WARNING: This story contains graphic content related to sexual violence and sucidial ideation, and may be disturbing to some readers.
Sometimes, we just need to listen.
Dave Frank is an Ahousaht elder who, as a young boy, was removed from his family in Ahousaht and forced to attend the Christie Residential School in Tofino, St. Mary’s Mission Indian Residential School/Pekw’xe:yles, and Nanaimo Indian Hospital.
He spoke with CHEK News, detailing the sexual abuse he faced, the addiction and suicidal ideation that formed as a result, and his compassionate path towards healing and somehow, forgiveness.
“I was sexually abused in residential school. And that really changed my life,” said Frank.
“They used to fondle me on my private parts. It was tough, not only by the priests and the nuns but also by some of the senior boys. That’s not talked about a lot, is the senior boys did it too. You do what you learn.”
“It was my driver for a long time. I hated people. I hated the church. I hated white people. It was such a driving force in my whole being.”
“I was alcoholic, I did drugs. The pain was too much. I attempted suicide three times.”
“I had a rifle loaded. As I was getting set up, somebody kept knocking on my door, knocking on my door.”
“At that time there was nobody in the village, they were out. But they kept knocking on the door, and I put the rifle away and answered the door.”
“It was a priest.”
“I said ‘God has a sense of humour, sending a priest to rescue me’,” said Frank laughing, finding humour in the contradiction.
“When I’m in the forest when I go hiking in the forest picking medicine. I have moments of thought, of the man that sexually abused me.”
“I think about him. I pray for him.”
“As I walk in the forest sometimes I think about what happened to him. Was he sexually abused as a child also? Why he was like that? It had to come from somewhere for him too.”
“It took me a long time to know that he’s no longer controlling me. And the way he can’t control me is if I love him.”
“It’s helped me to find forgiveness. Hard to understand, but it works.”
“Once I got around to giving it a name when I talked about it. I was set free.”
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can call the 24/7 National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866 925-4419.