Whitehorse women speak out against violence

Tamara Lucas, 26, exudes confidence. She's tall, slim, blonde, and she carries herself with poise. Hers is not the first image that comes to mind when you think of "kidnap and rape victim.

Tamara Lucas, 26, exudes confidence.

She’s tall, slim, blonde, and she carries herself with poise. Hers is not the first image that comes to mind when you think of “kidnap and rape victim.”

When Lucas heard about the Yukon government’s Am I the Solution? campaign, which asks people to confront their ideas about violence against women, she saw an opportunity.

“What a great campaign, and what a great way for me to try and get involved in it and for me to try and help women,” she recalled thinking.

She told the Yukon News her story in a crowded Starbucks, without lowering her voice, as if she had told it dozens of times before.

In 2006, Mitchell Leblanc, who had been her friend for two years and was 38 at the time, kidnapped Lucas.

First, he tied her up in her home and raped her.

Leblanc then tied her to his truck and drove to Liard Hot Springs.

He said he needed her to kill him because he couldn’t do it himself.

He forced her to cut his wrists as they sat in the hot water, but the blood kept clotting.

In the morning, tourists began to show up. Leblanc got them both back to the truck.

At a pullout near Marsh Lake, he told her that she needed to finish the job.

“Right when he handed me the knife I looked over and saw a cop passing, and I was just thinking to myself, ‘Please pull in here, please pull in here.’”

The cop did, and four more followed. They surrounded the truck, but Leblanc held a knife to Lucas’ throat and they backed off.

She cut him as deeply as she could.

When he stopped replying, she ran out of the truck towards the police.

The ordeal had lasted more than two days.

Leblanc survived.

In June 2007, Leblanc pleaded guilty to kidnapping, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, and two counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The justice process helped her heal, Lucas said.

She didn’t have to tell her story in court, but she did.

“It took a lot of courage to stand up in front of that whole room.”

A few months ago, Lucas travelled to southern B.C. so she could read her victim impact statement in person at Leblanc’s parole hearing.

She requested and was granted an order banning Leblanc from the Yukon until 2015.

She hopes her story will help other women come forward.

“You need to talk about it or you’re just going to blow up. You’re going to self-destruct.”

Lucas thinks she might try to return to Liard Hot Springs one day.

“If there’s too many bad memories, well then I leave. And if there’s not, well then I move forward. I walk down the boardwalk, I try to put my feet in the water. It’s one step at a time, it’s one day at a time.”

Britta Andreas, 30, also heard about the Am I the Solution? campaign this week, and came forward with her own story.

Last weekend she stopped into a bar to say hi to some friends, she said.

When the conversation turned to the musician on stage, Andreas mentioned that she had met him once at a bar three years ago, and that he had hit on her. She wasn’t interested and they both moved on.

After Andreas had left the bar this past weekend, a friend struck up a conversation with the musician.

The friend mentioned to the man that her friend had said that he had hit on her three years ago.

He asked for Andreas’ name.

The next day, he updated his status on Facebook. It started like this:

“Last night some girl named Britta was talking smack about me to a friend and said apparently I hit on her once. Sorry, I don’t hit on water filters… What is your dad’s name? Moen?”

He then suggested that maybe he was only being nice to her, unlike other guys who have sex with her after getting drunk on tequila and cheap beer.

His language was much less flattering.

Andreas said she feels “harassed, insulted, ashamed,” at the false comments.

The man is a minor local celebrity, with over 1,100 friends on Facebook. That’s a lot in a small town like Whitehorse, Andreas said.

She feels her name has been tarnished. It is unlikely that she will introduce herself as, “Britta, like the water filter,” again.

Some of her friends are hesitant to support her publicly, and advised her against speaking up, Andreas said.

“It just feels like people don’t want to get involved. And it’s disappointing, it’s sad.”

The post has since been deleted, but Andreas still hopes the man will find a way to apologize to her and to her partner of three years.

Julie Menard, who is one of the organizers of Am I the Solution?, said that the comments about Andreas represent a perfect example of the attitudes and behaviours the campaign hopes to target.

Men who consider themselves to be non-violent, regular guys need to think about how what they say and do might contribute to violence against women, Menard said.

For both men and women, speaking out is the hardest part. And it can be especially challenging in small communities, she said.

“It’s easier not to speak up. But I cannot stress enough that by saying nothing, you’re supporting the abuser, and you’re actually revictimizing the victim.”

When we don’t speak out about the smaller things, it creates a culture where more blatant violence is possible, Menard said.

“(An abusive) post, for me, is as unacceptable as a rape.”

She hopes that people will hear these stories and think about something they did or failed to do in the past. Maybe next time, they will act differently.

“It’s to make people realize, well hold on, I will say something, or I will support the person who is getting victimized 100 per cent, not just 50 per cent.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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