Indigenous

Kahnawake holds healing walk for sexual assault survivors

Dozens of community members took to the streets of Kahnawake, Que. Thursday evening to send a message to sexual assault survivors in the Mohawk community that they’re believed and supported.

Walk was organized in the wake of sexual assault allegations shared anonymously via Twitter

Dozen of community members participated in a walk to support sexual assault survivors in Kahnawake, Que on July 6, 2020. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

Dozens of community members took to the streets of Kahnawake, Que., Thursday evening to send a message to sexual assault survivors in the Mohawk community that they're believed and supported.

"We're stopping the cycle of expressing our trauma in a negative way and are actually starting to heal ourselves, and unapologetically taking care of ourselves," said Wakenhnhiióhstha Montour.

Montour, a 26-year-old sexual assault survivor, was one of the many young women who helped organized the walk in the wake of dozens of allegations made on social media over the last two weeks in Kahnawake and Akwesasne via anonymous Twitter accounts. While the original accounts were removed last week, another has since been created.

"No matter what age it happened to you at, your story is valid," said Montour. 

"How you feel is valid; it doesn't matter how they feel. It's about how you feel about your body, your happiness. Don't for one second let anybody put your story down.

Wakenhnhiióhstha Montour is one of many young women in Kahnawake, Que. who helped organize the walk. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

"We're here to let everybody know the message we're all here together, we're all here to help each other and don't ever feel afraid. We're not going to stop this work of self-help and healing among our community."

For Donna McComber, participating in the walk was a way to support her family, some of whom shared their stories through the anonymous Twitter accounts. 

"We have to help each other carry it so no one carries it themselves. That's the biggest priority is knowing that they're not alone," she said.

"The whole thing is about is asking for help, and getting help because we have the resources. It's not anything to be ashamed about. The most important thing to remember is that it was not your fault."

Donna McComber was among the dozens of community members who participated in the walk. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

That sentiment was carried by many of the women who shared their own stories and journey to heal at a rally following the walk. Lindsay Thomas said she spoke to let community members who aren't ready to come forward with their stories know that it's OK.

"It doesn't make you any less strong," she said.

"It's through this [movement] that I managed to find the strength to give others strength. We all have the goal to be happy in life and if I can help someone's journey just a little bit then that's a risk I'm willing to take."

Lindsay Thomas was one of the many women who shared their experiences with sexual assault and healing following Thursday's walk. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

Thomas shared her experience with 12 years of counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy to deal with depression, guilt, shame, and anxiety experienced as a result of years of sexual abuse.

"It was something I really needed to do because all I thought was I'm ugly, I'm worthless, I don't deserve happiness. These were things I made myself believe," said Thomas.

"For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me, and I just want you to know that if you're feeling any of those things, you're not alone."

About the Author

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.

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