Susan Aglukark is a Inuk Singer, songwriter and keynote speaker, whose songs we have featured before on our “Calling All Warriors” program. She has recorded eight albums, has won multiple awards and has performed for thousands.
Among them Queen Elisabeth, Nelson Mandela, and Billy Graham among them, just to name a few. She is a beautiful person in every aspect–but in her song “Arctic Rose” she sings of the very troubling and hurtful event she experienced, which still affects her today.
In a recent interview with Canadian APTN News, Aglukark shares: “Some nights, I still wake up drenched in sweat.”
It’s been 42 years since she endured sexual abuse, included being photographed naked, as an eight-year old girl living in remote Rankin Inlet–a trauma from
which she now considers herself about 80% healed. The rest, she knows, will never be completely gone. She states: “I’ll always have triggers,” and “being photographed is a trigger.” She also knows that as a sexual abuse survivor in the indigenous community, she is far from alone. Such abuse is a “dehumanizing and demoralizing” root cause of the youth suicide crisis that has been ravaging remote northern outposts in recent years, such as the Attawapiskat and Wapekeka First Nations in Northern Ontario. “There is a very vicious cycle in our communities right now, all from the residential school era,” Aglukark said. “My abuser himself was abused in residential school.”
Is there hope for those who suffered devastation and pain from abuse?
Aglukark shared that her abuser, whose identity she didn’t want to disclose, was eventually convicted after she and a group of other victims decided to pursue charges. Not all of them do. Victims who spoke to “The Canadian Press” for a series of stories about the links between generational abuse and residential schools described being wary of coming forward for fear of isolation, family shame and reprisals. Aglukark herself recalled how uncomfortable she felt telling a police officer what happened. “That was probably the greatest trauma for me, having to sit there with this emotional fear in my head and in my heart and repaint this incident with this completely strange man I didn’t know,” she said. “That scared me more than going to court.”
Once her attacker was convicted, she found little relief beyond knowing he’d be unable to victimize anyone else while behind bars. She also felt humiliated, she said: “The whole town knows this was done to you.”
How did healing begin for Aglukark? It came through music–specifically with the release of her 1992 album “Arctic Rose,” in which she let’s listeners in on her pain. The response to the album was overwhelming, she said. Nightly performances turned into a form of therapy where she sang about her own trauma onstage and heard stories from other victims after the show.
Listen to some of Susan’s Music on her website, or here
At times the emotional burden became too much. “That was the thing that scared me the most, we started and opened this can of works,” she said. “Now what?” “That’s the thing that kept me up at night,” It is also what ultimately kept her going in October 1998 after she spend three hours crying in a van outside a recording studio–a moment she described as a very dark place in her life, despite her success and critical acclaim. “In that moment I realized I love my life,” Aglukark said.
Since then, Aglukark has given herself space to heal in small stages. It means “more or less loving the journey I’m on,…getting a glimpse of that life was me as whole and healed enough as I can be…but that meant going back to that, following that can of worms…opened up with Arctic Rose.”
Aglukark said she hopes Indigenous people will have the courage to allow all victims, as well as those who became perpetrators, to be part of a recovery process moving forward. “The longer we wait, the more we are going to have suicides,” she said.
“The cycle of abuse is not going to change if we don’t act now.”
Healing from the deep wounds of Sexual abuse is not easy, but there is help. As followers of Creator, we believe that healing is possible because of Jesus, “Creator who Saves.” He binds up wounds, embraces us with his unconditional love, begins to heal our scars, and sets us on a path of restoration–if we come to him.
Despite of the terrible toll sexual abuse took on her life, the last title of her album “Arctic Rose” is a beautiful version of “Amazing Grace” in her Inuit language. With it Aglukark speaks of the healing grace of Creator God. (As first broadcast on KIYE 88.7 and 105.5 FM on 02/18/2017 “Calling All Warriors” Episode 155)
Here are some helpful resources:
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