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Did you know that one in three girls and one in five boys will be victims of unwanted sexual activity before the age of 18?

I do, now. Thanks to the work I do with Breaking Free Foundation and the Victor Walk, I am armed with an arsenal of education and awareness on this difficult reality. Having survived ten years of sexual abuse as a child, I knew of my own experience only, but was not surprised to learn that three people in my family had suffered the same reality (that we know of).

I had my first “me too” experience at the first Victor Walk in 2013, when I stood in front of strangers at the Calgary rally and revealed the truth that had weighed me down for years. Since then, my voice has catapulted me to new levels of healing and happiness and vulnerability that I never knew existed. The domino effect of positive change that continues to occur from the Victor Walk movement, never ceases to amaze me. But, it did amaze me this past week in a huge way, when I got to to witness the ripple effects in my own family first-hand.

Towards the end of 2016, my uncle Peter emerged as a newly sober and inspired person. We had spoken in December about his plans to cycle across Canada following his sobriety journey, and that in light of learning about my story and the other members of the family, he wanted to dedicate this ride to raising awareness about child sexual abuse. But truthfully, this was the last we really spoke of it.

Uncle Peter, and his newfound friend Jacques Letourneau, began their bicycle journey across Canada in May. On June 16th, they arrived in Calgary. The second day they were in town, I was surprised to find my uncle donned in Victor Walk apparel.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“I ordered it online months ago,” he said.

I was shocked, in a good way. How cool is it that he was cycling across Canada dressed in orange Victor Walk gear?!

The rest of the weekend was great, I had not seen my uncle in six years, and it was great to spend time with him, Jacques and the rest of the family for a weekend. On his last day in Calgary, my uncle divulged that him and Jacques had setup a website to raise money and awareness for child sexual abuse on their cycle trip across Canada. Their website was titled “2 Frogs Against Abuse”, and they chose in part for humour because they both hail from Montreal, but also because the Victor Walk frog inspired them. The notion that a frog never hops backwards, was a key message for them.

Sexual and physical abuse are prevalent, systemic and at epidemic levels.  Abuse is masked, silenced, or ignored by institutions like the army, police forces, the media, former native residential schools, universities and even our own families.  Recently, Peter  learned that his family and his neighbourhood were casualties.  The number of victims are reflected by a shocking national average of over 30%. Furthermore, the relationship between abuse, addiction and crime are overwhelming. We want to dedicate our ride across Canada to all those who have been traumatized by abuse.

Wow, I couldn’t believe the gratitude I felt that they would take inspiration from our message and kickstart this whole nationwide movement. I was also thrilled to learn that he, as a teacher, has taken his platform and has been using it to raise awareness and educate young people about consent, addiction and sexual abuse.

Yesterday, my uncle called me from Edmonton, to let me know that CBC wanted to interview him about this awareness ride. He asked my permission to mention me in the piece, of course, I obliged. He also let out a few tears over the phone and let me know that he was very proud of me, and that this is important to the family.

As fellow victims of childhood trauma will know, that feeling of “not good enough” can linger. And for me, hearing that threw me into a whirlwind of emotions. I hung up that phone and cried my eyes out. I was happy, proud and most of all grateful. Silence took a toll on myself and my family for years, and it is really amazing that conversations are starting to happen. I am so incredibly proud of my uncle and the Victor Walk movement.

For our Francophone friends, here’s an interview in French on CBC radio that my uncle and Jacques did; for English, check out this video on CBC (hit the 10 minute mark).

You can learn more about the Victor Walk here.

 

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October is Child Abuse Awareness Month in Canada, and now is the time to pay attention to an epidemic in our country—one-third of Canadians have been abused as a child. That number is far too high, and hopefully the increased attention to this problem this month will serve to educate Canadians and hopefully work to lower those numbers.

32% of Canadians [have] experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young. [National Post, Canadian Medical Association Journal]

The data from the report (quoted above), was released last year, and it’s just a small snapshot of the big problem our country and our children are facing. Not to mention, a majority of those who cited experiencing abuse as a child, would develop mental health problems later on. Child abuse and trauma is something that affects everyone, across all generations.

Each province and territory has its own child protection legislation that defines the circumstances in which a child is in need of protection, and you can find out more about that on the Government of Alberta website. But if you find yourself in a position where child abuse or neglect is being disclosed, here’s how you can respond:

  • Acknowledge: be sure to acknowledge the child’s situation and their feelings. Be a careful and attentive listener, but refrain from interviewing the child. Listening is more important than asking questions at this point.
  • Comfort: ensure the child they are safe and comfort them. No matter what, child abuse is never the child’s fault.
  • Take notes: document what the child says or what it is that you see, then take action by reporting it to the local police authority.

When in doubt, report suspected child abuse.  You do not have to be 100 per cent certain that abuse has occurred. The safety of the child or youth may be at risk. The authorities have the responsibility to determine the facts and evidence, not you. [Canadian Red Cross]

More resources on identifying and responding to child abuse can be found on the Alberta Government website. Take to social media to speak up for kids as well, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook.

— Written by Amber Craig
[Follow me on Twitter]

Interested in sharing your story on our blog? Please send submissions to: contact@breakingfreefoundation.ca