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I was seven. He was a monster. That monster was my brother.

It’s both a blessing and a curse how your mind helps you remember and helps you forget.

How can you not remember? To live beside someone, in the same house, like nothing ever happened.

I was 22 and eight months pregnant when I did remember. I ran into him at a family wedding (my hubby’s family, not mine) in a hotel bar, in a small rural town. We were not close. We were a large family, with multiple divorces. It had probably been 10 years since I’d seen him. We chatted. We caught up. All’s good, right?

Things started to change. I was angry. Remembering things so painful, that they could actually break my brain. The most beautiful time of my life was marred by these memories. Did my stress during pregnancy affect my child? My child, who grew up to have severe mental health issues. Did my anger during her infancy damage her? These memories too, haunt me.

I told. I told my husband. He was supportive. I told my parents. They were detached, indifferent and unresponsive. That’s it. All over. I told. It would all get better. Right?

Wrong. I’m not proud of who I was. I wasn’t a good mother. That makes me sad. I have two beautiful children who deserved better. Could I have given them better? No. I was the best I could be with who I was at that point. I love my girls. I tried to make them perfect. They were perfectly dressed, perfectly clean, perfect manners. The perfect I never was. I was broken.

Fast forward 12 years and my husband and I are going to marriage counselling at the request of my not “perfect” daughter. She was not my version of perfect, she was perfectly her.

Relationships for me have always been a struggle. My marriage was no different. However, not halfway through the first session with my husband, I realized I needed to see a therapist for myself.

She knew, the minute I walked through her office door, she knew.

I’ve gone to many hours of therapy. I’ve confronted my abuser. I have PTSD, ADHD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and probably a few other letters. I have planned to kill myself. On a daily basis, I don’t want to be here. I just want the pain to go away. I’d never do it. I know I won’t. After losing my dad five years ago I knew I could never intentionally inflict that pain on anyone.

I distance myself from my friends. I am the queen of excuses and cancelling plans. I want someone to talk to. But really, who wants to talk about “This”? We are supposed to open up, help break the stigma. Very idealistic.

I just want to feel normal. To be able to have a job, friends, be able to carry on a conversation. I keep trying new meds, different foods, and new therapy techniques. Next week I start EMDR Therapy.

* Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.

I have high hopes. I will keep you posted!

Sheri Gray

* https://emdrcanada.org

I was raped by a trusted neighbor when I was 9 years old, on numerous occasions, over the span of a year and blocked it out for many years until I was roughly 12 years old. I was sitting in bed one day when something triggered the memories, they came flooding back to me and I was overwhelmed with fear, anger, and confusion. I told my parents who in turn then told the police, they approached the family of the teenager that did this to me and he admitted his guilt. We discussed pressing charges against the young man but were told by the police that it would probably be best if we didn’t as it would save me from an embarrassing trial as well as teasing from people within our neighborhood. That was a different day and age and that seemed, at the time, to be the best course of action. Don’t talk about it, bury it and try to forget it. Of course, we know better these days that this doesn’t work. This is where the pattern of shame and guilt took a terrible turn for me and sent me into a downward spiral.

I am now 47 years old with a wife of 20 years, 2 daughters, a wonderful home and from the outside looking in we are a picture-perfect family, so why talk about this now? It has only been in the last year that I can talk openly about my abuse without shame or the fear of judgment. I have lived 37 years hiding my true self in the shadows, putting on a happy face on the outside while feeling scared, lost and empty on this inside. We tried counselling when I was young but would you go talk about this if you were told to keep it quiet as a child? So I went on with my life burying the anger, the shame and never talking about it with anyone at any length because young men don’t talk about these things, do they? I have lived for so many years with questions of why me? Why didn’t we charge him? Why did my parents let this happen? Will I myself become a pedophile? If I have children will I rape them? Only a person that has been raped can truly understand what a depressing and hellish existence it is, minor moments of joy but then pulled back into the drowning darkness, day after day after day.

Now you will ask, “How did you cope?” Like many others I turned to alcohol from my early teen years to help escape my racing mind to give me some sort of peace, some sort of feeling of value, to feel more than…….nothing. Of course, this did not serve me well and there were many bad choices along the way that I look back at now and wish I could change. But I can’t. As I got older the question in my mind was always, “Why does this happen and how can I save the others?” Such a naive and sad view of life but that was what I lived day in and day out for years and years with no hope of change. I attended cognitive behavioral therapy, group sessions, AA meetings but nothing would stick and I was always dragged back to what I knew, what was my uncomfortable reality, until a few special events that changed my life to get me where I am today.

Of course, we all now know the story of Theo Fleury, his battle over the years with substance abuse and coming to terms with his past abuse. So one day I picked up his book Playing with Fire and it pushed me into a different way of thinking altogether. While reading the book I cried, I was angry, I was confused but the one feeling I didn’t expect to feel was,”You are not alone.” It was as if Theo’s voice was calling out to me saying we are now on this journey together and we will get through it. Sounds corny right? His words were my words, his pain was my pain, he understood, he had been there, he was still there. I was no longer alone, even if it was just words, it changed me. So I slowly started talking about my trauma, not a lot but a little here and there with friends that knew what happened and the shame was slowly lifting, I was getting stronger.

The next event was probably the biggest and most profound. I was at a function with casual friends that we had made over the years in a very large gathering and I overheard my friend say that he was worried about a neighbor and his “interest” in his young son. He said it seemed strange that he was always asking where his son was, what he was doing and if he could come over to visit, alone. Then it happened, I just said: “You need to be careful, this is not right.” He looked at me and I could tell by his face that he was asking, “What do you know, why would you have any insight?” I simply said, “This is how I was raped as a child, this is how it started.” The response was amazing, he asked more about what he should watch for and thanked me. I never felt so strong or free. It was incredible. From that moment on the weight had begun to lift and I felt a strength that I never knew.

Finally, the moment where I knew I was going to be okay: The Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch. Remember when I said I wanted the help save them all as a child? I now knew that was impossible so I asked what I could do to help those that are in need of support, that need to know they are not alone. By chance, I came across a couple items from my workplace that were given to me to donate to a charity of my choice, and of course, I chose the Ranch.

What I didn’t know was how this was going to affect me moving forward in my journey of healing. I reached out to the Ranch to arrange the drop off of these items and they were kind enough to take me on a tour and explain how they help each of these children during this terrible time. As I was leaving I cried, I was angry and then I was thankful. Thankful that there was somewhere for these children to get the help they needed, thankful that there are people out there helping them on their journey to healing, thankful I was able to help even if it was just a little bit.

Neil Campbell #metoo

 

CTV News Interview

CBC News Article

 

 

First of a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

#MeToo is not a new movement, but it is new to Hollywood, and that means that, for this brief moment, it has grabbed the spotlight, our imaginations, and talk show conversation. The other night I watched an interview between a comedian and a famous actor. The former boldly challenged the latter to account for accusations of inappropriate touch. The latter, panic-eyed and breathy, choked out scripted lines (carefully shaped to reassure that he meant no harm, he doesn’t remember, he’s appalled that anyone could ever think…), decrying the shocking extent of sexual victimization in his industry.

But you, BFF reader, are not surprised by the reach of sexual assault, rape, or inappropriate touch and language. You already know that it can happen to anyone. Anywhere. And it happens at the hands of the powerful, the rich, the frightened, the poor. It is perpetrated by those who know better and who glory in the control they wield. It is perpetrated by those who were victims first, and who, truly, may not know any other way to be. It continues in closets and corners and offices and public spaces. It’s happened to you, and to the people you adore.

Maybe you’ve even contributed to this not-so-secret secret shame? Courage, friend. We all have. If only by our silence, the turning of an avoidant gaze, you and I share in this part of the human condition.

Organizations like BFF have had boots on the ground on these issues for years. They’re doing the good work of making space for conversation, helping us to find the language to shape and understand our own stories, and moving us forward in finding wholeness.

You have a role in this conversation, and in changing our world. If you are a man or a woman who has wounded another, it’s time to make things right. BFF can help with that. If you are a woman or man who has been wounded, will you give yourself permission to consider moving toward healing? There is space here for you, for your story, and for the restoration of your heart, mind, and body.

If you are the loving Other of one of the above, you are not powerless. Be the loving, attentive, and aware listener that your Hurting Person needs. Your part of hearing and helping is no small thing. Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed? That’s ok. This is really big stuff! But you can give to a work that is equipped to provide professional care. You can make it possible for the people who are courageously walking alongside the hurting to keep doing what they’re doing.

It’s ok if you and I are not comfortable putting ourselves out there on the front lines. It’s not ok for you and I to pretend that the people we love, and who love us, have not been marked by this.

Whatever our engagement in this (temporarily?) public conversation, let’s move things forward together. Then, when humanity revisits this conversation in the decades to come, it will have been propelled forward by good work done in our time.

FACT: one in two girls and one in three boys falls victim to unwanted sexual advances before the age of 18.
FACT: 60% of rape victims are under the age of 17.
FACT: Sexual assault refers to all incidents of unwanted sexual activity, including sexual attacks and sexual touching. Sexual assault = rape.

Canadians must rally together to take a stand against the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and rape. Our first Victor Walk in 2013, was a huge success nationwide, and since then we have been working to keep the momentum high with the community we’ve built up together. A national movement powered by an Orange Wave of Courage, the Victor Walk will see Theo Fleury giving a voice to those who have been affected by trauma throughout their lifetimes. Supported by communities across the country, this Victor Walk on July 22, 2017, is recognized as a national movement and is hoped to change the way Canadians understand the effects of childhood trauma.

In 2017, our team will be walking an extended route for five days from Saskatoon to Regina, Saskatchewan, to bring a very bright spotlight on the horrors of childhood rape. Eight million Canadians have suffered from shame and pain of childhood sexual trauma long enough. An exciting addition to this year’s walk, in every stop in Saskatchewan, we will be screening the eye-opening documentary, Victor Walk, which followed Fleury and his team on the first Victor Walk in 2013. The film screenings are FREE!

All of the details of the 2017 route will be updated as they are available, but here’s where the 2017 Victor Walk Tour will be heading and when:

  • July 18: Saskatoon 
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: meet at Persephone Theatre (100 Spading Crescent E) for walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team (location TBD)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Persephone Theatre (100 Spading Crescent E)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 19: Swift Current
    • 4 – 4:30pm: meet at Subway (1100 – 11 Avenue NE)
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team at Market Square (corner of Central and Chaplin)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Lyric Theatre (227 Central Avenue N)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 20: Moose Jaw
    • 4 – 4:30pm: meet at Subway (825 Thatcher Drive E)
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team at Moose Jaw Funeral Home (268 Mulberry Lane)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Moose Jaw Funeral Home (268 Mulberry Lane)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 21: Estevan
    • 11 – 11:30am: meet at Subway (513 – 4 Street)
    • 11:30am – 12:30pm: walk
    • 12:30 pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team (location TBD)
    • 2:00pm: documentary screening at Orpheum Theatre (1235 – 4 Street)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 22: Regina
    • 4 – 4:30pm: meet at Subway (919 Albert Street)
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team (location TBD)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Conexus Arts Centre (200 Lakeshore Drive)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook

Many of you have expressed interest in joining us on the five-day journey, however due to safety reasons, we cannot oblige.

We encourage you to join your own community walk, or if you live along the route that we are walking, meet us during the walk to cheer us on. Please click here to find out how you can organize a Victor Walk in your area, and be a part of one of the greatest teams ever assembled to make a difference on behalf of childhood trauma.

Cities where Sister Walks are being organized:

Watch the trailer for Victor Walk documentary.

*The Victor Movement reserves the right to refuse people or groups to join or participate in the Victor Walk at it’s sole discretion. The Victor Movement is not liable in any way for any injury or damage caused by participating in the Victor Walk.

**Sources: Sexual Assault Canada, Badgley Report, Statistics Canada.

The Victor Walk movement is an initiative of the Breaking Free Foundation, helping support those who have suffered trauma. All funds raised on the Victor Walk, go to support the Therapy Grant Program via Breaking Free Foundation.

A HUGE THANK YOU TO OUR 2017 SPONSORS!

Without the generous donations of amazing businesses, the Victor Walk movement wouldn’t be possible. We have sincere gratitude to all of the people and organizations that stepped up this year to make our 2017 walk a success.

 The eye-opening documentary film ‘Victor Walk’ will make its Calgary debut at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on June 2, 2017, raising funds for local non-profit.

Local non-profit, Breaking Free Foundation (BFF) is pleased to host the Calgary premiere of the eye-opening documentary, ‘Victor Walk’, at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on June 2, 2017. The documentary follows Calgary Flames legend, Theo Fleury and his team on the inaugural Victor Walk back in 2013, where they walked from Toronto to Ottawa to raise awareness on the epidemic of childhood rape.

Since 2013, Fleury and the Breaking Free Foundation have led two provincial Victor Walks in Alberta and Manitoba, and the team will be heading to Saskatchewan this July for the 2017 Victor Walk.

In Canada, one in two girls and one in three boys falls victim to unwanted sexual advances before the age of 18, which is why this film is an important awareness tool.

The event is also serving as a fundraiser for the non-profit, founded by Fleury and six other Calgarians in 2015. All of the proceeds from the June 2 premiere will go towards funding the organization’s work for trauma survivors in Alberta.

The money raised is vital to keeping their innovative Therapy Grant Program running,which provides free trauma therapy to Albertans suffering from PTSD, mental health issues and the lingering effects of trauma.

Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster, with exclusive VIP packages available. The evening will be full of surprises including exclusive Victor Walk merchandise, photo opportunities with Theo Fleury, meet and greet with BFF and a special performance by Theo Fleury and the Death Valley Rebels following the screening.

The Victor Walk Documentary premiere is June 2, 2017 at 7pm at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium (1415 – 14 Avenue NW). Tickets available online at Ticketmaster on 10:00 AM on Wednesday, March 8th.

This day started out like many of my other days in university except that it was the day before I was leaving to go home for Christmas break.

I had a class or two to attend in the morning and then I was going on my first date. Well, we really weren’t going anywhere. We were just going to watch a movie and hang out in my dorm room while I packed to go home. Nothing special but I was excited and so nervous. I didn’t date ever in high school so this was my first.

Everything was going great. We were talking, watching a movie and getting to know each other all while I was packing.  I am really unsure of when things took a turn for the worse but they did.

I still remember how he felt on top of me. I remember not being able to scream or yell as I sat there looking at my unlocked dorm room door. Once in the past someone had just walked into my room and I was hoping at that moment it would happen again. I can picture how he looked. There are certain aspects I remember about him including blonde hair and both of his nipples were pierced. I cannot for the life of me remember what his name was.

It was painful.  After all, this was not the way I planned on losing my virginity. I am not sure how long it lasted but it felt like years. He just got up off of me and walked out the door.

I slowly got up and gathered up my clothing.  I walked to the showers and washed up while I bawled my eyes out. I went back to my room, took off the bed sheets, packed the rest of my things and headed off to my parent’s house, about a four hour car drive.

Everything else was a blur. I just remember I felt differently. I wasn’t sure how to act and I felt like everyone would see it on me – what had happened. After a few days, my parents knew that something was wrong.  I remember my dad asking me if I had had sex and I lied and told him yes. I didn’t want him to know what had really happened. I will never forget his response. His words were, “Promise me you will never have sex again.” I guess being a father and only having girls will make you want to believe that they will be virgins for a very long time.

I went further and further into a deep hole as the days went on. I didn’t know how to handle anything. I shut myself into my bedroom. I became antisocial, depressed, lonely and lost. I had no idea what way was up or down or even how to handle myself. I had completely lost who I was and was becoming this person that no one recognized. I still kept it to myself.

The only way I knew how to handle myself was to find the comfort in other men. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I knew my life had to change. I wasn’t sure how to do it or where to even begin but I knew it needed to be done.

I remember bawling while being intimate with my husband (boyfriend at the time). We would have to stop and he would comfort me and tell me everything was okay. I felt alone, like no one knew what I was going through. He was the only person that truly knew what had happened to me.

It took me another nine years to truly begin to heal. I kept it locked inside believing that it was my fault. That I was somehow to blame for what had happened to me. I was ashamed to tell anyone including family and friends for the fear of judgement that I thought they would have of me.

It was in the fall of 2014, when we made a huge move and started over. Life felt different. It was a new beginning for us which meant a new beginning for me. I decided to take back my life. I now had two children (aged six and three) and they needed me to be 100 per cent me again. They needed me to teach them how to love themselves and that was impossible when I didn’t love myself.

I started my blog, BeYOUtiful Rewritten, to show the world my transformation.  To start truly believing that what happened to me wasn’t my fault and that there was no shame in it.  I decided to finally announce that I was raped. Show the world that what happened to me didn’t define me. It was an incident that happened in my past but I was overcoming it and becoming a stronger person day-by-day.

I don’t want any other woman to suffer for 11 years before they realize that it wasn’t their fault!

I want you to know that you are not alone. This does not define who you are.  In no way what happened to you is your fault. You are beautiful, courageous, loved and most importantly, stronger than you realize.

— Guest post submitted by Samantha Laycock (follow on Twitter)

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