Why I Broke My Silence?
We all have our stories and I have mine. My name is Jeeti Pooni I was raped by an older male cousin at 11 years old. My sisters Kira and Salakshana were also sexually assaulted by this man. One of my female cousins also came forward.
I broke my silence on September 6, 2009. At that time I was 37 years old, had been married for 10 years and a mother of a six year old daughter. I broke my silence because family members blamed my sisters and I for the abuse and I could not accept the lies being spread to cover up the truth to protect him. Not only were my sisters and I blamed for what had happened to us as young girls we were also expected to take full responsibly for our actions. I had to tell my truth, protect my daughter and do my best to stop him from harming other girls.
Image: Jeeti Pooni, Salakshana Pooni, Kira Pooni
My parents and extended family did not confront him or hold him accountable. So in 2007, my sisters, and I went to the police. Little did we know this would be a 12+ year journey in the criminal justice system and how much it would consume our lives. The court process alone has taken 8 years thanks to the loopholes and delay tactics used by defence.
Last year, April 6, 2018, my abuser was found guilty for 4 of 6 counts of sexual assault. Upon verdict he immediately filed a Section (11b) Charter Application ("Jordan Application") asking the court for a stay of proceedings, claiming his right to a timely trial was breached. Over the years he delayed the proceedings by asking the court for countless adjournments. The judge granted these adjournments and on June 10, 2019, the judge also granted him the application to stay the proceedings. This means all criminal charges have been dropped, there will be no sentencing and he will not be required to register on the National Sex Offender Registry.
To put pressure on Crown counsel and policy makers, my sisters and I started a #Poonisisters petition asking Crown counsel to appeal this decision. We appreciate the support of the 35,000 signatures we have received so far.
So, what did I gain by breaking my silence? Well, by being blamed, shunned by family, the lack of timely police response and the arduous court process all led me to speak my truth, to stand up for my truth and reclaim my authentic power. Post verdict has led me to take time off to heal, connect with myself, discover what self love truly means and find my worthiness. I now believe I deserve to have it all and I do have a right to exist. I have found how to connect with my higher self and trust the knowingness that comes from within, to shine in my divine light and to be an even more amplified voice for myself, my daughters and the voiceless. Breaking my silence has allowed me to be a better mother and have conversations with my girls my mother never had with me about my body, boundaries, boys and sex. I have realized the importance of healing myself before I can help anyone else including my daughters. This journey of healing has guided me to find my spiritual self allowing me to shine brighter than I could have ever imagined. Healing is a lifelong journey.
Breaking my silence also allowed me to own my story, own my truth and educate myself with many tools that help cope with trauma. It also allows me to live a healthy life and be in a better mental space so I can be the best mother, wife, sister and keep inspiring other survivors to heal.
Has breaking my silence made a difference? You bet it has! First and foremost it's had a huge impact on me and the way I see myself. I have a deeper connection with myself, more self love and self respect. I have gained more empathy, passion, motivation and inspiration to do more and to be of service to humanity. It has changed what I reflect back to my daughters, sisters, family and my community. It also gave me the power and strength so I wouldn't throw in the towel during the journey of a 12 year court case. Breaking my silence gave me the confidence to march into the National Film Board of Canada's office and make a documentary 'Because We Are Girls', sharing the story of the abuse of me and my sisters. It compelled me to write a book (The Silent Stoning publishing later 2020), speak at events and to be a voice for those that can't speak up themselves. It gave me the courage to address Crown counsel and policy makers to fix a broken dinosaur system, our current criminal justice system.
Second, breaking my silence is making a huge difference on other survivors. It allows them to know they are not alone, it's not their fault, they too can heal and that they matter. It gives them courage, strength and hope. It gives them courage to own their own story and to break their silence if they choose to do so instead of keeping it buried inside.
Third, breaking my silence has opened up the much needed dialogue of sexual abuse in homes, families and the community.
If someone comes to you and breaks their silence what can you do? In my experience the best thing you can do is listen. Survivors are looking to be heard, believed and want to feel they matter. The best gift you can ever give a survivor is to simply listen.
The journey of us #Poonisisters continues. My sisters and I stand strong and resilient as we wait patiently to see how our court case unfolds.
Follow our journey:
View documentary trailer
Sign #Poonisisters petition
Author: Jeeti Pooni