#NoLongerSilent: It’s Never Too Late to Speak Out.

It was a powerful reminder from Stacey Kirkpatrick, Board Chair of VoiceFound, and a key takeaway for anyone impacted by childhood sexual abuse. It’s never too late to speak out. It touches on the ever-present challenge of dealing with the issue. The odds are is that someone you know is a victim but as a society, we lack the will to discuss it openly.

On November 24, Stacey joined fellow board member, Peter Hamer, and a virtual audience of 100 for #NoLongerSilent: A Conversation About Childhood Sexual Abuse. Stacey, a registered psychotherapist, and Peter Hamer, an executive Director in the medical industry, discussed the scope of the problem of childhood sexual abuse, as well as their experiences as survivors. After Cynthia Bland, the founder, and CEO of Voice Found introduced the event, Rogers TV Host, Derick Fage moderated the panel and guided this important conversation that tackled various issues including disclosure, triggers, and healing.

Decades of Trauma Go Undisclosed

Peter began the conversation by briefly sharing his past. Over thirty years ago, Peter’s high school music teacher was his predator and sexually abused him during highschool. The memories are very vivid and linger to this day. He remembers the off-color jokes his music teacher made, and the hugs that his teacher forced upon him, and the constant feeling of discomfort while Peter was being “groomed” by his perpetrator.

These searing memories of sexual abuse were silenced and ignored for a long period of Peter’s life, until he decided to speak out. Many years after his traumatic experience s, he heard a news story about a student coming forward to share experiences of sexual abuse at Peter’s same high school. It was an inflection point in Peter’s life. It gave him the courage and permission to share his story. He decided to speak to the Ottawa Police Service and get his story on the record; an emotional but also significant step in his journey to healing.

After speaking with a detective, Peter was offered the option to press charges and after a lot of deliberation, he did just that. Although the process of the legal trial was emotionally draining, Peter explained that reading his victim statement aloud was one of the proudest moments of his life Peter said for the first time, he felt that he had the power. He took it back from the man, who for many years, manipulated his position of power.

Stacey’s experience of childhood sexual abuse is distinct from Peter’s, but the effects of living with such a secret are their common bond. When Stacey was growing up, she often stayed with her grandfather while her mom was working nights. What became an innocent relationship, of ate nights eating milk and cookies, quickly became a relationship of sexual abuse. A man who was supposed to be a trusting protector, was actually a predator, manipulating their relationship. She endured even more trauma and pain when Stacey’s mother’s boyfriend also began abusing her. It made her feel lost and hopeless.

Even after confiding to her mother, the abuse may have ended but the support she says she needed, was nowhere to be found. The effects of having these important male relationships being sexualized led to years of living promiscuously and destroying her self-esteem. Like Peter, Stacey also kept this part of her life secret for many years, but the journey to healing only began when she started sharing her story.

Secrets And Silence Feed The Suffering

No story of childhood sexual abuse is the same, but what remains constant is the fear of disclosing this secret and the feelings of being alone. Looking back, Stacey wished she would have had resources like peer support groups, because that normalizes the situation; you can see that you’re not alone. Peter echoed this view and said the key to healing is speaking with others.

Speaking out is no easy task and Stacey and Peter can certainly attest to that. Thirty years ago, the conversation about the scope of the problem was practically a whisper and speaking out seemed impossible. Fast forward to 2020 and it is still a scary feat, but the conversation is getting a bit louder. There is still so much to be done to prevent this crime and support the victims, but more support resources are emerging.

At Voice Found we understand and we are working hard to break the silence. Our Strength Found program responds to this, offering peer-led support to childhood sexual abuse survivors. This is a step to normalize this conversation and to help survivors in their healing journey.

1 in 5 boys and 1 in 3 girls will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. We believe that normalizing this conversation is the first step to changing these statistics. It’s not an easy discussion, but it is necessary to prevent our children from experiencing this crime. As Stacey so aptly said, “If it’s not me, it’s you or it’s definitely someone in the room.”

Our dearest thanks to:

Peter Hamer and Stacey Kirkpatrick for courageously sharing your stories
iSiLive for yet again delivering a stellar webcast
Quitters Coffee for graciously hosting our virtual event
Derick Fage for moderating the event and for taking interest in such an important topic
Cynthia Bland for putting her vision to life and creating support resources for survivors