In the days following Shelly’s death, Diabo had met with her parents, her place of work but nothing panned out. Back at the station, Det. Diabo once again looked through Shelly’s personal effects trying to understand why she was targeted, wallet with money intact, house keys, car keys, student ID. Something’s missing he thought, but what? An Indigenous woman going missing or being murdered on Vancouver’s downtown east side wasn’t a new phenomenon, it’d been happening for years, decades even but nothing was ever looked into and Diabo’s boss Captain Bertrand wasn’t much help. Call it apathy, ignorance whatever but Diabo knew better…racism and it was systemic. The racism on the force permeated throughout Vancouver and through the rest of Canada like a cancer. The residential schools, 60’s scoop, colonialism all of it had a part in how the country treated it’s Indigenous peoples. Diabo himself had been a survivor, to this day he didn’t like to talk about what went on in those schools but he did know what saved him and they were the elders in his home community of Kahnawake. Now Det. Diabo looked down at Shelly another sister who had fallen because of who she was…an Indigenous woman. Shelly’s only hope now was Dr Palmer, the coroner which is where he headed next. “Did you know her?” said the coroner looking up as Diabo walk into the office. “No I didn’t.” “So young, what a waste.” Dr Palmer the coroner had been on the job for 30 years and had seen too many Indigenous people visit his table. “So what’s the verdict?” “Death by strangulation but what I found is that he took quite a bit of pleasure from it, he took his time with her. I did find something peculiar though, a mark, done postmortem.” “He marked her, why?” “I don’t know exactly but I think he is trying to tell us something, that perhaps she isn’t the first.” “Did you run a check on other unsolved murders involving Indigenous women with a similar mark?” “Yes I did and I even expanded my search to include all of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.” “Find anything?” “7 women all with the same M.O and all of which were students from various universities. I believe that we have a serial killer on our hands Det. Diabo.” For a moment the room began to spin.
Detective Thomas Diabo had been with Vancouver police dept for 20 years, a Mohawk from the community of Kahnawake he had moved out here to try to “do some good”. The city was different though, much more segregated than Montreal where he got his start as a police officer. Unfortunately it didn’t go the way he’d wanted and the proof of that was the body of another Indigenous woman lying dead in front him. This scene had become all too common on the city’s downtown east side where many Indigenous people tried and fought to make a living. It was an ugly part of town which was just blocks away from Vancouver’s million dollar condos where the rich hung their hats. Her name was Shelly Dawson, she was a student who volunteered as an out reach worker at the Carnegie, a center which serviced many Indigenous residents. “Hey Chief, looks like another squaw bit it.” Squaw, just another term used by police officers to describe Indigenous women, just another prick in blue. “Don’t call me chief. She was a human being and someones daughter….and if I hear you say Squaw again I’ll make sure you walk the beat for the rest of your career!” He hated the term, to him the title of chief was one of honor but nowadays not so much. “Witnesses?” “None so far.” “Okay, assign two units, I want this alley searched and I don’t care if it takes all night.” “Get her down to the coroners I need the results asap. Any next of kin?” “Yea her parents are on their way down from Port Alberni. They’ll be here tomorrow.”
As many of you know I’m am working on a graphic novel and starting today I will be sharing chapters, every Tuesday I will release a chapter. I’m hoping that this will help to motivate me to write more so I can get this thing done. So here it is, feel free to share.
7th Generation Vol 1
600 years ago
In the deep woods of the wilderness 6 elders sit by a fire warming themselves. They come from different parts of Turtle Island, speak different languages, belong to different nations but on this night they all speak the same language…the language of peace and of wisdom. They have been coming to this place for nearly 400 years to share their wisdom but this year is different, this year there is an urgency for they have all foreseen the coming darkness, a darkness that will bring many tears and a lot of blood. They are the protectors of the land, chosen by the earth mother herself to protect her children. They know that this darkness cannot be stopped so this is why this meeting is so important? Because preparations are needed, an enemy who wears many masks is coming.
“How much time do we have?” “A generation maybe two.” “Creator help us!” “ What do we need to do?” “ What we have always done, teach, teach as many as we can.” “Let them know that the darkness is coming, that our warriors must be prepared, that our healers must protect the children and share the teachings. This enemy is violent, greedy and has no respect for the land.” “And what of our duty to the earth mother?” “ He is still trapped in his prison where he rots.” “But what of the darkness, what if it is able to break him out?” “Our Strongest medicine makes up his prison, he cannot escape.” “But what if he does, the destruction he did the last time he was free cost many warriors their lives.” “If he does escape then we will put him back.” “If he does escape then the upcoming darkness will only get worse and turtle Island will suffer because of it.” “That will not happen, we will help the coming generations become strong, to stand up to the darkness where ever it may lie. That is after all why she chose us.”
This story is true….
Scars never heal, they are reminders that we are human and make mistakes and when I think of the mistakes I have made in my life I try not to let them overwhelm me for I have made many. I come from a place of anger, I deal with low self esteem and insecurities on a daily basis but still I have managed to stay a good person. One of the many reasons I am the way I am is due to bullying and abuse. I was bullied throughout high school and was sexually abused when I was a boy. None of which I now know wasn’t my fault. I just chose friends poorly. Up until 3 years ago I had been dealing with bullies all my life, I’m now 45..so do the math.
When I say that I chose friends poorly I meant it, I have met some real ass holes in my life. People that I now look back on and say to myself what the hell was I thinking. Unfortunately when you are dealing with mental health issues it can make you a target for some people, one of those people was a man named John. That’s not really his name but I’m using it for anonymity’s sake. I met John back in school when I tried to be a college student, when I say try I mean I flunked out after two years. My first impression of John was that he was a confident, blunt speaking drama queen. John is gay, so lets get that out of the way first but what I didn’t know was that John was attracted to me pretty much the start. I’m bisexual, I came out in my early 20’s much to the surprise of many of my high school friends. Which also made me an interest to John.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Life after college wasn’t always easy for me, I made a lot of mistakes some due to my own laziness and others because of my own mental health issues. But John was always there, he gave me a hand, helped me but unbeknownst to me at the time and that he would later admit was manipulating me. I will admit one of my biggest mistakes was messing around with him because after that he began to sink his claws deeper into me. Our friendship changed after that, he became more clingy, more controlling. We never dated or anything like that but I always had a feeling in the back of my mind that that was what he wanted. The women I dated while we were friends always drew negative comments, it was during these times that his jealousy would show. He would refer to them as whores on a regular basis. When I think about it, I think he tried to get me to hate them like he did, trying to get me to view them in a negative light. He hated what they represented which was that they took my affection away from him. That was my first red flag.
The second one was his physical contact with me, he starting hitting me….a lot. They were never outright punches or anything but just slaps to the head, face, groin, and other parts of my body. I’d get hit if I teased him the wrong way or if I said something that he deemed to be stupid. After awhile the hits got harder and more painful and also humiliating for the slaps to the head were almost always done in public. Showing people the control he had over me. And then there was the unwanted sexual touching, I hated that but never said anything about it, my insecurities prevented me from really saying anything. The verbal abuse was another big problem, he knew words had an affect on me so he would use them a lot to “Keep me in line”. My parents used to fight a lot and in full view of me, so anger and I became intimately acquainted at an early age. Because of this it has always been my first impulse to run away or retreat when anger was directed at me which was something that John did often.
If can pinpoint where the beginning of the end of our friendship began it would be when offered me a room in his apartment. I had fallen on hard times and was doing really poorly and really had no choice. There were rules that I had to follow, wasn’t allowed to bring anyone by without his permission and I couldn’t walk around shirtless for if I did he a had a right to touch me. Which to be honest he would touch me regardless of whether I had a shirt on or not. Living with him meant that he had all the control and I did not. When I started dating Jen, John was not exactly helpful. For awhile it was good, I got myself believing that I was in love with her but in reality I just wanted to connect with someone who wouldn’t hurt me, it didn’t last and John didn’t really help matters with his attitude. I guess for me it was a mixture of my mental health issues, John’s constant sexist comments and the fact that I really didn’t know what I was doing or what I wanted. It wouldn’t be long before I would leave John’s and try to make it on my own again. Unfortunately I failed at that and was back living with him within a year. Things got progressively worse after that and so did my mental health issues……
Living with John is a lot like living in a minefield, you never knew what you were going to get from him. I learned very quickly to never approach him after he got back from work or I would get chewed out for it. The verbal abuse was almost becoming a daily occurrence with him and it had gotten worse and that’s when I finally confronted him about the hitting. I told him to stop for which he did but not before justifying why he had done it. That was on of John’s main weapons, Justification. He loved using it whenever I confronted him about one thing or another. I’ve also come to realize that it’s also a tool that abusers often use, whenever a man beats his wife he will often say “well she should stop making me mad”. How many times have people heard that excuse? And that is an abusers main weakness, the inability to accept responsibility for their actions and that is what John is at his core.
I don’t know what kind of thought processes go through an abusers mind but just when I thought that John couldn’t be more insidious he went and one upped himself. In the last few years of our “friendship” John went through a series of tragedies in his life that began with the deaths of people close to him and rather than deal with it like a normal human being he turned to me for me for comfort comfort I was really unwilling to give. Now when I say deal with it like a normal human being I mean just that. When the first tragedy happened to John he threatened to do something crazy, which meant that he would go downtown and fuck every guy he could find. In other words put himself at risk. Naturally I told him what a bad idea that was so he suggested that I drop my pants so that he wouldn’t go do “something crazy”. I agreed, to my ever loving shame, I let him touch me.
It would go on like that for awhile pretty much till the end of our friendship. By the end he would just say “You need to do what you’re supposed to do”. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As time went on there were less and less happy times more and more hurt. And then when I thought things could not get any worse they did. John came home early one day with a band aid on his head, he had slipped on some water at work and fell head first into a wall. Honestly it seemed fishy to me, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. The Dr’s told him he had a concussion and that he needed rest and relaxation. But the concussion took awhile to heal and things at home got worse. He would fly off the handle at the drop of a hat, start yelling at me but then halfheartedly apologize later blaming it on the concussion. And just like that John was back to his justifying of everything he did. Why take responsibility for something when he could blame it on me, the concussion or a bad day. I knew what he was doing was wrong but unfortunately I did not know what to do about it, see John was quite influential within our circle of friends and since I had made so many mistakes in the past I didn’t know who I could talk to.
When you have insecurities like the ones I do, you feel totally isolated all the time. Yes I had other friends and family I perhaps could go to but because of my past mistakes I felt that I had lost their trust and that they wouldn’t believe me. That they would just roll their eyes at me and say yea yea. So I started building walls around me to in part protect me and to keep people out. And this went on for awhile, I became lost and though I had my different hobbies and jobs I wasn’t happy at all. I internalized everything and thanks to the many walls I had built around myself people only saw what I wanted them to see. I would not let them see the pain I was in the struggle I was going through. They only saw the bravado, the toughness. The first time I really said anything to anyone was when John flipped out on me and nearly threw me down the stairs. It started when I was getting ready to head out to meet my sister but John was in front of the door putting his shoes on. So not wanting to upset him I waited behind him for him to finish. Next thing I knew I was flying through the front door and nearly toppled down the front staircase. He never apologized for doing that, and for the first time I said something.
I went over to my friend Ian’s that night and spoke to both him and our friend Marc, I needed to talk to someone about what John had done and needed advice. We chilled out smoking shisha and trying to figure what to do. Actually just talking about it helped immensely, I don’t remember if we came up with a solution but I felt better after holding it in for so long. I got home late that night and went straight to bed, I slept horribly, kept on having nightmares where John would come into my room and force himself on me. I was reliving the abuse I had suffered as child all over again. Months past and nothing really changed, John still suffering from concussion symptoms decided to go back to school and asked me to carry him financially while he did it. I said yes not knowing that my life was about to change drastically, and a few short months later I met Samantha and my life changed forever.
My life changed the day I accepted an invitation to a friends birthday party, I needed to get out and a party was just what I needed. Samantha had arrived not long after me, we hit off almost immediately and began dating shortly afterwards. I had never met anyone like Sam before, she was smart, beautiful and most importantly a genuinely kind soul. Everyone in my circle of friends saw an immediate change in me, it was like night and day. Family saw it and so did close friends and so did John…and he hated her for it. I admit that I deliberately kept them from getting to know each other and for good reason. John did not have a good track record when it came to treating my girlfriends with respect. In the weeks that followed I was rarely home, spending most of my time either at work or with her. I essentially abandoned him and the friction between us intensified. A few weeks after I started dating Sam I got a message from a mutual friend telling me that John had gotten worse and that he was considering killing himself. “John had gone to a very dark place” My response to that wasn’t one that I was proud of, I quite simply told him that John was a Catholic and that he would go to hell if he killed himself. It was cold I know but honestly I didn’t care. John had been verbally, physically and sexually abusing me for years and I believed that his plea was just another attempt to get into my pants.
Naturally my friendship with John never really healed after that and I moved in with Sam a few months later. Best decision I ever made. Out of respect to Sam I will not go into further details about our relationship but I will say this, she taught me that I could love and be loved and though things ended after three years together I will always be grateful to have known such a special person. Her smile could brighten even the darkest room and I wish her the best in her life. John and I remained distant after the breakup, I remember calling him the night we broke up and his first response was “Can we hate her now?” I was literally disgusted with him and told him no I wasn’t 15 and that I was an adult. I found an excuse to hang up called up my friend Ally who like a real friend quickly rushed over to me and made sure I was okay. It was a tough time but I managed to find a new place to live with a lovely couple who had a spare room and needed roommates.
The next two years were a financial mess for me and there were times when I wasn’t eating. John naturally tried to help out but I was always suspicious of his motives. Things were not going well between us and then about a year after my breakup he broke his shoulder slipping on some ice. My visit with him in the hospital was uncomfortable as fuck. He blamed me for not letting him get close to Sam and that everything that had happened between us was my fault because of course it was. Once again not taking responsibility for anything he had done. I wanted to punch him in the face for what he said. We ended the visit with a smoke break in the parking lot and that’s when he asked if there was a chance that there could be more between us. I said no, I wasn’t comfortable with that and he said okay which I would later realize meant not okay. During the next year or so the sexual harassment got worse, he would make bets with me where if I lost he would get to have me sexually. He even made up this bullshit story about how the govt had changed the laws on STD admission and that I was a clean source, that I should allow him to have me so that he didn’t worry about catching something. I still said no.
Then came the day that I dreaded most, John’s beloved grandmother past away. When I heard the news I naturally texted him and shared my condolences and asked was there anything I could do? He said “You need to do what you need to do”. My heart sank because I knew if I had said no he would have used my not “Helping him” to destroy my reputation in our circle of friends which for some reason I cared about. So I agreed, I should have told him to fuck off and die and just walk away but I was too insecure and he knew that, he also knew that I wasn’t comfortable with it but didn’t care. He wanted what he wanted regardless of how I felt. He raped me that night. After it was done I left his place and went home and cried myself to sleep, in the following weeks I became more and more depressed. Nothing was going right, I was falling apart. I didn’t see much of John after that, I started spending more of my time with my friends Ally and Drew. One night after Ally had finished work I told her everything that John had done and as I spoke Ally’s eyes just got wider and wider. After I was done she said to me “you know you’re describing rape right? He raped you.” It was at that moment where my awakening began.
The next few weeks were a blur, I had shared the same story with Drew and a few others that I knew I could trust. Eventually John had heard about me accusing him of rape and that’s when everything came to a head. Image is everything to John and being accused of rape can definitely damage someones image. When I finally picked up the phone after the 12th missed call. He asked me why I had said that he had raped me? “Because you did!”. At this point I went into full melt down and I started screaming at him telling that he knew that I did not want that and that he had forced me to let him. His response led to the end of our friendship. He said “But I was on morphine, you can’t expect me to remember that? Besides I fed you I deserved something.” But the thing was I knew he remembered, he even said that he remembered a few months after our conversation in the hospital parking lot. But at that point I had given up, in my mind the friendship was dead and nothing he could say could change that. We didn’t officially part ways that day, I knew if I did he would use it as a way to create tension between the group and I because that is how he used tragedies in his life, to get things he wanted and in my case even if it meant breaking the law.
I began to distance myself from him in the following months, I tried to figure the best way to sever the friendship without him using it to fuck with me. I also began to realize that John was never any threat to me, that he used threats because he himself was even more insecure than I was but instead of dealing with it in a good way he chose to be an ass hole. I began to hear stories about him, about the time he tried to get a mutual friend drunk in order to sleep with him. I admit I found it hard to believe but one night John talked about how he was prepared to do that to another mutual friend so naturally it got my attention and I began to distance myself even more.
Unfortunately the stress I was under culminated in a panic attack, I had internalized too much. I was at a friends place playing a game when my brain just went side ways and I nearly collapsed. Even though I hadn’t seen John in several weeks the pain he caused was starting to assert itself. I made it outside for some fresh air, when my friend Mark came up to me and asked if I was okay. Mark had always been a pretty straight forward guy so when he told me that I needed to start talking to someone I agreed. Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any worse John showed up, I told him to leave me be and to walk away which he did. I walked away as well and sat in a nearby park and had a smoke with Jaime who I had literally met just a few weeks prior. She helped talk me down from my panic attack by helping me get to the root of the issue. I could hear John nearby speaking quite loudly about how he didn’t know why I had abandoned him and how he had done so much for me. John playing the victim, a role he had played so well throughout our friendship. And I hated him for that. I ended the friendship a week later.
In the over three years since I woke up, my life has changed dramatically. Though the pain is still very much there, I am no longer afraid to talk about it. I made new friends and reacquainted myself with old ones. But most importantly I detoxified my life, I gave up on caring about empty toxic people. I put my life under the microscope, I needed to finally figure out who I was. I had an idea of what it was but my path was like an image that was still out of focus. So tore my life apart, shattered the mirror and rebuilt the foundation of my life. From there I began to rebuild starting with job opportunities which thanks to my friend Joe I was able to financially rebuild. There I rebuilt my reputation with friends and family. I finally told my sister what John had done, I told her everything. And like family supposed to she helped me heal, she was also incredibly pissed off. My sister has always protected me, since we were kids she has always had my back. I also told my folks who have also supported me as much as they could. But most importantly I used my new found tools to rebuild myself.
The scars still linger though, the pain still feels fresh and I am having a tough time letting go. I spoke to a cop (Off the record) about my history with John. I told about the verbal, physical and sexual abuse, I told him how angry I was. I also asked him if there was anything I could do legally, could I press charges if I wanted to and would they stick? First off he told me exactly what I needed to hear, and that was that it wasn’t my fault. He also told if I wanted to pursue criminal charges I could but it would be very hard to prove since It would be my word against his. So I decided not to press charges but on one condition, if it turns out that I am not the only victim I will come down on John like a ton of bricks. I can deal with it if it is just me but if I find out that he did this to others then I will have no choice but to expose him. The thing is there is never just one victim where sex offenders are involved and yes John is a sex offender.
My healing journey has produced a few revelations, one being that I no longer believe that John was ever my friend. I came to this conclusion after remembering a couple of things he had said. The first being was when he said that he had been manipulating and said it with a big grin on his face. The second was even more telling, it was part of a conversation we had had after Sam and I had broken up. He referred to her as the “Whore who stole me away from him” and added that he had put so much work into me and it pissed him off that she just swooped in and stole me away. John had just confessed that he wanted something more from me, something I was unwilling to give. I never wanted a relationship with John, he knew that but chose to pursue me anyways. That confession was a major piece of the puzzle for me and one of the reasons I am so mad at him. He took sexual harassment to a whole new level. Trying to get me to be his boyfriend. Seriously how fucked in the head do you have to be, to do that to someone. And please don’t tell me it’s love because it’s not……it’s control.
That’s the root right there, control. John had always had a lot of influence in my life so much so I often imagine what it would have been like had he not been part of my life at all? I like to believe that I would have picked myself up and gotten shit done. Unfortunately that did not happen and now I have to deal with the aftermath of what that prick did. What I am feeling right now is the main reason I am single, why drag this shit into a relationship, it’ll only hurt it.
My friends Joe and Noah and many more have told me that in order to move on I need to forgive John, not because he deserves it but for me. I just find it very difficult to do so, how do you forgive someone like him, you do it because your sanity depends on it. I also have to figure out how to forgive myself, I have way too many regrets in my life and I hang on to all of them. It’s time I learned to let things go because I am also so very tired, tired of being so angry so full of rage at the injustices I have faced. I guess that is what this healing journey has been all about, healing has never been easy it’s not supposed to be. My dad Jim once said to me after a particularly difficult time in my life “You have just come out of a chasm, you’re bleeding and sore but now you have reached this plateau. You can stay and rest but you know deep down that you must keep going, only by reaching the top can you finally rise above it all and see who you truly have become”.
And that is the case when dealing with abuse, the only way to get better is to let it go. Hanging on to it only gives your abuser more power. So if I can offer some advice to those struggling with abuse, talk about it, write about it, confront it only when I started doing that did I start to feel better. I confronted my pain too late in life and because of that my life has been filled too much sadness and not enough love. I know I will reach my peak someday but I do know that had I not confronted my demons they would have won. I know what love is, my family taught me that, Samantha taught me that, Joe, Noah, Jamie, Ella, Kenneth, Ian, Steve and so many more taught me that. For me family is not just blood for it also includes the people you meet on your life path. Those people that the creator puts in your way so that they can enrich you, teach you, help you. The most important thing I have learned in the last three years is to listen, listen to the creator, to your family, to the people who care for you. Once you are able to do that, you will understand what love truly is.
Irkar W Beljaars
As far back as I can remember there has been anger, there have been bullies, and there has been pain. I was born during a snowstorm back in 1971 and though I started my life living on St Urbain st my earliest memories are from living on Hutchinson st in the plateau. Like any kid growing up in the 70’s there were challenges, at that time there were plenty of kids to play with but very few friends. One thing I realized very quickly is that if your different you become a target and since I was a half Mohawk half Belgian kid who also an Anglophone I was a target. I also realized that kids can be real ass holes if their parents don’t reel them in from time to time. I found myself spending considerable time alone, away from my parents and sister. Many of the other kids would tease me for no reason other than being jerks.
My parents were artists; my mother was a sculptor and painter while my father focused on oil painting. To say that there was friction between my parents would be an understatement. My mother was a Mohawk artist; she made beautiful work and for a time was successful at it. My dad however was a different story; a quiet man when he wasn’t losing his temper loved painting landscapes and nude models. It was the 70’s, things were different back then. I never really knew my father, even though he lived with until I was 7 or 8, it would be decades before I would come to understand my father that I would discover that my dad suffered from some form of PTSD which was attributed to what he experienced during World War 2. And because I did not understand what happened the night my mother threw him out I began to think it was because he didn’t love us. I realized later that it was because he didn’t know how.
Things didn’t get better when I started school at Bancroft elementary; I was immediately placed with kids who had special needs. Not a great way to help one’s self esteem. I was a hyperactive kid who had mood swings so naturally that made me even more of a target; for one bully in particular. I could never figure what Bryan’s problem with me was, most days he’d slam me into the lockers, punch me in the gut or face or just make my life miserable. I began to hate recess and lunch times because he’d be hunting for me. It got so bad that no matter what I did didn’t help. I remember coming home and telling my mother that I hated who I was because of the bullying I got. It also didn’t help that my teachers consistently reminded that there was something wrong with me because I was hyperactive; it would be years before I would discover that I was hypoglycemic and that with a regular diet I would be fine.
Eventually my mother had had enough of her son being a punching bag so she came to school with me to find what she could do. The suggestion was made that since the students didn’t know about First Nations my mother would teach them using art. The kids started treating me better except for Bryan. The kid loved being an ass hole, I don’t know what happened to him after elementary school but I sometimes think about what I’d do if I ever saw him again and the image isn’t pretty. The scars he left me with I still have to this day, the anger is still there too. Things at home calmed down as well, things weren’t going well financially but my mother always managed to see us fed. It was also around this time that we started attending the Montreal Mennonite fellowship and where I met Sandy and James Chism it was also around that time that I would experience something that would change my life forever.
His name was John; he lived up the street from us. He was a friendly chap and aside from James was the only adult male that I could really bond with now that my father was out of the picture. He was an older man and a friend of my mothers. We got along well, bought me candy, he let me watch movies at his place. I didn’t see it anything wrong with him, he wasn’t a bully, he listened to me, and he was a nice guy. All that changed about a year later. The fire trucks woke us up one morning, the rooming house that John was living in had caught fire and though he was fine the place was gutted. It wasn’t long before John had found a new place on Barclay Street in cote des niege area of Montreal. I asked if I could help him move and my mother agreed even though I would be staying overnight. I still remember the smell of the smoke filled boxes and clothes he had. He bought pizza for the both of us and I remember going to sleep afterwards, aside from summer camp I rarely ever stayed at other people’s places. He sexually assaulted me that night, most of it is just flashes of memory but the smell of that apartment will always be with me. When we were waiting for the bus to take me home the next day he told me not to say anything about what happened: he said people wouldn’t like or believe me if I did and my mother would be hurt by it.
For a child who has experienced bullying most of his life, the idea of people not liking me was terrifying. I honestly don’t remember how old I was because most of it I tried to block out. All I knew was that my life was over, ruined by this man who said he cared about me, and said that he was my friend. I never told anyone, even when another kid was assaulted on my street, I was afraid that people would think that I was a bad kid or that I made it up just to get a attention. It was also around this time that my little brother was born so there was a lot less attention towards me which I see now why I hated my brother so much, I was in pain but he got the attention. I know it doesn’t make sense but being sexually assaulted didn’t just destroy me but it caused a rift between me and him that wasn’t at all his fault. So I kept it all inside where it festered for 15 years.
Things only got worse after that, I attended Outremont high school where again I was placed in the special needs section because of my hyper active status and learning disabilities. Aside from a couple, the teachers were ass holes in that school, it was the mid 80’s and you were told to just man up when it came to bullying. There were so many bullies in that school, from teachers, school staff, to students. It was a nightmare until my sister joined me there. My sister was always tougher than I, I remember the first year that she attended Outremont high; she’d gotten into to a fight with another girl in her first week there. She even got into the faces of some of the boys who were beating me up regularly. I wish I could have been as tough as she was but I was already lost in my own world.
I made a few friends at Outremont but they were the kind of friends that weren’t really friends, they’d tease and bully me but because the bullying wasn’t so bad I dealt with it. It was around this time that my mother broke her ankle and was hospitalized for an extended period of time. My sister and little brother went to stay with some friends from church and I went to stay with the Chism’s. I had already bonded with Jim because was the closest thing to a male figure in my life. It also gave me a sense of peace that I had never experienced before and I ended up staying with them for the rest of my teens, never going back to live with mother, sister and brother which of course caused quite a rift.
High school didn’t get better, it got worse. There was always a bully and no matter how much I tried to keep my head down they still managed fuck up my days, be it being assaulted in class in full view of the teacher or being used as target practice when one of them brought his bb gun to school. My inner turmoil got worse and I began to verbally lash out, most of the time it was at people I cared about. I don’t know how the Chisms ever put up with me but maybe in their own way they saw how damaged I was and hoped they’d break through, but I still kept my secret. I ended up dropping out of school and went to work, living with the Chisms until I my world hit a brick wall.
May 12th 1993 when I thought that shit couldn’t get any worse my mother, the center of my universe had a heart attack. I remember the day like it was yesterday, I had seen my mother earlier that morning; we had gone for a walk and talk. I was high school dropout, unemployed and she was worried about where I was going in life, I didn’t have an answer for because frankly I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was lost. I remember giving her a hug goodbye telling her that I loved her and that I would see her later and then went home for a nap. That would be the last time I would ever hear my mother’s voice again, a few hours later I got a phone call that changed my life forever, mom had had a heart attack, the ambulance had taken too long to get to her and the damage was done. She slipped into a coma and never woke up. It’s hard to explain what happens to someone when they experience something like that, unless you’ve been there. Soon afterwards I moved out on my own and went on welfare, I fell deeper into depression. I stopped going to the hospital to see her because I just couldn’t handle it anymore I also let all the responsibilities fall on my sister. Like I said my sister is tough, she took the reins and made sure everything kept going. Making sure my brother was okay, bills were paid she did everything while I fell apart. I don’t expect that I will ever be forgiven for that. I failed my family and I’ve carried that around for years.
In the months that followed I barely ate, I drank…a lot and experimented with various drugs. I hung out with my friends who put the idea into my head that I could make some quick cash and it was a mistake that would cost me dearly. I can’t go into details but the damage from that one mistake would reverberate for the next 2 decades and I think that is when my rebirth began. I had had a dream, the dream was of my mother. She was just looking at me like mothers do but this time it wasn’t love, it was disappointment and I couldn’t blame her because I felt the same. I ended up crashing at my sisters until I could find a new place. It was a miserable time for me, self respect was gone, my family wasn’t happy and everywhere there seemed to criticism: some fair and some not. Everything came to a head when on January 11th 1995, Keena Beljaars passed away; she was just 27 days shy of her 45th birthday. After the funeral I tried putting the pieces of my shattered life back together, trying to figure out what to do. Then I remembered the dream and I made a plan. I went back to school; I found a new place and got to work getting my life back together. I only had to look that faces of the people close to me to see how much I had failed, looks that haunt me to this day.
Jim was the one who had helped me put things into perspective; he had a hand in raising me so he was one of the ones who knew me best. I’ll never forget what he said to me that day he found out about my stupidity. My best friend and big brother Luke had had a friend who lived in the same building as I when shit hit the fan and told Luke who then told Jim. We met up for coffee and I explained to the both of them what had happened but Jim didn’t want to hear it all he said was “I don’t care what you did, want I want to know is what are you going to do now? Think of it this way, you have just come out of this deep dark chasm, your busted up and bleeding but you made it out and are resting on a plateau, where you want to be is up on top where the sun is. So dust yourself off and get going.”
And that’s who my dad is, unconditional love.
From then on I focused on getting better, within six months I had graduated high school and had gotten myself a job. I still had to deal with the fact that I would do time, how much was up to the judge. I also started to drift away from my old friends, I knew I deserved better and after they had played me into the biggest mistake of my life I knew I needed to be elsewhere. I went to live with Jim and Sandy and straight back to work. Mega bloks was based in ville st Laurent and I did pretty well there, pushing myself and trying to improve my life. Unfortunately my past would come back to haunt me; one day on my way to work I saw him, I saw John. I was walking up the tunnel at cote vertu metro when I saw this older man walking towards me. You never forget the face of your rapist, it was John, and he must have been in his 80’s at the time. At that moment everything hit me, like a tidal wave of pain. This was the man who had destroyed my childhood.
In the time that it took to get to him I had thought about ending his life, in my opinion he deserved it for what he had done to me. In the end I chose to walk up to him, I said “Hello John; remember me? It’s me Irkar.” He mumbled some recognition. I continued. “Remember what you did to me, because I do” That’s when I saw it; the look in his 80 year old eyes, his expression said it all. The last thing I said was enjoy hell and walked away. I can’t say that I felt vindicated because that would have meant that John ended up in prison but I did get some closure. Two years later when I was at Dawson college and at the urging of a friend; I would walk into a police station and file a police report. There’s something surreal about sharing a story of abuse with a police officer who is half your size. I’ll never forget the look on her face when told her and I’ll never forget the empathy she displayed that day. The Montreal police sex crimes unit showed me nothing but class; in the end though John had passed away before any formal charges could be made. But I shared my secret and someone had listened; just wish I had done so earlier.
Starting at Dawson was both a blessing and a curse for me. On the one hand I was trying to find the path the creator had set out for me and at the same time met one of the worst bullies I had ever known. But I do not regret my going to Dawson because it was there that I fell in love with radio. CIXS radio was where my path began, though the path got really bumpy at times; radio was my base. That was the Dawson experience for me, I joined various clubs, some I found interesting and some not. I even started dating, her name was Liz and we dated most of my first year at Dawson. I didn’t last but I did learn a few things about myself; first and foremost is I don’t know jack about women still don’t.
I made new friends at Dawson, something that I found easier to do now that I was older but I met some people I wish I hadn’t. One in particular who I will call X, X is probably one of the worst people that I have met in the last 20 or so years and I have met my fair share of ass holes. He came off as nice and sweet and we quickly became friends, we hung out a lot and he was my intro into the gaming scene where I found many people I liked and they liked me. Unfortunately I let my guard down too quickly and I found myself right back in high school with the same group friends who made me feel inadequate. The next few years were filled with more falling down mistakes that I care to admit and it justifiably cost me friendships. My late 20’s and early 30’s was me trying to find myself and making many mistakes along the way, I was constantly dealing with my own insecurities, pain and anger. I guess I’ve always been a target for people looking to use and abuse me and though I did not see it at the time; X was one of those people.
I began to notice things about X that raised red flags; like his need for control and his incessant narcissism. What I didn’t realize at the time was how toxic X was; his need to humiliate and hit me was getting out of control. If I said the wrong thing I’d get a slap upside the head or somewhere else on my body. There was also the verbal abuse that happened almost daily but unfortunately because of my own insecurities and low self esteem I rarely called him on it. One instance I have burned into my memory was when I showed up to help a friend move he proceeded to publicly call me out for sleeping around. Something I said I didn’t do much of, he publicly called me a whore and a hypocrite which almost got him a bat to the head. But once again I quelled my anger by moving furniture that took two men to move. That was a red flag though, X was clearly jealous a jealousy that got worse as we got closer. X is gay, I am Bi but I never was interested in X in that way. To be honest he just didn’t do it for me hence the jealousy towards any women I dated. We did mess a around a couple of times but became disinterested in stuff like that but he did not unfortunately. After awhile people were coming up to me and asking me why I was letting him treat me that way, they saw that I was clearly being bullied but I honestly believed I deserved it for all the mistakes I made in my life. Thanks to many more stupid mistakes I ended up crashing and becoming X’s roommate which I wish I had never done because he became more controlling and belittling.
I finally had to sit down with him and make it clear that his hitting me needed to stop and just to be clear when I say hitting I mean things a slap upside the head, face, groin, and various other parts of my body which he always justified by saying that it was all in fun. He grudgingly stopped, but the abuse did not. Another red flag was his unwanted sexual touching which I tolerated and said nothing about. I made the mistake of sharing a story with X about a woman asking if we were dating; which is what X really wanted. All these things and the constant control he pushed on my life made life intolerable sometimes. I wanted to leave but financially it was never a good time. He treated me more like a boyfriend than friend and his diva behaviour was starting to get to me. When I met my ex Jen he created rules that limited intimacy between the two of us, Jen and I didn’t last and I eventually moved out only to find myself returning a few months later.
One of the biggest red flags that left me asking WTF was a tactic X began using. X went through a few tragedies in his life and every time someone in circle would pass on he would use it to get sexual gratification from me. He would threaten to hurt himself saying that he was afraid he would do something crazy suggesting that I drop my pants to prevent him from doing that. He played on my empathy and insecurity to get what he wanted. One time I remember him telling me to just lie back and enjoy it, I never did. I don’t know why I let him do that to me, I felt disgusted after every time. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to, I was being raped by my best friend and the pain of it was strangling me.
Around this time I had found a place to explore radio in CKUT. When I started at there I immediately fell in love, finally here was a place where I could expand and explore my First Nations heritage and hopefully reconnect with my own people, since my mother’s death I had become disconnected from who I was meant to be which was a journalist. I had no formal training before CKUT but thanks to my ex Jen I found my fire again and boy did I stoke it. Over the years I became more and more entrenched in activism; I expanded my knowledge of First Nations issues. I met new people and made many great friends. I even won an award for an interview I did. Through CKUT I began organising and speaking at events. My voice became clearer and my reputation grew. Jen and I may not have lasted but thanks to her I found my place in life and I build on that every day. I even got a job at another radio station, and sat on the board of National Campus Radio Association (NCRA) for two years. Things were finally going well and that’s when I met Samantha.
I was at a friend’s birthday party when Sam had arrived; I was sitting in back chatting with some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile all I could say was wow. I struck up a conversation with her and we hit it off and started dating. X didn’t like her at all; he made that clear with his behavior, acting like jealous girlfriend. I started spending a lot of time with Sam causing X to feel left out for which I admit I did not care. It was also around this time that X had a concussion after slipping on some water at work. As the concussion became worse it also caused him to become more aggressive and even violent. One instance I remember was him nearly throwing me down the stairs all because I was standing behind him waiting while he put his shoes on. It was at this time that I knew the end of friendship was near. So I starting spending all of my time with Sam and when X’s symptoms became worse I ignored him. I know that wasn’t very nice but I was sick of being a verbal punching bag.
Eventually I moved in with Sam and I saw less and less of X. One of the many things Samantha taught me and why I loved her so much was how she taught me to love and be loved which was something I never allowed myself to do. I felt like I didn’t deserve it didn’t deserve her. And even though we are no longer together she helped me open the door to my heart, a door I had long since closed. Sam and I lasted nearly three years and though it was painful when it ended I still care and will always care for her and wish nothing but the best. Out of respect for her I won’t go into details about what happened. Naturally X was ecstatic even saying “Can we hate her now?” I quickly ended the conversation and called someone who actually did care, and like a true friend rushed out to meet me.
The break up with Sam hit me pretty hard but like any man I did what I needed to do, I bought a bucket of Ben and jerry’s ice cream and curled up on the couch and watched Sex and the city reruns. Two weeks later I was done feeling sorry for myself and I started to rebuild my life. I found a place to live and though the first year things were tough things started picking up then it all went south. While on his way home X slipped and broke his shoulder and ended up in hospital. He’d gotten onto face book and asked if people could bring some stuff to pass the time. I volunteered; we were still friends after all. The meeting wasn’t as friendly as I’d hoped, he blamed me for all that had gone wrong between us and of course not taking any responsibility for the shit he had done. We had a cigarette in the parking lot before I left and he asked me if there could be anything between us and I said no, I wasn’t comfortable with doing that to which for which he agreed.
In the months after that conversation X sexually harassed me several times trying to get into my pants. He even made up an elaborate lie about how the govt had changed the rules on STD admission, that partners were no longer obliged to share their status, complete bullshit, I knew it. I’m a journalist if something like that had happened it would have made national news. “I know you don’t want to do that anymore but you’re a clean source” He knew I was clean and tried desperately to get into my pants. Whenever we made bets he’d make it that if I lost I would have to let him have me sexually. Naturally that did not happen. Unfortunately this didn’t stop X and it let led to the end of our friendship.
About two and half years ago X’s beloved grandmother passed away, naturally I texted him condolences and asked if he needed anything. His reply shook me to the core. “You need to do what you need to do” translation drop your pants or I’ll do something crazy. I knew that if I said no and reminded him our conversation he would use it against me. So I dropped my pants, I hated him for what I felt he was making me do. After it was done, I did not speak to him for months and nosed dived into a depression. While that was happening he went around telling people that I had abandoned him in his time of need.
I eventually confided in two of my closest friends about what X had been doing to me for years. I honestly thought I was the bad guy in all of it that somehow I deserved what happened to me. My friend simply what I was describing was rape. At the time I was 42 years old, how does a 42 years old man allow himself to be raped? This left me reeling; I became even more depressed finally realizing that my best friend was raping me. How did this happen to me twice in one lifetime? I decided that I needed to share my story, so I asked around and found a cop to talk to off the record and shared my story with him. When I was done the first thing he said to me was ‘It’s not your fault”. Validation!
Naturally the next step was to end it with X altogether; our friendship had become so toxic that it was killing me. I knew I had to delicately tell that I was done and to fuck off but there is no easy way to do that when you’re dealing with a narcissistic psychopath. Unfortunately X got word what was going and called me. At first I just let the phone ring, gathering my thoughts before I finally answered. Long story short there was a great deal of yelling, he pretended not remember the conversation in the parking lot stating that he had just been given morphine and couldn’t possibly remember what was said, he also went to deflect and justify everything. At that point our friendship was unofficially over.
In the months that followed I distanced myself from X until I stopped taking his calls altogether. A few months after our fight I had an anxiety attack and I was forced to deal with my pain. The fight also made me see that X was never my friend but more of a stalker. I realized in the end that the nice things I thought he was doing were just a smokes screen in order for him to take control of my life, to get what he wanted which in the end he did, experts have called this gas lighting. Here is the Wikipedia definition of Gas lighting.
Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to Gas Light, a 1938 play and 1944 film, and has been used in clinical and research literature
Since the fight I have come to realise that life is a lot more gray than black and white. Once I realised this; I started cleaning house. I became determined to detoxify my life and asked myself “do I really need this; do I need these people around me?” After that life became simpler, I regularly remind myself that my mother would want me to be happy. So I focused on what makes me happy, radio; Indigenous activism, friends, family, my cat George. I no longer look for the light at the end of the tunnel; that doesn’t matter; it’s the journey that matters. I’m 45 now and I can finally say that I’m living for myself. No more toxic habits and people, just happiness, good health and a good walk down the path of life.