Child sexual abuse can never be defined to the satisfaction and comprehension of a civilized society. Its horrid implications transcend at times human imagination and intellect.

We, the Cree society, must redefine our attitudes towards the sexual abuse of children. I know that as Cree people, we never began to minimize its destructive legacy in the lives of the victims.

In Cree history, the expression and practice of sexuality was intended towards a pathway of learning. It was intended to be a discovery process.

In Cree societies, children have always been the centre of our natural lives. They are the essence of our ultimate capacity to love and multiply, if that is our destiny and choice.

To love someone in our culture includes the obligations to nurture, support and care for during illness and grieve for in death.

While many other cultures have created various designs for the evolution and arrangements of human life and as a result have concocted many forms of sexuality, the Cree culture has for the most part retained the unwritten symbols and meaning of their sexuality: that being the bearing of children for the future generations.

What went on in people’s minds about sexuality was not of major importance in life in the Cree culture; the importance of sexuality was in creating future generations: parents, children and grandchildren for the Elders of the community.

As each day passes, we can appreciate the spiritual essence of our children bubbling to the surface. They enter this world as pure, spiritual beings. They are the source of our salvation, generation to generation.

The most tragic and sinful harm we can cause for our children is to deny or pervert their natural innocence and goodness. We are told the person who abuses a child puts a millstone around his neck. We are also told that every thing that lives is holy. Children are God’s most sacred and precious creation.

The man or woman who abuses children tests the limits of human tolerance. They are ultimately responsible for their conduct, and if they choose, their own redemption. They are responsible for their own rehabilitation, and must accept the responsibilities for the harm they have imposed on others. They can receive support from their families and guidance from helping agencies. They must accept the consequences of legal intervention and the taboos of society.

One of the most horrifying aspects of child sexual abuse is that children can be persuaded and threatened into accepting the abuse by adult persons they have trusted to care for them.

While these persons appear upright and respectable, they wear a mask of evil, perverting their exercise of power. Sexual abuse of children has lasting negative influences on the personal growth and long-term social development into adulthood. Perhaps the most difficult task for helping professionals is exorcizing the past memories of abuse.

Another traumatic experience of abused children is that they are coerced into silence through threats of many kinds. They live in a state of lonely terror through childhood.

Feminists conclude that one of the cruellest ways that men can express power over women is the sexual exploitation of defenseless female children.

The most wretched and horrible truth about abused children is that they may never really understand the horrid truth about their childhood. There are periods in their lives when they wake up in convulsions, after having relived different episodes of their tortured lives. Some children become victims of multiple personalities and suffer flashbacks, attacks of terror, grotesque and disturbing dreams, depression and suicidal phases.

A message to adults is this: If you really love children, you will respect their integrity, their needs, their difficulty in making informed choices and their acute vulnerability—by having no sexual contact with children, at all. If you genuinely love and care about children, you will never become sexually involved with a child.

For the mental health of all Cree children and adults, now is the time to deal with child sexual abuse. Concealing a painful childhood and its memories will be detrimental to the mental health and social development of our children.

The following paragraph addresses the renewed human qualities of a victim who after years of living a tortured life took that time to put her life into a healing perspective. “This I do know: My father was not a monster. His life was a bud that never opened, blighted by the first frost. His crime became his prison, his guilt, his bars. He served his sentence as I served mine, but his was for life, whereas I got off after 47 years for reasonably good behaviour… The force with which I came to hate my father was a measure of the love I and my other self once bore him.

I know that now. Inarticulate with pain, my father expressed his love in a perverted way, which was all he could manage—I know that now… I forgive my father so that I can forgive myself, so I can embrace with compassion that fierce and grieving child who held her tongue to save her cat… I also forgive my father because I love him. That is the biggest shock of all. Not only that I once loved him, but that I love him now…”

Perhaps, this is the measure of love and humanity, which passes all understanding and which transcends the weight of the albatross… that millstone which thwarts for the victims the enjoyment of their childhood and adolescence in its infinite goodness.

The concept of forgiveness is the cloak of spirituality which nurtures the notion of love as the greatest gift of man for mankind. Forgiveness, however, must exist in life; rather than in… death. It is then that we are at peace… We are free, and our lives, which we in our grief labelled as half-empty, are in essence half-full.

A longer version of this article appeared in the Sept. 92 issue of Aispich Chakwan, the information bulletin of the Cree Health and Social Services Board.

For the mental health of all Cree children and adults, now is the time to deal with child sexual abuse.