For Lily Levesque, having her very personal and poignant poem chosen to be a resource in the Grade 9 health curriculum for Island students is exciting.
After hearing the young lady recite her poem 'The Wolf' at the Montreal Massacre Memorial in December, members of the Premier’s Action Committee on the prevention of Family Violence Youth Engagement Working Group realized it could be an important tool for students to use when learning about their personal health.
Being sexually assaulted at age 15 was devastating, but recently the young lady has come to terms with what happened to her and is bravely speaking out.
“I’m in control and it’s a nice outlook to have,” the former Montague High grad said.
Through writing and subsequently publicly reciting her poem Ms Levesque said she has taken control.
“It was a secret I had and writing it was a way to cope because I hadn’t been talking about it at all - I was just writing about it in my journal,” she said.
The Wolf is a very personal look at what the effects of sexual violence can have on an individual.
“When I first performed it, it was just for me,” Ms Levesque, now 18, said.
“I was doing it to make myself feel better, but then as I started facing the issues, it started to become something for everyone.”
From an event hosted by Community Legal Information Association and a fundraiser for Anderson House, to reciting her work at the memorial in December, Ms Levesque said her perspective has changed over time.
The feedback from Ms Levesque’s pre-Christmas presentation at the memorial has been phenomenal, said Jane Ledwell, Executive Director of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
“There were at least 250 people there and everyone had the shared experience of being chilled to the bone and really moved to action by the words and the way she shaped her experience,” Ms Ledwell said.
“They feel really motivated to work on issues of violence against women to address this in their lives and to take action if they see survivors being ill treated or if they have people in their lives they know have been involved in sexual violence.”
That outcome has been very gratifying for Ms Levesque.
“I am glad I did it,” she said.
“The more I talk about it the more traction it gets.”
She said people have thanked her for speaking out.
“A lot of people I talk to say they are not (brave enough to speak out) and they are still dealing with it years later.
“It is nice to be able to comfort people and let them know it isn’t just them dealing with it.”
While the extent of public awareness has been positive, knowing her experience will be a resource for others is satisfying.
“It will be good for people to understand what it is, and on the other side for people to know how it can affect others,” Ms Levesque said.
There were no resources for her when she was going through the aftermath of her own traumatic experience.
“When I was growing up no one ever really talked about it so when it happened I didn’t know what to do about it and it just kind of left me frozen in time,” she said.
“It is kind of like coming full circle because when I was turning 16 I was wishing someone would tell me what to do or even just talk about it a little bit and now it is something that is going to be talked about.”
Ms Levesque is the daughter of Sandra MacKay of Montague.