up to abusers, the survivor often takes the brunt of the outrage. I am tired of hearing “you should have said something”, or “why didn’t you do anything at the time?”, or “what did you do to provoke this?”.

In short, abuse sickens me. We need to listen to all survivors. And it is equally important to listen to the families of those who have been abused. They suffer from the news of abuse as well. They wonder what they could have done to prevent abuse. They worry that they did not see the signs, or that they turned a blind eye. This is often not true. We live in a society that does not like to hear about the truth of abuse or the lingering trauma it brings to survivors and their families. We would rather watch another funny cat video or a feel good story that makes us feel warm inside. We would rather shred evidence that prevents future generations from fully understanding what trauma people endured at residential or private schools.

If you want to really feel good inside, I suggest taking steps – no matter how small – to listening to people around you. Listen not only with your ears, but also with your hearts. Don’t merely sympathize – but also try to empathize. It may be hard to do, but you will find a deeper understanding of these issues I am writing about. If you’d rather not do either, then I am sure there must be another cute cat video just uploaded for your viewing pleasure. In the meantime here is a cute animal video for you about empathy and sympathy narrated by Dr. Brené Brown.