‘Start conversations’: Wear blue this Wednesday to raise awareness of child abuse

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With a freshly planted pinwheel garden already turning heads outside of city hall, a Regina organization wants as many people to wear blue this Wednesday to recognize child abuse prevention month.

“If you see a group of people wearing blue, you’re going to stop and ask some questions,” said Holding Hope founder Sarah Labadie, who pointed out a 2014 Statistics Canada survey that found a third of Canadians had experienced some form of child abuse before they turned 15.

“We thought it would be a really great way to start conversations because we know they can be tough to start. We’re just giving people as many opportunities as we can to have those very necessary conversations.”

Read more: Child abuse concerns higher during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: experts

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Holding Hope planted 763 pinwheels at the edge of City Hall grounds along Victoria Avenue last week. The plan is to leave them up until the end of April.

Labadie explained that each pinwheel symbolically reflects 100 Reginans who experienced abuse as a child.

“Doing the math, one-third of the population in Regina is 76,309 people,” she said.

“The pinwheels are resilient. They promote happy, childlike feelings and that’s what we want for children, for them to feel carefree, like they’re blowing in the wind.”

Labadie hopes that educating people on those and other statistics on child abuse will lead to prevention.

“One of the biggest contributors to my silence was lack of knowledge. I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was abuse and that I should tell somebody,” Labadie said.

“Had I known my rights and had more knowledge about what is and isn’t okay, I truly believe that I would have spoken up sooner, saving myself from further abuse and years of suffering in silence.”

Read more: Seven women killed in 7 weeks has Quebec sounding alarm over domestic violence spike

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Labadie founded Holding Hope in 2019 after she shared her own experience with abuse for the first time.

“I didn’t say anything about my experience for a really long time,” she recalled.

“In my grade 11 English class, I wrote an essay talking about my own experience. One of the things I was really pointing out was what schools and what everyone can do better to protect kids. It was really helpful for me to come out and share my story.”

Holding Hope has since grown to about 15 members from around Saskatchewan. One member even joined from Manitoba. Members include survivors and friends of victims.

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Labadie said that beyond April, she plans to continue promoting Holding Hope’s message on its social channels. The group is also hoping to work with educators to teach schoolchildren about abuse.

“Knowledge is power, and that is what Holding Hope is trying to demonstrate. Through education and difficult conversations, we can ensure that every child gets the safe and nurturing childhood that they deserve. It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.”

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