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Sexual abuse survivors making their voices heard in Truro

Liz MacKay is a survivor of sexual assault. She now works to help others overcoming abusive experiences.
Liz MacKay is a survivor of sexual assault. She now works to help others overcoming abusive experiences. - Lynn Curwin

TRURO, NS

When she was locked in a closet by an abusive partner, clinging to her cat for support, Liz MacKay never thought she would someday be the person helping others overcome abuse.

She now works with people who’ve experienced abuse and is a board member with the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre.

“What I experienced led me into the work I do,” she said. “When I’m working with others I can relate to what they’ve gone through and what they’re feeling.”

MacKay, who grew up in Belmont, was 15 the first time she was assaulted.

“I was at a friend’s place and making poor decisions,” she recalled. “I wasn’t fully conscious so I don’t remember it all, but I remember enough. I had already been struggling with depression and anxiety, and had low self-esteem. I felt what happened was my own fault.

“I kept ending up in the same type of relationships over and over, and didn’t take time to heal.”

The perpetrator was always someone she knew; a friend or someone she was dating. About four years ago, she got out of her last abusive relationship.

“I got fed up and I was tired of not liking myself,” said MacKay. “I realized I had to make changes and figure out what made me vulnerable. I looked at my values and decided to make choices based on them. There was a lot of soul searching.”

She spent some time getting to know herself better, and is in a “phenomenal” relationship with a man she’s known since they were in school together.

“One thing that needs to come out of MeToo is what to do next,” she said. “People need to find supports; find themselves.

“If you look only at being a survivor you keep seeing yourself as a victim, but we’re all so many other things. It’s important to look at other facets of life and incorporate those with being a survivor.”

She acknowledges the value of being able to talk about abuse.

“Having a voice gives a lot of strength to a survivor, and people are more likely to talk now than they were a few years ago, but there’s still a long way to go. Many people don’t realize there are men who are survivors as well.

“No one should ever experience sexual violence, and it’s never the fault of the victim.”

Truro to host walk April 28

A walk in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month will be held in Truro on Saturday, April 28 at 2 p.m.

The event, organized by the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre (CSAC), will have a police escort. It will begin at the Truro Farmers’ Market, down Prince Street, left onto Walker, left onto Queen, left onto Prince and back to the market. From 3 to 5 p.m., an open mic and coffee house will take place inside the market building.

“There’s a lot of education and awareness to be done around sexual assault,” said Kendra MacKinnon, executive director at the CSAC. “Many people are still unaware these things are happening in our community.”

She stresses people should also remain alert while on vacations. During the past six months, the centre has had six women report assaults that took place at resorts in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Mexico. Most involved drinks being drugged.

More information on the CSAC can be found on Facebook.

Related: Organizers of Truro sexual assault walk thrilled with turnout for the event

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