A large part of my childhood was normal and, at times, really good. I was truly blessed to have been adopted by my parents and I’m so thankful they were gifted tolerance and patience by the Creator! Tapwa! (Truly! Very much!)
My parents divorced when I was about four. I’m sure there were all types of stuff going on but we, the children, never saw. I appreciate that our parents protected us from all that heavy relationship stuff. But my Mom was sad and we did move into a low-income housing project after the divorce, a tough place called Blanchard Court.
I was around five years old when we lived there. Things went along relatively smoothly for the next little while. For the most part, it wasn’t that terrible. My Mom was putting a life together for us and doing her best to heal from the pain of her divorce. She still inspires me when I think of how hard she worked to provide for my sister and me, plus she was going to school while being on welfare.
I remember my Mom had this tortilla maker she had brought back from Guatemala that we used to make tortillas with. It’s been at least 30 years since I’ve had one of them but I can still remember they were always really flakey and broke apart but they tasted amazing. That tortilla maker must have weighed 20 or 30 pounds. Talk about a heavy souvenir!
There were some things about Blanchard Court Courts that I don’t remember so fondly. I had two babysitters that I can remember. One was a teenager from our church. Maybe his name was Cameron? Or maybe he just looked like Kirk Cameron? I remember he did karate and he was cool.
Then there was another guy. I don’t remember his name but I remember his face. He wore glasses and had curly hair. I hated him. He did his best to rape me at Crystal Pool. I don’t know why he chose that place because it's so public. He’d pretend to be a shark or whatever and I’d run away having fun and pretending to be all scared. But one time he pulled down my shorts and tried to rape me. I’ll never forget he whispered in my ear, “Don’t tell anyone or I’ll kill your family.” I’ve spoken to many child abuse survivors since and I’ve found out this is a very common technique of predators. As far as I know, it’s a technique that works.
I don’t think he hurt me very badly or tried very many times. I’m thankful for that but I remember how scared I was, frantically trying to get away and being overpowered by someone much bigger than I was. But I mostly remember being scared for my Mom and my sister. And I remember feeling hate, probably for the first time.
It was a long time before I told anyone. I’m pretty sure I was too small for him to hurt me very badly but the shame was real and deep.
The shame that abuse victims carry causes so much damage. Many of my girlfriends have been abuse survivors. As men it is so important we do our best to try and educate our children about healthy relationships. We have to try and install that trust and safety so if a child is being hurt they are able to tell someone.
The shame that abuse victims carry causes so much damage.
I have the prison code pretty heavily etched into my morals now. I believe paedophiles should be dealt with swiftly and harshly but, as a spiritual person, I also understand that violence begets violence and, statistically, children who have been abused are more likely to abuse others. So all I can really say is we need to do all we can to protect our children and to help them to heal.
Sometimes a trauma can be so hard to acknowledge. The healing process can be really difficult to begin. You can go to counselling or attend ceremonies for a long time without really talking about or even acknowledging a specific hurt or trauma.
For me, Native American Church ceremonies helped me recognize and honour my hurts in a kind and gentle loving way. The first 3 or 4 ceremonies I went to I cried almost the whole night, even through to the morning. Tears streaming down my face the whole time.
One of the other things I remember about Blanchard Court were two other native kids I used to play with. Their names were Jake* and Stephanie.* (*not real names) I didn’t really know their story but I imagine it was a hard one, at least based on our behaviour. Stephanie and I used to sleep together a lot. I was about five and she was seven or so. Neither of us really knew what we were doing but from what I remember it was obvious someone was teaching her. Just remembering this stuff makes me so damn mad! What kind of person abuses little kids? No one. In my opinion, they’re not even human.
Jake and I had our own issues. Back in the 80s store clerks would sell kids cigarettes and give them lighters all the time. Jake and I started playing with fire and we progressed really quickly from lighting newspaper on fire to wood chips and then it got out of hand. I remember one time we set the field at SJ Willis Secondary School on fire. Since it was summertime the grass was long and bone dry; it got out of hand. Quick.
My Mom, sister and I soon moved out of Blanchard Court and into a beautiful little heritage house across the street from where my sister and I went to school.
I eventually ran into Jake years later. It was pretty awkward. He was on probation or something at the time but overall seemed to be doing OK. His sister was dating the leader of a native gang but they were both doing OK which was good to hear.