TALKS TO GENERAL AMHERST STUDENTS ABOUT ABUSE
By Jolene Perron
On Monday morning, students walked into their gymnasium, greeting Miss Canada 2012, Jaclyn Miles, with whispers of “She’s so pretty” and “Oh my gosh, I love her dress”, unaware of the truths they were about to hear.
Miles is out on a campaign called “Break the Silence” to educate people about abusive relationships.
In this, she appeared at General Amherst, as a former student and a voice of reason, for she too had experienced violence.
“When I think of abuse,” said Miles, “I think of it as something that builds every time you’re abused and if you don’t do something about it then you become susceptible to becoming a victim of more abuse.”
Miles said that she failed to seek out a lot of things that happened to her which lead to her becoming a victim of dating violence and domestic abuse.
“Leading up to me becoming Miss Canada, this story is not a fairy tale, or a “Happily Ever After” type of thing.”
When Miles came to High School, she claimed she “was pretty ugly”. In elementary school, Miles said she used to be picked on for the way she looked. When Miles made it to high school, she lost weight, and dyed all of her hair blonde. Miles recalls being referred to as a “slut”.
“I would get dropped off and this group of people would stand outside and call me a slut. Every…day. It got to the point where my dad was going to walk me into the front doors,” she said.
Miles fast forwarded her high school experience, recalling the boyfriend she had from Grade 10 to Grade 12. She told the students how, at times, she felt like he was a little bit controlling, emotionally hurtful and said mean things to her, but she never thought twice, she wanted to be committed.
Shortly after their break up in Grade 12, Miles revealed to the students that she was sexually assaulted, but she didn’t tell anyone, and only just recently told her parents. She said that “to feel alone and that no one cares and no one will believe you, is an awful feeling”.
Miles went away to University, and upon her return a man whom she had known for some time showed interest in her. Miles described him as the “untouchable” guy, the one who everyone wants to date. Little did she know the relationship she was about to get herself into.
In the beginning, the relationship went well but Miles said there were signs that she
never really clicked in to. He would say things to her such as she shouldn’t hang out with so-and-so, that he didn’t trust her to go to her mom’s house, that she wasn’t doing very well in school and should just drop out.
“I was making excuses for it because that’s what we do – we make excuses for the people we care about because we don’t want to see them that way … I let it continue,” she said.
Miles continued to tell the students about his gruesome behaviours, how he would check up on her constantly while she was at work and worst of all, how he would inspect her body upon return to the house to see if she had “been with” another man. Miles described the situation as “violating” and “embarrassing”.
“One day when I tried to leave, he started fighting me, choking me, I tried to defend myself. Eventually, it resulted in being stabbed with a pair of scissors across the back,” she explained.
Her roommate was the one to say something to her about what was going on. Miles was able to confide in her, but it wasn’t until her boyfriend threatened murder that she really took it to the next level.
“After you get stabbed and someone says they’re going to kill you, it’s really not something you question,” Miles stated.
The police took her situation seriously. He assured her that not only was he on her side, but he had an army of teachers and social workers who would work to protect her. They stayed outside of her house for months watching and protecting her.
Miles says that the experience is still carrying through today, and there is another court hearing scheduled.
“I’m really proud of Jaclyn,” said Mike Digou, an English teacher at Amherst who also used to teach Miles. “Being able to overcome something like that is very traumatic. She was lucky to have people to support her. I think she will go on and do the school proud and the community proud.”
“I went through so much to get to where I am today,” said Miles in closing, “I went to councillors and social workers. I laid in bed for almost a year with nothing. But I got through it”.
Miles is only 23, and it was not long ago that she too walked the halls of Amherst. She has recently graduated from Windsor with an honours BA and now is finishing teacher’s college at Western. Although she is not quite sure where she wants to go, she’s letting things take her wherever she is meant to go.
The Campaign “Break the Silence” will also be launching a website shortly called breakthesilencecampaign.ca which will be open to the public.