N.S. victim of child sex abuse hopes to help other survivors
Kayce is giving survivors a chance to share their voices through a university research project
WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.
They called him only "the boy" and forbade him to speak.
Abandoned to strangers by his biological mother as a child, he recalls being trafficked from home to home in Nova Scotia and the horrific sexual abuse that ensued.
For years it was a secret the man suppressed — but now he's reclaiming the voice he was once forbidden to use. As an adult, he is giving survivors a chance to share their stories through a university research project to help boys and men who feel alone in their suffering.
"Here was something that has been carried with me since I was a child, something that has kept me awake at night, and something that I have to get off my chest in order to be able to heal and help other people through their healing process," the man said in a recent interview.
CBC News has agreed to refer to him by the pseudonym Kayce in order to protect his identity as a survivor of child sex trafficking.
Kayce says he was five years old when he was given to the strangers, whom he describes as an elderly couple.
"My mom, she left, and they locked the door and they said these words I will never forget. They said, 'You're ours now,'" he said.
Kayce says the abuse began immediately. He was not permitted to speak and believes the couple refused to call him by name to dissociate from their actions.
"Looking back and having gone through therapy and doing my own research, the reason why they would use the term 'boy' or any other word that was different from my actual name was because by using someone's name, it actually makes the person real; it connects you to humanity," said Kayce, now a master's student at Royal Roads University in Victoria studying global leadership.
"But by distinguishing you, by using a term other than an actual person, allows them to be able to not have a heavy conscience on what they're doing to me."
Trafficked for 2½ months
The ordeal lasted around 2½ months, during which time Kayce says the couple trafficked him to various homes and barns in Cumberland and Colchester counties where "you never knew what to expect."
Over time, Kayce says he refused "to perform," despite the beating he knew awaited him as punishment for his defiance. He says the couple threatened to send him to New Brunswick where he would never be seen or heard from again.
When the couple left him alone at home one day, Kayce says he howled for help from children he could hear playing outside. The children came and saw Kayce locked in the cage, but they explained they would return when their mother came home.
In the meantime, they gave Kayce some candy and a chocolate bar — a small act of kindness. When the couple returned home, they discovered a wrapper inside the cage.
"They looked at each other and started to cry," he said. "Looking back, I realized it's because they didn't know who gave me that chocolate wrapper and someone had found me in that cage."
He remembers a flurry of phone calls and being sent quickly to another home in Truro, N.S. He was eventually returned to his mother.
"My main message would be that the things in your life that you're trying to hide are the same things that can actually set you free," he said.
"Here I was hiding the chocolate bar wrapper because I didn't want to get beaten — and that chocolate bar wrapper ended up saving my life."
Focusing energy on helping others
In 2019, Kayce approached the Nova Scotia RCMP about his case and made an audio statement of his allegations. CBC News has reviewed his statement, which documents the extent of the abuse.
Kayce later decided not to proceed criminally. He says police discouraged him from pursuing the matter because the alleged abuse happened so long ago and some of the people he accuses of being involved have since died. But Kayce says his greatest fear was that his estranged mother could go to jail or prison.
Instead, Kayce says he chose to focus his energy on healing and helping others.
He has openly shared his story with his class and his professor, Wanda Krause.
"I'm super impressed by his bravery and his courage to speak to his experience and speak on behalf of the many others who are not ready to talk, if they ever will be, because it's such a heinous, huge challenge in crime," said Krause.
"I think because there's such a scarcity in the area and research he's doing, I think it's going to really shake things up and hopefully move mountains."
For 2020, the latest year for which data is available, Nova Scotia had the highest rates of human trafficking among Canadian provinces.
Sexual assault therapist Margaret Mauger of the After Trauma Empowerment Network in Shubenacadie, N.S., says the numbers don't tell the whole story.
"It's challenging to know really what kind of numbers we're dealing with when it comes to human trafficking," she said.
"Some people have experienced it, but don't know that's what it's called. Some people are in it right now and don't know because of the manipulation and grooming that happens."
Mauger says she believes there are more men out there suffering but who are less apt to come forward, and that's why Kayce's story is so important to share.
"Not having a male voice or a male reference for male survivors further isolates," she said.
Kayce says child sex trafficking can happen anywhere, any time. He remains haunted by the memory of another boy trapped in a cage while he was being held in a building, and wonders what became of him.
"This type of violence is happening right next door," says Kayce. "It would blow your mind."
In the coming months, Kayce will fully embark on his research study and is hoping male survivors living in Nova Scotia who have faced similar trauma will come forward and share their stories.
In the meantime, he says he has been working on letting go of his past and the anger that once consumed him.
He has a message to those who harmed him.
"I want to say I forgive you," he says. "The main thing I need you to do is I want you to forgive yourself. I want you to heal."
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
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