Tawla Jaad —
“Raise your hand if you or someone close to you has ever been abused,” J.R. LaRose asks the crowd. Nearly everyone raises their hand.
Each week, on average, 1,000 attacks on women in BC and fifty per cent of all Canadian women will experience sexual, physical or emotional abuse in their lifetime. One in three women will fall victim to sexual assault and each year over 800,000 Canadian children witness abuse. “These numbers don’t lie,” announced LaRose, former BC Lions football player, a motivational speaker and advocate for women
On May 29, LaRose presented Be More than a Bystander at the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay. This was his last stop on Haida Gwaii, having spoken to high school students earlier in the week. Be More than a Bystander, is an organization that educates students and adults to take a stand and intervene when it comes to violence or abuse towards women. The event was facilitated by the Gwaay.yaay Guudang.ngaay Hltaanawa Island Wellness Society and guests were welcomed by Bonnie Olson, Outreach Services for Women & Families Experiencing Violence.
Hltaaxuulang Guud Ad K’aajuu opened the evening with the men and women’s dances and welcomed audience members to the floor. In only a few minutes the floor was packed with high energy and enthusiasm, and the dances set a positive tone for the evening.
Before LaRose began, it was made clear that we were all here in a ‘safe space’, and if the discussion triggered emotions there were counselors standing by.
LaRose is a member of the One Arrow First Nation in Saskatchewan, and is of Cree and Nigerian descent. He describes himself as growing up with anger. This is a result of seeing his mother and sister being abused and he was abused also. In high school, the principal persuaded him to join the football team to channel his anger in a positive way. LaRose described his relationship with football as “love at first sight” and he went on to make a career of it. From 2005-2009 he played for the Edmonton Eskimos and from 2010-2015 with the BC Lions earning a Grey Cup championship in 2011.
Since retiring from the game last year, LaRose has more time to promote Be More than a Bystander. The program has been running for five years and includes half of the current BC Lions’ team as well as coaches and other allies.
LaRose described growing up in a “broken home”. His mother had spent her childhood in the residential school system and had turned to drugs and alcohol to cope when he was a child. LaRose heartbreakingly recounts seeing his mother and sister abused and how the anger, humiliation and loss of self-worth that stemmed from residential schools was working its way through the generations of his family. His older sister was on the streets at 12 years old, a prostitute at 14, involved in gangs at 16 and in prison by 18.
Tired and angered of witnessing women he loved being mistreated is the origin of his involvement in the program. “Caring deeply is not enough,” he said, and went on to say that the news we constantly hear about campus rape, missing and murdered, sexual assaults, catcalling, etc. does affect women, but does nothing to change things. Little things like asking a girl if she is okay, giving a friend a ride home, intervening when someone is unable to give consent, these are acts that will change the statistics and ultimately help women said LaRose.
For more information on Be More than a Bystander: www.endingviolence.org
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or any form of abuse:
Guudang.ngaay Tl’aats’iiga Strong Minds (Skidegate Health Centre)
Janet Rigg – Family and Youth Counsellor
Kindu Aus Sue Gladstone – Wellness counsellor
Island Wellness Society www.islandwellnesssociety.com
Is based in Queen Charlotte which provides counselling programs to women, children and families to overcome trauma and abuse and promote empowerment.
Bonnie Olson (Outreach Services for Women & Families Experiencing Violence, at IWS), she can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
250.637.1500 (cell) Bonnie is available for crisis call outs after hours.
A program established by the Island Wellness Society which aids in counselling victims of any form of violence or abuse, and can assist in legal action and navigating the court system.
Women’s Counselling Program
For women who have been impacted by violence/abuse in any way. This program promotes women counselling women, based on feminism and the strength and importance of women in our society.
Child and Youth Counselling, CWWA (Children Who Witness Abuse)
This program aids in breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse and the trauma/addiction that often follows.
All programs are completely confidential and free of charge.