Friday, 23 February 2018 05:29

Kennedy builds hope and knowledge while visiting Lethbridge College

Written by  Demi Knight
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Kennedy builds hope and knowledge while visiting Lethbridge College Photo contributed

Lethbridge College took some time this moth to acknowledge the serious issue of sexual assault with a special guest presentation and screening of his documentary Swift Current.

Sexual assault survivor, ex NHL Hockey star and an Order of Canada recipient Sheldon Kennedy made a trip to Lethbridge Feb. 15 to share his story as well as screen two showings of his documentary, which highlights childhood trauma through sexual assault and the long-standing effects this abuse has on its victims.
“I think hosting a day like today is the best way to protect our kids moving forward,” said Sheldon Kennedy of the appearance he made at Lethbridge College. “These presentations have really shifted for me from telling my story to really understanding the issues. I had to get to a place where a part of my story had to be hope and showing kids that there is a way of it and that you can become a good person again, because a lot of times kids who have gone through this don’t believe they can ever get to that point again.”
The presentation, which was brought to the college on Feb. 15 for two showings, (one of which was private for students within the justice and human services programs and the other open for the public to attend) was co-organized by the Southern Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.
The emphasis was on bringing awareness and a sense of strength forward on the sensitive issue that is sexual assault, the organizations role within this presentation was to create a sense of hope and empowerment to survivors as well as support methods and knowledge on the prevalence of this issue within children across the world.
In fact, this issue although traumatic is said to be so prevalent that as many as one in three Canadians report to have experienced some form of child abuse throughout their youthful years.
With Kennedy himself coming to the college to share his story and documentary, all those in attendance were able to listen to his harrowing journey which offered an invaluable learning experience for all those who have gone through or may be subject to going through similar ordeals of sexual assault within their lives.
“By getting educators and community members in the same room and hearing the same message from Sheldon provides a shared learning experience that can help us all move forward together,” says Wendy Weninger, chair of the School of Human Services.
“When our students enter the workforce, they are bound to be responding to situations where they will have to support individuals that have experienced trauma similar to Sheldon’s,” added Barb Mantello, chair of the Schools of Justice Studies and Public Safety. “So, to hear his harrowing, real-life story first hand is an invaluable learning tool for both our students and our faculty.”
Kennedy whom is a former NHL hockey player, world junior hockey championship gold medalist and Memorial Cup champion had an exciting career in the sport that he loved.
However, after making the courageous decision to charge his junior hockey coach for the abuse and assault he suffered through over five years under his care, Kennedy has also become a hero, advocate and sensational inspiration to children across the world after he vowed to be a voice and educator on the issue moving forward.
“Our biggest gap in this area is knowledge,” says Kennedy. “It’s still not mandatory that you take training on this issue ... the reality is that in most cases, kids tell their situations in many ways, it’s not always vocally, but they tell you by cuts on their arms, or by dropping out of school or sports, and I think as caretakers of children, whether we’re parents, teachers, coaches or volunteers in a position, we need to be aware and take the time to learn and when we see signs of these issues we need to ask questions.”
With his own past as a reminder, Kennedy says that being able to do these presentations is also great to help people who may have gone through similar experiences find a way out of the darkness.
During his time at the college, he stressed the importance of finding a way to make yourself better rather than relying on other people’s opinions or approval on the matter. Sheldon also added that self-care when dealing with this type of ordeal and finding things that help the individual on their own personal level is key when moving forward from these types of trauma’s.
However, one more message Kennedy did have for community members — besides acknowledging the issue — was that everyone needs to work together to start creating a pathway for children to feel confident and able to voice their concerns or complaints.
Since 98% of all cases he helps investigate on are cases where the child knows their abuser.
Kennedy stressed that creating lines of open communication and eliminating the fear that the child knows their abuser is a person of prominence within the community or someone who has power over them, is also vital to helping recognize and put a stop to the issue. 
“This “stranger-danger” and perception that we have of criminals (being scary-looking monsters), isn’t the case most of the time in this area, so the more we can educate ourselves and make a clear pathway for people to be able to bring a complaint forward without judgement, I think is our best path forward to making sure that this incident doesn’t keep happening.”

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