WATCH: In a public letter to the Vancouver Sun, B.C. Premier Christy Clark described how she was attacked as a teenager in Burnaby. Now advocates are applauding her for speaking out. April Lawrence reports.
Many were surprised when Premier Christy Clark stood up in the B.C. Legislature in March and agreed to move forward with a campus sexual assault bill put forward by Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.
“We will work with him on it on an urgent basis and try and get something passed with respect to changing policy as soon as we possibly can,” said Clark.
It was an unusual move in provincial politics, but on Thursday, in a very personal public letter submitted to the Vancouver Sun, Clark explained her reasons.
She said “I knew all too well why women stay silent. For over 35 years, I’ve been one of them.”
Clark goes on to describe a terrifying experience when she was walking to work in Burnaby at just 13-years-old.
“I remember the time a stranger pulled me off the sidewalk into the bushes. There was no doubt in my mind that he wanted to hurt me,” she said.
Clark remembers being scared as she managed to escape his grip and run for safety.
She said she’ll never know what might have happened, but admits she never told anybody about the attack.
“I was ashamed. It made people uncomfortable,” she said.
It’s a deeply personal experience, and Thursday many were applauding her decision to speak out.
Even members of the Opposition took to social media to voice their support.
“I’d like to applaud the Premier for coming out and telling her story on sexual assault, this is a conversation that we are having across this country right now and it’s great to see her join her voice to that,” said NDP Spokesperson on Women’s Issues and Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis.
In her letter Clark says “our silence makes it easier for those who wish to harm us,” and adds “let’s build a community where women and men who have dealt with sexual violence can feel safe and comfortable talking about it.”
Counsellor Barb Peck at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre said Clark’s letter will bring attention to any important issue.
“I think it would be great if all of our leaders were talking about sexualized violence and speaking out against it,” said Peck.
Peck said she hopes Clark’s letter will lead to action, that will not only see more survivors get the help they need, but also prevent these assaults from happening in the first place.
Read Premier Christy Clark’s full letter to the Vancouver Sun here.