Premier Christy Clark has made a very personal revelation in explaining why her government is supporting a Green Party proposal to set clear guidelines for sexual assault and misconduct at all post-secondary institutions in the province.
In an op-ed piece in today’s Vancouver Sun, Clark says she experienced first hand sexual advances by strangers that made her fear for her life.
She recounts an incident from 1978, when she was 13 years old.
“I remember the time a stranger pulled me off the sidewalk into the bushes. There was no doubt in my mind that he wanted to hurt me. I’ll never know what might have happened. What I do know is that I never told anyone about it.”
Clark says when the man loosened his grip for a moment, it gave her the chance to wriggle away, clamber a few feet forward and get out of the bush.
In an interview with Global News, she says the hardest part was the silence.
“I don’t think the story is the most important part of it, because I think so many women have been through something similar or worse than this… It’s that I never told anybody. That’s the part that really made me want to talk about it.”
Clark says the move isn’t about politics, and that she’s hoping to spark a conversation with her revelation.
“That to me was … Rapists, people who commit sexual violence, get cover because we don’t talk about these things, and I think we should. I think we have to.”
“I know so many women who have never talked about it, husbands and wives who sat down and read the paper who talked about it for the very first time in their lives.”
Clark says the bill is about changing the environment in which post-secondary students spend most of their time, and providing more support for victims of sexual assaults and sexual violence on college and university campuses.
“I wish I’d had the courage to say something then. I do now.”
Advocates for victims of sexual assault are quick to applaud Premier Christy Clark for speaking out about sexual violence.
Ryerson University coordinator of sexual violence education, Farrah Khan, says the Premier’s comments about getting flashed, groped , spied on and forced into a bush as a youth are all too common, and sometimes seen as the “price of being a woman”.
“I think what is important about Christy Clark’s article and about this issue is sexual violence isn’t just about rape, it is about the multitudes of ways in which our bodies are policed, in which we are touched without our consent, and which we are forced to feel unsafe in this world.”
Khan describes the Premier’s op-ed as “powerful” ; using her public platform to condemn sexual assault and encouraging survivors to come forward.
But while Premier Christy Clark’s words in an op-ed on her own traumatic experience in a sexually-motivated attack is drawing praise from some, it’s finding scepticism in others.
Hilla Kerner of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter says the premier has done nothing to help sexual assault survivors, and she says she’s hearing from survivors who are just as skeptical of the premier’s motives.
“They believe the story but they do not believe that she cares about women.”
“If you do care for women, do something.”
Kerner says Vancouver Rape Relief is “begging on the street every month with tin cans to get money” to operate, but has seen little to no action from Clark’s government.