Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stories of Sexual Abuse Surface in Attawapiskat


Iahtail said she was sexually abused as a child from the age of four to 13 by four people she trusted, including relatives of some council members. She said her story is not unique in Attawapiskat, where incest and sexual abuse are endemic and span generations.

"Attawapiskat is just a small representation of what's happening at our aboriginal communities across Canada," she said.


She said the reasons people remain silent in small, tight-knit aboriginal communities are myriad: "Fear, retaliation are the very reasons why no one will stand up today," Iahtail said.

"For people who actually stand up there is grave retaliation, their chances of accessing housing, education funding, medical services, advocacy are few and far between because there is retaliation that takes place by our local government."


The scars on the community are obvious, Iahtail says: suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, gas sniffing and violence are mere symptoms. Indeed, while abuse may be less visible than squalid shacks and poor housing, it also insidious and destructive.


According to some estimates, the level of abuse in aboriginal communities is staggering.

"Sexual violence and sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities affect 75 to 80 per cent of our girls and women," said social worker Sylvia Maracle, from the Ontario Federation of Friendship Centres.

Among non-aboriginal girls and women the rate is closer to 20 per cent.