'Holding Hope': Survivor spearheads efforts to raise awareness around childhood sexual abuse

·2 min read
Sarah Labadie created Holding Hope Saskatchewan to educate others about child sex abuse.  ( Submitted by Sarah Labadie - image credit)
Sarah Labadie created Holding Hope Saskatchewan to educate others about child sex abuse. ( Submitted by Sarah Labadie - image credit)

Sarah Labadie found out her sexual abuse wasn't normal after watching an episode of a television series.

She was abused as a child, but was told by the perpetrator that what was happening was normal — and she shouldn't tell anyone.

"I was told to keep it a secret, and I did because...when you're a kid, you're told adults are always right. Listen to adults, no matter what," she said.

She was 11 or 12 years old when she watched that series, when she saw something similar to what she was going through happen and realize the abuse was not normal, but rather criminal.

Now, Labadie is speaking out and educating others about the signs and symptoms of child sex abuse, as the creator of a community group called Holding Hope Saskatchewan.

This week, Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan is running a campaign called Champions for Children.

The goal of the campaign is to create a culture of belief around sexual abuse. It takes a child seven times to speak about their abuse before someone believes them, Kerrie Isaac, the organization's executive director said.

"It's just about educating the community, caregivers on the realities of sexual abuse, raising awareness for the signs and behaviours," she said, and added the organization's goal is to empower caregivers to create safe spaces for children to come forward.

Isaac said signs of childhood sexual abuse include increased anger and aggression, children being withdrawn, eating problems, avoidance, anxiety, depression, fear and shame. Physical signs include bruising and cutting.

Labadie said it's not an uncommon issue — one in three children experience childhood abuse.

Last month, she planted 764 blue pinwheels in front of Regina's city hall. Each pinwheel represented 100 people in the city who have or will experience childhood abuse, she said.

Sarah Labadie placed pinwheels in front of City Hall to honour victims of child sex abuse.
Sarah Labadie placed pinwheels in front of City Hall to honour victims of child sex abuse. (Submitted by Sarah Labadie)

"Those pinwheels, you know, just create a childlike whimsy feeling. And it was just a reminder of the childhoods we want for all people and [it] just served to honour survivors," she said.

Labadie said that sharing her story and helping others has been healing for her.

"Even if you hadn't said something right when it happened, or it's been 10 decades, however long, it's still OK to talk about, you still deserve help. So I've seen a lot of other people, realize that and start to share their experiences," she said.

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