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Having a voice and being heard

April 30, 2019


Skylar needed to believe that she was not responsible for her assault.

Winnipeg Jets Head Coach Scott Arniel, United Way Winnipeg Board Chair Donna Miller, and United Way Winnipeg President & CEO Michael Richardson visit Main Street Project with Executive Director Jamil Mahmood.

17-year-old Skylar was at a friend’s house party. She had been drinking and went into a room with another person at the party – a peer from her school – and was sexually assaulted.

“I remember thinking, I should have screamed “no” or stopped sooner,” she said.

Skylar felt because she was intoxicated and didn’t take action to stop the incident, it would not be deemed a sexual assault. Regardless, Skylar took steps to receive medical care after the incident and eventually decided to go to the authorities. The investigation did not go as Skylar had hoped, and the person was not charged.

Skylar felt that no one believed her story, which contributed to a sense of shame.

“I had many people tell me for various reasons the assault was my fault, and that became how I felt,” she said.

Skylar became depressed, anxious, and angry. She couldn’t sleep without reliving that night. She was suicidal and began self-injuring by cutting. Skylar also began using substances to cope.

She started obsessing about her school work and would to do the same assignments repeatedly. It got to the point where she couldn’t keep up with her workload and was at risk of not graduating. Going to school was also traumatic for her as she frequently saw the person who she said had sexually assaulted her. Skylar lost many friends who didn’t believe her.

“Therapy provided me with an opportunity to surround myself with someone who empowered me and believed me.”

A doctor told Skylar about Knowles Centre’s Sexual Abuse Treatment Program. A donor-supported United Way Winnipeg agency partner, Knowles Centre offers critical services and support for children, adolescents, and young adults facing difficult times in their lives.

With assistance from her mother, Skylar enrolled in the program and attended bi-weekly individual counselling sessions.

“Therapy provided me with an opportunity to surround myself with someone who empowered me and believed me. I would encourage other victims not to stop talking until they are heard,” Skylar said.

Skylar said the real healing occurred when she believed she was not responsible for the sexual assault. She stopped using substances to cope; her anxiety, obsessions, and anger became manageable; she no longer felt depressed; and she stopped self-harming and was no longer suicidal. Skylar began sleeping better, and her concentration improved. It also became easier for Skylar to attend school, and she looks forward to graduating from high school.

Note: The story participant’s name and image have been changed to protect her privacy.


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