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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Tripping triggers

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Jul 17, 2020

My newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram have been flooded with testimonies of women, men and non-binary people publicly calling out their abusers. Just like the Me Too movement in 2006 and 2017, survivors have been using social-media platforms to share their stories and seek support. In just a few days, numerous tattoo artists, musicians, singers and public figures in Montreal and Quebec City were outed for their sexual misconducts. 

The past few days have been rough for me. Not only because I saw a lot of people I know and trusted facing allegations, but also because prior to my sobriety, my life was pretty much a long series of sad events in which I was a victim of sexual misconduct.

I know we sometimes struggle to collectively talk about it in our communities, but occasionally I think we should have a dialogue about healthy relationships outside of crisis situations or when we talk about residential schools. Those conversations can protect our youth, give them the right tools to establish their own boundaries and even save lives. Learning how to process and name everything that I experienced set me free and only then I was able to start my healing process.

The only instruction about consent in elementary school was a short video in which a young girl would sing something like: “My body is my body and it is not yours. You have yours, so let me mine.” The video then discussed having your period. That’s pretty much all I remember. 

They never taught me how to feel confident about saying “No”, how to discuss my boundaries or that I could set boundaries in general. They did not teach young boys not to insist if a girl says “No” or manipulate them into saying “Yes”. Only after it was too late was I taught that consent is freely given, reversible, informed (not drunk), enthusiastic and specific. I know it’s common for men to say that it apparently kills the mood and that argument shows how we don’t put the right resources for youth out there to learn what is right. 

The recent wave of testimonies and allegations did trip its fair share of triggers for me, but they also brought closure. Many men who did me wrong reached out to apologize for what they did. That’s also something we should teach more and normalize – introspection, saying sorry and growth. 

A lot of our youth lack the proper communications skills to do so. If not taught at home, they should learn it in school or through community initiatives. We already have programs in place that we could strengthen at both the local and regional level. I believe people can change when they seek help and that’s why we should never give up on educating our children.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.