I remember the day I found out about the Justice for Girls Internship opportunity. I didn’t think I’d have a shot at being hired, but I was so excited about the organization and the possibility of becoming a part of it that I tried anyway. To my surprise, I landed a spot on the Girls' Advocacy & Education Center project team. It was the first job I had had in over four years, and it meant the world to me. As I began to become more involved in the Internship, I started to grow as a person. I felt my voice being heard and my words moving people.
When I was abused and entered the court system as a young teenager, I was alone. I was alone in my addictions and in all of the abuse that followed. It’s easy to feel like you have no worth when you’re a young girl who is being poked and prodded, stuffed full of unnecessary medications, and passed along from psychiatrist to psychiatrist. Becoming a part of Justice For Girls made me realize I could have been saved from so much damage if only there had been enough support, enough resources and enough people who believe that my voice matters.
This is what I love about Justice For Girls: their social justice perspective, their ability to trust and support young women who are feeling the most hopeless. Over the past few months, I have been educated on my rights, the rights of the young women around me, and what can be done to help us work through all of the systems that dangle us by strings like puppets. The organization has helped me learn that the best way to help youth is to listen to the words they say.
I’m proud of being an intern with Justice for Girls. I’m proud of myself for turning my life around and I want other young women and girls to feel this pride too.
When I was younger I desperately needed a program like Justice For Girls in my life. But at 13 and 14, I didn’t know of any resources for help and I quickly slipped through the cracks of the education system. From a very young age my home life was unstable and unpredictable. I had no voice and felt I had no worth. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I suffered from depression, anxiety and often thought about suicide. I did not feel like I belonged anywhere, especially at a very wealthy westside school with high academic standards. Half way through grade eight, I started attending less and less, failing classes and felt like giving up every day. At the same time, I had to deal with the provincial courts because of a custody battle between my parents. The court counsellor I talked to claimed the notes would help the judge make an impartial decision, but my confidentiality was broken. Everything I told her was recorded and copies were sent to my parents. Any sliver of trust I had for people with authority over me vanished.
The next year came and home life continued to be very rocky. I soon discovered a solution to my life problems in the form of drugs and alcohol. Addiction took over my life and I stopped going to school altogether. I spent the majority of my time on the street with people who were just like me. I had run-ins with the police, and saw my friends who fit into racial stereotypes being treated unfairly. Trips to youth detoxes became frequent, as did mental health assessments, drug and alcohol counsellors, twelve step meetings and even a 10 week stay at the only local youth treatment centre. I was afraid, traumatized and trusted no one.
After a year and a half of struggling to get sober, I was ready enough to do whatever it took to not have to live like that anymore. I started to grow and learn about myself and helping others became more important in my life.
Justice For Girls came into my life when I was about 6 months sober, and changes started happening fast. I am now surrounded by strong women who I trust and relate to. We have all struggled in our own ways and have walked through it, and now we are able to walk with other young women. I’m now over a year sober, and being a part of Justice For Girls is one of the best gifts I have received. My experience can now be used to help others, and to make changes where they are needed. As an Intern now, I have a voice and the power to help create something that 13-year-old me needed so desperately.