Melissa Ridgen, Brittany Guyot
A Saskatoon woman who works with families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls says she’s inundated with calls from mothers who are at their wit’s end trying to protect daughters from Indigenous male leaders creeping them online.
Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, with the group Women Talking Together, says the problem isn’t new, but it’s everywhere.
“It’s really embarrassing to know that people are being bamboozled all around the country by a lot of political leaders,” said Okemaysim-Sicotte.
“I’m seeing that they’re men in positions of power, and sometimes women in power.”
It’s not always overt or obscene.
It’s often an older male with power being incessantly friendly with young women who don’t want to be seen as rude by telling them to go away.
Okemaysim-Sicotte says it can be a balancing act for women who are just being polite and friendly.
“I think it’s a real crime on its own because they’re having to endure this privately and maybe they’re feeling shame that this is happening and they don’t know how to stop the situation,” said Okemaysim-Sicotte.
Tasha Beeds is the chair of Indigenous studies at the University of Sudbury.
She recently called out predators and their defenders, in a social media warning.
“There’s a shift in the Indigenous universe,” she said.
Beeds said people are beginning to stand up and speak out.
The post blasted “predators: the ones consciously harming and hunting. You know who you are” and “enablers: the ones helping predators to harm. You know who you are” telling them the “Indigenous universe is shifting. It sees you as it always has except it’s done waiting for you to change.”
Her post has been shared 241 times.
Beeds said the floodgates are poised to open with women coming forward to out their harassers.
“Social media is a space where we think of is open for predatory behavior,” said Beeds. “I think that’s what we’re seeing now.
“I don’t think social media is going to be a safe place for predators any longer.”
Okemaysim-Sicotte advises anyone who receives unwanted messages to avoid engaging in the conversation, save screenshots of them and develop a support network.
Meanwhile, a young woman at the centre of a texting scandal involving Manitoba’s top Indigenous leader says she is feeling shamed and silenced.
This “code of silence is the same tactic invoked upon Indigenous women and/or their families in all areas of this country for decades,” said Bethany Maytwayashing, in a statement emailed to APTN News Wednesday.
“This historic pattern of dismissing Indigenous women and/or their families when they bring these issues to the authorities and/or public has caused so many women to die, go missing or get murdered all because nobody would take us Indigenous women seriously.”
With files from Priscilla Wolf and Kathleen Martens