Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.
My purpose here today is to share with you just what this place you fund has done for me; a survivor of nearly a decade of sexual abuse at the hands of someone who was supposed to love, protect, provide for and care about me.
I came into contact with the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre via the Olds RCMP detachment. I had broken my silence and confessed to my mom everything her husband had been forcing upon me for the last ten years. Interesting that I still choose to use the word confess. Truly it should be report, accuse or unburden myself. Yet still I choose confess. That is the role of the incest survivor- to forever feel guilty for acts they did not choose- would never have chosen. My incredible mother helped me report him to the RCMP and after a terribly grueling statement in the middle of the longest night of my life we were given this number.
My mom made the call and I first spoke to one of the councilors here, Charity Dutkevich towards the end of June, 2006. It was the day my stepfather was arrested and I had just gotten the shortest haircut I’ve ever been known to wear. We had a phone conversation and I was still a little shell-shocked. To be perfectly frank, I do not remember much of the week or so after I reported my step dad; it all runs together.
I remember coming into this office and determining that Charity was exactly how I had pictured her in my mind’s eye when we were speaking on the phone, right down to the glasses. It was hilarious. I came in desperately nervous… what were they going to ask me? What was I going to say? After burying it for so long it was hard to air my dirty laundry in public. Did I really want to talk to a complete stranger? I was feeling a lot of things: numb, confused. Hurt. Terrified. Betrayed. Eventually I was angry.
Charity guided my mom and I through the court process’ which was fairly confusing as no one in my family have any personal experience in a courtroom on either side of the fence. My step-dad’s trial was particularly convoluted as it was transferred to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary after being set over in Didsbury repeatedly for four or five months.
We worked long and hard to prepare me for trial and cross examination. We laboured over my victims impact statement, potentially my only chance to let the judge know exactly how this decade of living inside a shell, stifling my emotions, trying to please everyone and most of all hide what Daddy’s doing had done to me as a young woman. Charity came to every court appearance and was there with a reassuring smile, a shoulder squeeze and endless support. Once we had a conviction and sentencing was through, we worked more on me than on court. Though generally happy, madly in love and planning a wedding; I found myself often sad, slightly depressed and quick to anger. I was encouraged to allow these feelings and to throw myself an occasional pity party but to make sure it didn’t turn into a feeling sorry for myself bender. A few hours is ok but a couple of days is excessive. Through a lot of conversation and quite a few worksheets I learned a considerable bit about myself. I do cry easily and I can still be quick to anger, but I now feel that I have enough understanding of self to acknowledge where these feelings are coming from and not allow them to rein my life.
With my abusers parole coming up all too soon I anticipate Charity will help me write yet another victims impact statement to present at the parole hearing. We have also been discussing an action plan for when he is released. I personally consider this man to be a psychopath with a very vengeful streak and am concerned for the safety of my family. So we have come up with a list of things that are reasonable to do and things that are not appropriate – it has been reassuring knowing that I am able to deal with the issue when it arises and it calms me to feel mentally prepared for this eventuality.
Aside from helping me immeasurably, Charity and the Crisis Centre have also done wonders for my family. My mom and brother also came in for some counseling but were not quite as committed as I was- it is my belief that my mom was reluctant to label herself a victim in this situation as much as I – she is not ready to stop blaming herself for not seeing what was happening to me. I hope that eventually she will get there, but these things take time. My husband has also attended a session or two, as well as much court as he was able to take time off for. I do know that if they were in attendance today the rest of my family would have nothing but glowing praise for this wonderful organization. My husband, especially as I feel he was given some tools and insight into dealing with sexual abuse victim-survivors in general that he can now apply to me. Having never been through anything even remotely comparable it requires a lot of patience and understanding on his part- on a bad day it may even be a Herculean effort. But he is wonderfully supportive and does his absolute best.
Another area I have found this centre to be extremely helpful is in education. I have a ten month old daughter and my greatest fear is that someone will take advantage of her in a sexual way. Learning what to teach her, when and how has made me feel much more prepared, I pass any information Charity gives me on this issue to all of my friends with kids, I think teaching people how to protect their children and what signs to be on the lookout for is a really important step in slowing and eventually stopping sexual abuse of children altogether.
My self-respect, self-image, womanhood and sexuality had all taken a beating, literally and figuratively. It is not an easy thing to go from truly believing that you are a piece of crap who no one in their right mind will ever love to understanding that though I was bruised in transport and grown in less than ideal conditions I was not damaged goods unless I chose to be. And there it is, like everything else in this life, recovery is a choice. And within these walls they encourage you/give you ample sunlight and water; and then sit back to watch you bloom. Perhaps we don’t turn into the innocent flowers we otherwise might have been, but we are beautiful none the less.
What I was lucky enough to find here was a safe haven full of sincere smiles and warm hugs, of tea, cookies and conversation; and of help, healing and support. Trying to rebuild one’s life and one’s self after an experience such as mine can be likened to scaling a steep rock face; without the proper equipment and harness one is likely to fall. Fall into hell, pain, misery and blackness. Perhaps alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution, another abusive relationship, or abuse for your children because that is all you’ve known. But this place, this place gives you the proper equipment and is your safety harness as you climb. They are there cheering you on, holding you up and teaching you to find the inner strength required to get to the very top.
And once at the top, we the victim-survivors can shout it from the mountain, “I made it”. It was horrible; I have been through things no small girl should have to endure. At times I thought you were going to kill me. But I am still here, still breathing, still feeling, still loving. I didn’t let you take that away so you did not win. You forced me because you were bigger but never again. I survived. And I am moving on.”
We can say “not to my children”.
And, we can turn to our supporters and say THANK YOU