In celebration of Restorative Justice Week, TRU’s Faculty of Arts helped to fund a presentation that featured Avery Hulbert, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
On Thursday, Nov. 21, students, faculty and members of the local community gathered in the Grand Hall of the Campus Activity Centre to hear Hulbert’s story and learn about how restorative justice helped her to overcome trauma from sexualized violence.
“I am a wife, I am a sister, I’m an aunty and I’m a survivor,” Hulbert told the audience.
“I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse that began before I even noticed. I did not have any memories of not being hurt, of not having awkward unwanted touching and actions done against me,” she furthered.
Hulbert explained that her abuse began at a very young age and did not stop until she was 12 years old.
“It was the 80s. We were raised in a family where kids were not to be seen and not to be heard,” she said.
“So we were downstairs doing kid things -so everybody thought- but that was not what was really happening for me.”
Sharing that she was sexually abused by her paternal uncle, Hulbert said looking back now, she cannot understand why she wasn’t brave enough to say “stop it” when the abuse was going on.
“I had a really hard time understanding my child self…how this happened, why this happened and why the woman I am today, wasn’t the child who I was then,” she said,
Still, Hulbert insisted that she has an “incredible family,” who is the sole reason why she is able to share her story with others today.
She added that through restorative justice, they were able to “recognize” that they were broken and begin the journey towards healing.
“We should be able to have places where we can go and feel safe and supported. Where we can move on those journeys from being hurt and injured and being a victim, to surrounding ourselves…with support to heal that hurt,” she insisted.
Hulbert explained that her abuse had a profound effect on her during her developmental years and she often battled with anxiety and hypersensitivity issues.
“It wasn’t until I was sitting in a classroom at Simon Fraser University in a criminology first-year class that all of a sudden I learned ‘Oh my God, this is really bad, this is me’,” she said.
“I will never forget. I read about pedophilia…about childhood sexual abuse and I couldn’t sleep. I remember looking and thinking I have a responsibility…because…every day that I’m quiet he could be hurting somebody else.”
Hulbert said she went to her school’s counsellor but immediately regretted doing so because she was “thrust” into a system where she had to explain and recall.
“Once the criminal justice system got involved things got chaotic…I was re-victimized…I thought for sure when he was detained and charged that he was going to hurt me.”
Hulbert said the first time she was terrified of her uncle was when “the justice system got involved.”
Still, she said “things changed” after she enrolled in a restorative justice class and her instructor placed her in contact with people who could take on her case.
“For once I had a voice. I had somebody…whose values resonated with my values and my family’s values,” she said.
“Restorative justice is not easy for anybody. It’s hard work and we have to recognize that it’s not for everybody, but I firmly believe that it is a choice and an opportunity that should be offered to everybody,” she insisted.