B.C. Premier Christy Clark has revealed she has very personal reasons for supporting an opposition party bill relating to sexual assault at public post-secondary schools.
The bill introduced by Green party MLA Andrew Weaver requires the institutions to have policies to prevent and respond to sexual violence. With Clark's support, it passed last month, making B.C. the second province in Canada with the requirement.
"As I sat in my chair on the floor of the legislature, it struck me: I knew all too well why women stay silent. For over 35 years, I’ve been one of them," she wrote in an op/ed published in The Vancouver Sun.
Clark candidly recalled her childhood in suburban Burnaby, B.C., especially an incident when she was 13:
"I don’t remember everything from my youth, but I do remember all of the sexual advances from strangers: getting flashed, groped, spied on. Things that no person should experience, let alone a young girl or teenager.
Most of all, 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.
I’ll never know what might have happened. What I do know is that I never told anyone about it."
The premier said she managed to escape but her biggest regret is "not knowing if the man who pulled me into the bushes kept going until he caught a girl who couldn’t get away."
Clark said she was "not speaking out for sympathy," but was using her public platform as premier to help build a community where people who have dealt with sexual violence can feel safe speaking about their experiences.
Universities lack policies
Several universities in B.C. have faced allegations they are failing and silencing survivors of sexual assault, in part because they lack specific policies to deal with reports.
The B.C. government initially opposed the Greens' bill but in March, Clark told CBC News she changed her mind because of the risk of on-campus sex assaults facing young women.
"We want them to be safe in what is their first experience away from home and we can do more to protect them," she told the outlet.
In Wednesday's essay, the premier added: "I want women who have never said anything about sexual violence in their lives to know they are not alone."
In sharing her story with female friends and colleagues, Clark said "almost every single one of them had a story."
Indeed, female politicians in Canada have been coming forward to break the silence on the sexual violence they have experienced.
"I want women who have never said anything about sexual violence in their lives to know they are not alone."
In 2014, former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps revealed she was sexually assaulted as a young politician and raped by someone she dated more than 30 years ago.
That same year, Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo said that she was sexually assaulted on two occasions in her 20s. She never reported the incidents, according to an interview with Maclean's magazine.
MP Michelle Rempel has also outlined how she has faced unwanted touching, catcalls, gender slurs and online abuse since she entered Parliament in 2011.
Read Christy Clark's full essay at The Vancouver Sun.
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