News / Vancouver

B.C. Premier Christy Clark reveals she was sexually assaulted as a teenager

Clark writes her own experience of being assaulted as a 13-year-old and subsequent silence led to her support for a post-secondary sexual misconduct bill.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark pauses for a moment during a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, September 24, 2012.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark pauses for a moment during a news conference in Vancouver, Monday, September 24, 2012.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has revealed she was sexually assaulted as a teenager.

In a Vancouver Sun op-ed published Thursday, Clark outlined the reasons her government supported a bill by Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver requiring post-secondary institutions to establish and implement sexual misconduct policies.

Clark said her own person experience shaped her decision to support the bill and is now talking about it for the first time.

“As I sat in my chair on the floor of the legislature, it struck me: I knew all too well why women stay silent. For over 35 years, I’ve been one of them,” Clark wrote.

Clark said she was 13 and on her way to a restaurant job in Burnaby when the assault took place.

“It was a sunny day, and I was walking to work at my first job. A man suddenly jumped out, grabbed me and pulled me out of sight into a deep copse of shrubs,” Clark wrote.

“He didn’t say anything. I don’t even remember what he looked like. I remember wondering where he had come from, and why I hadn’t seen him. And I remember being very scared. Luckily, it didn’t last long.

“When he pulled me down the little slope, it must have shifted him off balance. He loosened his grip for a moment, giving me a chance to wriggle away, clamber a few feet forward, and get out of the bush.

“Once I got out into the sunlight, I ran like the wind.”

Clark said she has never told anyone about the assault until recently because she was ashamed and didn’t want to make people uncomfortable.

“I suppose I felt that if I hadn’t been physically hurt, people would think I was self-absorbed, overly upset about something that was just part of life for my half of humanity,” she wrote.  

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared this story with female friends and colleagues. Almost every single one of them also had a story. Like me, none of them had said a word.”

She hopes Weaver’s bill will help other victims report their assaults to authorities and get the support they need.

“Sexual violence is common. Unfortunately, so is staying silent about it. Our silence makes it easier for those who wish to harm us. We don’t share our stories, we don’t think anyone would care much if we did, and then we live with the warped impression that we are alone in our fear and shame,” she wrote.

“I’m not speaking out for sympathy; I don’t need it. I am speaking out because as Premier of British Columbia and B.C.’s first elected female premier, I am privileged to have a public platform. I want women who have never said anything about sexual violence in their lives to know they are not alone.”

The premier’s office provided Metro with a copy of her op-ed but said she was not available for comment.

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