Nunavut needs more women in power to help tackle sexual abuse

Jana Angulalik grew up with sexual abuse, and credits the women in her life with helping her heal. That, she writes, is why Nunavut needs more female elected representatives.

WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse

With the Nunavut election looming, Jana Angulalik says now is the time to talk about the need for powerful and compassionate female leaders. (Submitted)

Inuinnauyunga: I am Inuk. Arnauyunga: I am a female.

Because I am an Indigenous female, I am more likely to be beaten, raped or murdered than non-Indigenous females.

Why is that? Do we support our females enough?

Have we disregarded the value of our strong women who carry the weight of their families on their backs? Why is it that in just a few generations, we have forgotten the importance of having both female and males equally valued?

With two Inuit women running to represent Cambridge Bay as MLA in the Nunavut election on Oct. 30, I think now is the time to talk about why it's important to have female representation in our Legislative Assembly.

I was raised in Ikaluktutiak, Nunavut, now Cambridge Bay, by my single mother who passed down the beatings and abuse she learned when she attended residential school in Inuvik.

My trauma began as an innocent baby in the form of sexual abuse — sometimes violated by my own cousin as well as brothers of babysitters, all while my mother was numbing her pain with a bottle of Bacardi.

This lifestyle my mother lived led us to be taken away by social services and put into a group home where I was once again raped.

I was taken behind a couch by a teenage boy. I was only four years old. I remember his hands covering my mouth, and the weight of his body smothering mine. I remember tuning out and closing my eyes and he forced himself on me. I was supposed to be safe there, wasn't I?

My story is not unique. My body isn't the only one that has been violated and literally stripped of innocence. I am not alone. I am far too familiar with that glassy-eyed, zombied-out look that I see in far too many young Inuit girls. It's the look I carried for far too long: afraid, violated, timid and distant.

For many years I self-medicated, with alcohol binges leaving me once again vulnerable to men. I numbed my pain with so much marijuana that I forgot what it was like to be sober, to feel, to remember.

It led me further down the dark path I had been trying to avoid.

Today, I am not a victim but a warrior, because women have the compassion and support that I need to get through life's ups and downs.

I'm lucky to have a mother who knows the importance of her healing journey and continues to allow me to share her story so that others her age may one day begin their healing journey.

My relationship with her has grown stronger since we've opened up our wounds and shed what does not belong to us. Together, we are stronger.

As women, we should be empowering one another, loving each other and building strong sisterhoods of love and support. This is how our people will heal.

These mountains we have carried, we were only supposed to climb.

With only 17 women running out of 72 candidates in this election, you can see the huge need for female representation.

We need more powerful and compassionate women, but first we have to ensure our girls are safe and strong.

This election, let's vote with our hearts as well as our heads, and make sure that women have a strong voice in our government.

Jana Angulalik is a freelance contributor. She lives in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.