Sexual abuse a root cause of indigenous suicide crisis: Aglukark - APTN NewsAPTN News

Sexual abuse a root cause of indigenous suicide crisis: Aglukark

(Photo courtesy Susan Aglukark)

The Canadian Press
Some nights, Susan Aglukark still wakes up drenched in sweat.

It’s been 42 years since the acclaimed Inuk singer endured sexual abuse, including being photographed naked, as an eight-year-old girl living in remote Rankin Inlet – a trauma from which she now considers herself about 80 per cent healed.

The rest, she knows, will never be completely gone.

“I’ll always have triggers,” Aglukark, 50, said in an interview. “Being photographed is a trigger.”

She also knows that as a sexual abuse survivor in the Indigenous community, she is far from alone.

Such abuse is a “dehumanizing and demoralizing” root cause of the youth suicide crisis that has been ravaging remote northern outposts in recent years, such as the Attawapiskat and Wapekeka First Nations in northern Ontario.

“There is a very vicious cycle in our communities right now, all from the residential school era,” Aglukark said. “My abuser himself was abused in residential school.”

That abuser, whose identity she didn’t want to disclose, was convicted in 1990 after Aglukark and a group of other victims decided to pursue charges.

Not all of them do. Victims who spoke to The Canadian Press for a series of stories about the links between generational abuse and residential schools described being wary of coming forward for fear of isolation, family shame and reprisals.

Aglukark recalled how uncomfortable she felt telling a police officer what happened.

“That was probably the greatest trauma for me, having to sit there with this emotional fear in my head and in my heart and repaint this incident with this completely strange man I didn’t know,” she said.

“That scared me more than going to court.”

Once her attacker was convicted, she found little relief beyond knowing he’d be unable to victimize anyone else while behind bars. She also felt humiliated, she said: “The whole town knows this was done to you.”

Aglukark’s own healing came through music – specifically, with the release of her 1992 album “Arctic Rose,” in which she lets listeners in on her pain.

The response to the album was overwhelming, she said; nightly performances turned into a form of therapy where she sang about her own trauma onstage and heard stories from other victims after the show.

At times, the emotional burden became too much.

“That was the thing that scared me the most, we started and opened this can of worms,” she said. “’Now what?’ That’s the thing that kept me up at night.”

It’s also what ultimately kept her going in October 1998 after she spent three hours crying in a van outside a recording studio – a moment she described as a very dark place in her life, despite her success and critical acclaim.

“In that moment I realized I love my life,” Aglukark said.

“It was more or less loving the journey I am on … glimpse of that life was me as whole and healed enough as I can be … that meant going back to that following, that can of worms … opened up with ‘Arctic Rose’.”

Since then, Aglukark has given herself space to heal in small stages.

She’s currently working on a new venture working with Indigenous children, the Arctic Rose Project, and is in the midst of recording a new album.

Aglukark said she hopes Indigenous people will have the courage to allow all victims _ as well as those who became perpetrators _ to be part of a recovery process moving forward.

“The longer we wait, the more we are going to have suicides,” she said. “The cycle of abuse is not going to change if we don’t act now.”

news@aptn.ca

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23 Responses to “Sexual abuse a root cause of indigenous suicide crisis: Aglukark”

  1. roger_ellis1985@yahoo.com'
    Roger March 7, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    Susan
    It takes allota courage to admit this horrible incident as a child & survivor to share this & muhsi cho for sharing your story & i admire ur courage !!
    Ur a great role model to those that need ur support to release this horrible tragedy & move on
    I am a residential survivor too & understand this horrible tragedy & now I hav moved on & helping other survivors now
    I luv ur songs & met u when u were here in Whitehorse Yukon doing a great performance

  2. authobeaellemcy@gmail.com'
    Bea Ellemcy February 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

    I feel for all survivors who have commented on Susan’s courage and agree that it is an extremely difficult and misunderstood subject. I was encouraged by my siblings to write on our traumatic experiences and they all gave me input for my book-except my brother who gave me the go-ahead but said he had ‘blocked his mind’ to those events in our childhood. I turned it into a novel based on fact as the amount of input was understandably hurtful to relate-but when one sibling read their versions she hugged me and said that is how it was. Sadly she and another sibling “stuck their head in the sand again and didn’t ant to talk about it…” which hurt and confused me. My consolation will be when the words ‘sexual abuse’ is archaic through (also) many men having read my book Chasing Rainbows-a book of inspiration and advice for all adults.

  3. shirleyannemacthee@hotmail.com'
    shirley February 10, 2017 at 2:05 am #

    I’m a survivor,one of the reasons,why,I have been suicidal,am 60 and not so long ago,I still had triggers,that leave me,with no other way,today,I still want to reach out for help and have trouble doing it,even after 7yrs of therapy and 5 yrs of it,dealing with anger,I need to recondition my mind that I am no longer a victim,,sad but ran into traditional abusers,who took advantage of my situation and put me,back into a state of mind,where it all happened again,where does one really turn to,,,,

  4. Sharonketlo@hotmail.com'
    Sharon Ketlo February 10, 2017 at 1:31 am #

    Thanks Susan for putting your name out in the open for such a dirty filthy subject that is so hard to talk about.The shame alone is unbearable that you really don’t want to talk about it let alone link your name with it.At least I still have a hard time talking admitting or acknowledgin it really happened to me.I m geting help with my past on a healing journey.Sometimes I want walk away from it,run.

  5. S.kirby@uwinnipeg.ca'
    Sandi February 8, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    Thank you Susan. There are many others to stand with you in this effort to end such violence – eg I work to end intended harms in sport- including sexual abuse.
    Together we are stronger.
    Be well.
    Sandi

  6. Tastow@telus.net'
    Terry-Ann February 7, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

    This is so true, I heard a lot of these stories when I volunteered for a Sexual Abuse Consultant. Plus I feel her pain being a survivor myself.

  7. mitchellvalerie@hotmail.com'
    valerie mitchell February 7, 2017 at 5:04 am #

    Thank you, Susan. You have shown such courage and honesty. I cannot imagine what it was like for you to experience being abused and then feel humiliation when you spoke your truth and broke the cycle of abuse. Thank you for sharing your journey through your words and actions and music. It gives hope to see you now, so strong and beautiful and planted firmly. Thank you.

  8. Nadine_mcspadden@hotmail.com'
    Nadine February 7, 2017 at 3:59 am #

    Why is it so hard for victims to come forward? I can tell you why. Victims are put into foster care while the abusers are allowed to stay in their communities. Foster care homes are often outside the communities. So not only are victims abused, they are pushed outside their communities. This has to change.

  9. Qaumagun@yahoo.com'
    Survivor February 7, 2017 at 1:14 am #

    I am touched by your courage to heal rather than deny for the sake of appearances and disclosure. I find that as a survivor of sexual abuse while i have sought counseling i still am unable to talk about it openly to others. My abuser was my father and this has affected my life tremendously. My healing has come from the Lord and talking with counselors.

  10. Pamstellick@gmail.com'
    Pam February 6, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

    I worked for swveral years at an Inuit specific trauma and addictions treatment center and saw the impacts of childhood sexual abuse on many of the program participants. The link between experinces of childhood sexual abuse and suicide attempts and suicidal ideology was very clear. There is a lot of good work that can be done in the school systems in the North to support and educate children on what is abuse and creating a culture of support so kids can speak up and get help.

  11. donnacs5@hotmail.com'
    Donna February 6, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    I admire you Susan; God bless you in your healing.

  12. Jaimemolan@outlook.com'
    Jai Nolan February 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    Such a woman of courage, thank you for sharing your story to help others.

  13. patricia.scow@gmail.com'
    Pat Scow February 6, 2017 at 5:42 am #

    My heart goes out to all the sexually abused. I am from a “White Privilege” background and at that it is difficult enough to deal with all the agonies and ramifications of having been sexually abused as a child. The “secret” and all the shame that goes with it leads many to the feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness of continuing with the “secret”. By getting the word out there so all that are suffering can know that they are not alone and that by having the truth be told can lead to healing and feelings of joy and worth. It is not an easy road, lots of relived pain but with a difference … no longer alone in your suffering … there are support groups and other programs available … seek them out and start your healing process.

  14. roxscow@gmail.com'
    Pat Scow February 6, 2017 at 5:36 am #

    My heart goes out to all the sexually abused. I am from a “White Privilege” background and at that it is difficult enough to deal with all the agonies and ramifications of having been sexually abused as a child. The “secret” and all the shame that goes with it leads many to the feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness of continuing with the “secret”. By getting the word out there so all that are suffering can know that they are not alone and that by having the truth be told can lead to healing and feelings of joy and worth. It is not an easy road, lots of relived pain but with a difference … no longer alone in your suffering … there are support groups and other programs available … seek them out and start your healing process. You are WORTH it.

  15. natalie.gibson6@gmail.com'
    Natalie February 6, 2017 at 4:27 am #

    I am sorry for your trauma. But, your ability to shine light on darkness through your perseverance and music is a gift that will help so many, and hopefully let you continue to heal.

  16. moorekeatsmary123@gmail.com'
    mary moore February 6, 2017 at 4:14 am #

    Thanks for sharing this. It takes courage to go public and gives others hope in healing,whether they choose to press charges or not .

  17. Lotseveryanyhere@gmail.com'
    Lee February 6, 2017 at 2:46 am #

    God bless her. Yes, people need to open the discussion of these kinds of things happening to change it now and forever.

  18. askbud@ymail.com'
    Bud Logan February 6, 2017 at 1:30 am #

    You are such a strong women Susan, by coming forward about your abuse and speaking out about it can bring strength to other young people who are suffering. There is this cycle of abuse that runs strong but voices like yours can help stop the abuse. When l met you in Campbell River 21 yrs ago, l was very impressed with your generosity with the people of your village and the humble pride you had
    , you have a good heart. Bud Logan, formally a member of the box of treasures dance troupe.

  19. drichmond1@shaw.ca'
    diane Richmobd February 6, 2017 at 12:56 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing your story I know it will help many, I feel the same way I was abuse also as a young girl, and I know we carry that with us for a long time until we deal with it.

    Having the perpetrator to be part of the process would be powerful, my abuser had died.

    I heard you speak at a conference I was at years ago, and you spoke I admired your so much for speaking, I asked you to sign a little drum that I carry when travelling.

  20. lawsonrobyn@hotmail.com'
    Robyn February 5, 2017 at 11:23 pm #

    This is a terribly sad and destructive consequence of colonization. It is a symptom of the deepest issues that tore Indigenous families and communities apart decades ago and in all the decades since. Yes, let’s bring all these issues out for the healing to begin in real and far wider ways. How about that for a #Canada150 project?

  21. Krarson@gmail.com'
    Kristine February 5, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

    Thank you Susan. You personify courage.

  22. msdorishayden@gmail.com'
    Doris E Hayden February 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

    Thank you for coming forward with the abuse. By doing so will encourage others to do the same. I think abusers count on the victim being silent due to shame, and fear. Your courage will help others!

  23. Robertrotondo@hotmail.com'
    Robert February 5, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    Susan,
    I have great admiration for your strength and courage. What you had to endure as an innocent child is terrible and breaks my heart. Your story, unfortunately is not the only one, not only in your community but globally. By speaking out you are empowering others to rise up against the pain and hurt that innocents have endured at the hands of people that are quite often known and trusted by them. It is my hope that your story will help to raise awareness and help to stop these heinous acts from happening to others.

    Bless,
    Robert