We are always grateful to those who choose to share their stories with our readers. Sharing this one, in honour of International  Women's Day, was not an easy decision for the writer.  It is offered in the hope that other women - even one woman - will know that they are visible, have voice, have sisters.

This story references sexual violence. We are grateful to those in our communities who support those who experience violence. If you need to, reach out - here are resources.

- by  Melissa Kanmacher

In celebration of International Woman’s Day
I want to share my story.

It is a story of 
          and sorrow
               and shame
                    and freedom and  courage

                  A day of celebration 

The day that I sat in the courtroom for the last time and heard the click of the handcuffs as my perpetrator, a Catholic priest was led away. Knowing his body would be touched without his desire or consent; his cheek swabbed for his DNA profile to be added to the sexual offender registry was a day I will not forget.

Some heroes from that day:

1. The 4 brave woman who stood out front to be heard and questioned, and taunted, and humiliated, and… 
A sexual abuse court case is no joy-ride.

2. The 7 others paid off by the church, plus the other unknown, unnamed women who sat in silence still wrestling with their own demons or perhaps having closed the door on that part of their story.

3. The judge who, in his summary, quoted scripture, suggesting a time when sinners, like men who touch girls are tossed into the river with a rock tied to their leg. 
He really listened and did what he could to make right a horrible wrong.

4. The courtroom officer who, with a satisfied smile, winked at me in eager anticipation when the sentence was read, knowing he would have the opportunity to lead the prisoner out of the room.  

A notable villain: 

The courtroom reporter, who, after hearing all 4 women testify the details of being groomed, given alcohol and drugs, and the precise details of body parts touched and acts performed titled his story “Romantic Relationship with Priest started at age 15 or 16”. He was a voracious voyeur of nasty tidbits. A vulture.

A day of celebration

The day that unholy, broken man could no longer hide in the shadows and potentially hurt another girl. The day my shame was handed back to its proper owner.


Today, sorrow only rears its sad, forlorn head in the moments of realization when joy has been stolen. It has been a hard road back to believing the world is a safe space. 

I think back to the time when my secret became the story.   When the story broke, I cocooned in my lazy boy chair, holed up with my phone and my computer listening to the eerie familiarity of the stories from my newfound sisters from the same Father.  I searched for clues, I sought answers, I begged to understand and I cried.

For 4 months, I cried.  I am not sure what defines a mental breakdown, but I suspect that was it.

PTSD is real.  Triggers still happen, but rarely.  

Some days I feel battle-weary from crawling my way through cruelty and injustice to find my way back to joy.

Most often, I can choose to find joy and know joy.

Is it because I know true sorrow? I am not sure.  I am not of the ilk that feels blessed and better for the experience.  I wish the bastard hadn’t touched me or any of the girls he preyed on.


Losing shame requires stepping into light.  It requires infinite courage. It is a commitment to your own truth.  Shedding the shame of sexual abuse is a hard-won victory.  

As a young person dedicated to hiding the sexual abuse, I grew quite accustomed to shrinking into the shadows when I felt threatened by both real and imagined perpetrators.  

I tried so hard for so long not to expose the shame that was attached to the truth.  

Once that cork was removed, I found a wellspring of pure, clean truth, unclouded by shame.  It became an elixir for my life post abuse. Maybe, a bit of a new addiction. Once I found my voice and spoke my truth, I could no longer stifle the need to speak out against those who attempt to throw shame or exploit what they perceive as weakness in others.  

Shedding shame requires standing naked, in a full-length mirror, in the light of every damn day.

Freedom is…

Becoming a survivor and not a victim of sexual abuse. Living my life in light. Telling my story.  Protecting my boundaries. Living my truth. Embracing joy and love. Striving for kindness. Celebrating a future unshackled from the past. 


The secret to happiness is freedom...And the secret to freedom is courage.  Thucydides

The image is a painting of Melissa by Ann Fauchon, titled Woman who Runs with Wolves



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