'There are people who care'Native Women's Association marks Victims and Survivors of Crime Week with sharing circle
Northern News Services
Updated: Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Despite growing up in a world of abuse at residential school, Marie Speakman says she strives to do good for herself and others.
Marie Speakman, left, and Yvonne Doolittle take a moment at a sharing circle organized by the Native Women's Association of the NWT on May 31. Speakman, a longtime victim service worker and advocate for victims of crime and violence, organized the event as part of Victims and Survivors of Crime week, which wrapped up June 3. - Emelie Peacock/NNSL photo
"You get knocked down but you come out," she said.
This is what Marie Speakman had this in mind when she organized a sharing circle last week for women who have been victims of violence and crime in honour of National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week.
The event came with a theme of empowering resilience.
Sitting in a wide circle, many wrapped in blue blankets, the women took turns speaking about their experiences with violence and crime.
Parts of their stories were echoed by others in the room.
They spoke of abuse starting at a young age, with some turning to addiction to cope, which put them in danger of further abuse.
Many shared family stories of inter-generational trauma and of facing indifference from police and other agencies when turning to them for help.
Finally, they spoke of a daily resolve to not resort to anger or harmful ways of coping and working toward forgiveness of those who had harmed them.
Cecilia Wood spoke of the difficulty building enough trust in people to ask for help after experiencing the violent death of members of her family.
"There's resources out there but when you're shy, you don't want to talk," she said. "You don't want to share again, talk about it, it's like you're getting victimized again because you're sharing and talking."
Wood said nothing helped ease her suffering until she found a relationship with God, allowing her to forgive the person who had victimized her.
She said speaking in groups like the sharing circle is cathartic and important for survivors to find comfort and connection.
"There is hope, there are resources out there, there are people that care," she said.
Yvonne Doolittle, guest speaker at the sharing circle, agreed with Wood's assertion that people who have been victimized tend to have a hard time reaching out.
"They're not going to be willing to come out and do anything," she said. "You'll see that they'll want to stay in their shadow, or I call it the darkness."
Being a friend, encouraging good habits and helping to see the beauty of each day are some things people can do to support friends and loved ones who have experienced violence, according to Doolittle.
"I think laughter and fun is really important too," she said. "It doesn't always have to be the heavy healing, pillow-pounding kind of stuff."
A Statistics Canada report notes crime rates decreased by 29 per cent in the NWT from 2009 to 2014 but they are still almost twice as high as those recorded in the provinces.
The report also found one-third of territorial residents experienced violence during their childhood, either being victimized physically or sexually.
Older residents were more likely to be victims of mistreatment in childhood than younger residents.
Those who were victimized as children were more likely to be re-victimized again as adults.
The report stated while spousal abuse rates had decreased in the provinces, it had not changed since 2009 in the territories.
More than one in 10 residents with a spouse, common law partner, ex-partner or ex-spouse reported they had been victims of this type of violence in the past five years.