Nain woman offers hope to sexual assault survivors
‘Forgiving those who hurt you is the only way to heal’
After being sexually assaulted as a young teenager, Beatrice Hope of Nain has some advice for others struggling with abuse.
“I had to forgive (her abuser). You are built up with guilt and shame but when I did that grief letter it really helped me ... forgiving those who hurt you is the only way to heal,” Hope said during a phone interview.
Hope said telling someone you trust about the abuse is also important.
“You can’t talk about it all at one time, but if you have one friend ... talk about it a little bit at a time.”
Trying to have a positive attitude while dealing with the past is also necessary in facing the future, she said.
“I had to do a lot of self-talk ... I had really low self-esteem. I had to say a lot of positive affirmations to myself because I didn’t like a lot about myself.”
*** Hope spent her early childhood with her family in a village south of Nain called Kammasuk.
“We did everything as a family. We went hunting and fishing together, berry picking together. It was really good.”
The family moved to Nain when Hope was five years old.
“That’s when our family fell apart,” she said.
Hope said she was raped at age 14.
“After that, I turned inward. I didn’t trust any adults. I was so quiet. I’d never say a word in school.”
Hope kept silent about what had happened for years – until one day in the late 1980s a news report about abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s brought the trauma to the surface.
“I had (the sexual assault) blocked for years but then I had flashbacks so I had to start working on my issues then. I knew I needed healing but I didn’t know who to turn to.”
Hope sought counselling but it didn’t help at the time, she said.
However, her job at the Labrador Inuit Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program meant she could attend personal growth workshops.
“That’s where I learned how our family was dysfunctional.”
Coming to terms with her past meant going back to Nain and telling her family what had happened.
“I had to get it all off my chest ... I poured out everything that I needed to say. And that was my first big step.”
Hope, who has strong faith, said it’s her belief in God that helped her move forward.
“He took away all the ugliness,” she said.
However, she said, healing doesn’t happen overnight.
It took years and small steps towards finding peace, Hope said.
“There was a period that, even though I was working on myself, I was depressed. I just couldn’t feel happy.”
The depression lasted about two years, she said – until one night, about 15 years ago, her husband took her to an area called the North West River Point.
“I cried all the ways down. We set up a tent. I cried in the tent. I had suicidal thoughts. I just wanted to walk in the water and drown. But I knew I couldn’t do that to my family.”
During the night, she said, she was hugged by “an invisible being.”
“With that hug, the suicide thoughts left. There was love and peace. It was unbelievable. It was so good.”
That was a great move forward, Hope said, and it was on her birthday in January 2003 that she was finally granted full peace.
“We were caribou hunting ... We had a tent up. I woke up in the night and from my waist up, I was lit up and I felt this incredible peace again ... It was more than peace. It was love. And I finally felt whole.”
Hope spent three years studying theology at Queen’s College in St. John’s.
She is now an ordained minister with the Moravian Church in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Hope’s voice breaks when it’s suggested that she has a lot to be proud of.
“I thank God, every day,” she said.
Reverend Beatrice Hope with the Moravian Church in Happy Valley-Goose Bay struggled with her experiences of being sexually abused as a child and has valuable advice to offer to others. Pictured is Hope performing in the Long Term Care Chapel with Labrador Grenfell Health – Choir. From left, George Tasedan, Hope, Dieter Holeitor, and Glenna Tasedan.