Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Precious lessons from, and for, our daughters

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Nitanis -- my daughter -- has been on my mind lately. She's almost two years old now.

She makes me see just how precious girls are; how they need so much love and protection. But even when you do all you can, you can't control everything.

We call it getting "bothered." Other people call it sexual assault or sexual abuse. It's not just the bogeymen of the world I worry about; it's the people I know, too.

Back when I was a young girl, a few people tried to take advantage of me.

One guy was my dad's friend. He dropped by one summer day when I was home alone.

I was sitting on the back steps of our old house in Bissett, reading my book. My parents were gone to Manigotagan. It was hot, so I was wearing shorts and a tank top. I had lit up a menthol cigarette pilfered from my mom's pack and was sipping a cup of tea. I felt very grown-up. I was 13.

I was so into my book, I didn't notice the guy until he said something.

He was drunk. I could smell him from five feet away. I wasn't too concerned. He was looking for my dad and I'd known him all my life.

I said my parents were out of town, which was probably my biggest mistake. He asked for some water, so I went inside to get him some. That was my second mistake. My only worry was that he'd tell my parents I was smoking.

I turned around and he was already inside the house. I got a little nervous then because I noticed he was looking me over like I was some kind of chicken dinner.

He drank his water and tried making jokes with me, smiling and moving closer. I didn't like this, so I decided it would be better to be outside alone with him than inside. I tried to get past him but he tried blocking the doorway. He thought this was hilarious.

He joked that we should wrestle. Then he grabbed me in what was supposed to be some kind of hug. He was strong and sweaty, but I wiggled out of his grasp. I think he was trying to kiss me. It was gross.

I pulled away, and then he grabbed one of my breasts. I was horrified. Nobody had ever touched my "boob" ever. I was also terrified.

But I knew I couldn't let him see I was scared of him. I pushed his hand away and gave him the angriest look I could muster.

It seemed like forever that he stared at me without moving. Then he finally decided to go.

Nitanis, my daughter, I hope you'll never have to deal with situations such as that or anything as bad as what some of my friends and relatives have been through.

To this day, I never told my parents what that guy did. But an email from a reader last week made me realize you need to tell some stories even when they are embarrassing.

It's those stories that let others know they aren't alone.

-- -- --

Over the years, I've thought deeply about how these situations affected me and others I know. I've been lucky, remaining virtually unscathed over the years. But sexual abuse is too common in our communities and so is the silence around it.

It's why some of our girls "go bad" or even worse.

This abuse that goes on unchecked is one of the many ways aboriginal girls are groomed to become victims. It's part of why we are abused and murdered more frequently than any other ethnic group in Canada.

Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer

colleen.simard@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 A11

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