There are a lot of sides to the story of how I was raped in late August, and what happened before and after.
I’ve told my story about being sexually assaulted and how it affected my life and how the justice system has not, so far, been there for me. The media picked it up, and the police gave their side. As well, what happened, and who did it, has been running around the party for some time, so maybe if you’re reading this, you’ve heard that side.
This is the story of the last three years of my life, and the events leading up to my assault. It’s how, and why my assault happened. I think it’s one of the most important parts.
I’m not sure when I first started to notice it. The way some of the men in politics looked at me. I joined the NDP so young- I was 14 when I took out my first membership. I grew up in the party, I was a golden child until suddenly I wasn’t a child anymore. I was a woman to them.
I do know the moment it became impossible to avoid. That starts with a man named Adam Duke. Adam started talking to me in January of 2015, when I was 16. He was 27, eleven years my senior. His messages were nice enough to start- “how were finals?” “Did you make it into your hotel room okay?”, but they quickly took a turn for the worse. He would ask me for nudes, repeatedly, while I dodged the question. He’d ask me about pornography, and try to get me to divulge my sexual experiences to him (when I had none to speak of.)
At this point he was the NDP candidate for Humboldt-Watrous in the upcoming provincial election, and a vice-president of the Saskatchewan NDP. I was barely two months into my first term with the Saskatchewan Young New Democrats. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified.
At first I didn’t tell anyone, not even my close friends, or my parents, what Adam Duke was doing. I just carried it with me, carried the weight of what he was doing in my chest. Even if I did speak up, I expected to be ignored, shushed, it would be swept under the carpet. He was a candidate, and I was some teenage kid. I could do the math.
It would take months and years for me to speak up, within certain circles, and discover I was far from the only woman Adam had sexually harassed. In 2016, when tweets of his came to light where he described a university campus as “rape-friendly,” at least half the young women in the party shuddered and rolled our collective eyes. Some of them had complained to the party about Adam’s behaviour, and tried to make it clear- none of them received any acknowledgement to speak of.
When Cam Broten was confronted with those tweets, he said, “The important thing to do is, when a problem is identified, act to address it.” But the Saskatchewan NDP had identified the problem, and completely failed to address it. The party, and so many people within positions of power within it knew what kind of person Adam was, they just didn’t care.
It became clear that speaking up about what he had done would look worse for me than for him- I’d be the girl who couldn’t keep a secret when the party needed it.
Adam held all the power, and despite the common knowledge that he harassed women, he was given more opportunities within the party — he was kept as a candidate when others weren’t so fortunate, he was interviewed for a job at provincial office this year, and he was working in Erin Weir’s office over the summer — all I could do was quietly watch my abuser succeed.
So for three years, from the time I was sixteen until now, I just went along with it, with his harassment.
I just went along with it, too, when he said he wanted to come over to my house this August, during the Fairview by-election campaign, where he forced his penis into me, tearing me open while I begged him to stop.
At first I was in shock. I cried for hours. I went to the hospital, and did a rape kit- after being poked and prodded for a forensic doctor for what felt like ages, the police came to pick it up and bargained with me to give them a name, even if I thought it would ruin my reputation in the party, because he had committed a crime- finally, something in me snapped, and I did: “Adam Duke.”
The next month was a whirlwind. I went to visit my dad in Victoria, BC, for a week. I skipped e-day for the by-election, because I was terrified of seeing him. I developed a minor alcohol problem. I got into a car accident on the highway home from youth convention, where my fear of the night terrors I have about what happened kept me awake. I quit my job as co-president of the USask NDP, because I realized I would rather eat glass than continue to promote such an unsafe environment to other young women.
I spoke with a friendly journalist about what had happened, thinking that was the best way to get justice within the party- they would need to be shamed into action, or nothing would change. Word of what happened, what Adam had done, leaked, somehow. He got to give a resignation from Erin Weir’s office. He was scrubbed from everyone’s social media, and his candidate page was taken down.
The political machine did its work, and spit him out. I guess it took having the worst happen for them to listen to me, to us.
I got to speak on the phone with Nicole Sarauer, our interim leader, who told me, “I don’t care about the party- I care about you feeling safe.”
When I think about it, there has never been a moment, in my entire adult life, that I have felt safe. That I haven’t lived in fear of him. What happened to me during those three years killed the starry-eyed young girl I was. He was the monster under my bed. I carried the weight of the harassment — and then the assault — around like a lead balloon.
Adam Duke took an aspect of my youth that I will never get back. When my other friends were picking out prom dresses and dating other teenagers, I had a nearly thirty year old adult man asking me about my underwear.
He was a constant, crippling reminder that my sexual desirability as a young woman was, and will often be, more important to men than my ideas.
The thing is, up until the assault, none of it was shocking to me. I knew sexual harassment was just something I should expect as a young woman in politics. I had been warned, by friends and peers who had similar experiences in the party. Politics attracts predatory men, I think, something about the promise of power and the way it can make you feel larger than life.
Usually they get off scot-free, even though we all know, no one does anything or says anything because it is party over self. For the longest time, I felt like I had to make the choice between being open about Adam Duke’s harassment and my assault and trying to get justice, and whether or not I wanted the Saskatchewan NDP to form government in 2020.
That stops today. I want justice for what happened to me, what he did. I don’t entirely know what that feels like, when the justice system and the party apparatus have failed me in so many ways so far, but I think this, putting what happened into words and putting those words out there, is a good start.
I hope this makes even one woman in politics who is going through what I have feel less alone. I think we all need that.