Olympian tells Children’s Treatment Centre breakfast persistence needed when revealing abuse
An Olympic swimmer and survivor of sexual abuse says fellow survivors need to be strong and persistent about reaching out for help and revealing they’re a victim.
“Be that squeaky wheel,” Margaret Hoelzer told 600 people at the Children’s Treatment Centre breakfast at the Cornwall Civic Complex on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.
“I always advocate how important it is to tell. Be that squeaky wheel. If one person doesn’t believe you, tell 25 more people. I was very lucky the first two people believed me. My 11-year-old friend and my mother. That unfortunately doesn’t happen very often. So many people tell and they give up because the first person they tell doesn’t believe them,” Hoelzer said.
The Huntsville, Ala. native was sexually abused by a family friend over two years, starting at the age of five. It only ended “by shear luck” after her perpetrator and his family moved. She didn’t reveal her secret until she was 11 years old.
The Olympic swimmer poured herself into swimming as an outlet to cope. She says than runs counter to a stereotype of victims of abuse turning to drugs, alcohol and getting into trouble. “Sometimes we don’t scratch the surface and say, what is motivating that person? Is it coming from a healthy place?”
“I think there’s an under-diagnosed problem, which is overachieving. It took a 4.0 grade average, making the national team, making the Olympic team not to be above people, but just to somehow raise the bar so I felt like I was even with people,” Hoelzer said.
Hoelzer said “the most important part of the entire process” of healing is counseling at places like the Children’s Treatment Centre. Hoelzer was on her first trip to Canada for a speaking engagement. She came to Cornwall a day early so she could tour the CTC. She lives in Seattle, Wash.
Be Their Eyes and Ears Standard-Freeholder
Lois Ann Baker – published on: October 18, 2018
‘You are the eyes and ears’ for abused children, MacLeod tells Cornwall audience Those in attendance at the Children’s Treatment Centre’s Celebrity Walk and Breakfast on Wednesday morning had the chance to hear a special guest speak as well as hearing about Margaret Hoelzer’s story.
Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod attended the breakfast on Wednesday morning before catching a flight to the Yukon.
“I came in from Ottawa, very close, but far enough away that I had to wake up at four o’clock this morning,” she said. “But I’m glad I did, because I get to have breakfast with the 600 of you. Six hundred really generous people who came out today in aid of children who are being abused or have been abused and are the most vulnerable in our society.” MacLeod said child abuse was one of those rotten things, one of the most sinister things that can happen in the province or anywhere in Canada.
“They sometimes call me the minister of everything, but a lot of the time in my ministry we see all the tears,” she said. “Some really tragic things that are happening to Ontario’s most vulnerable people. I remind my staff, when someone calls or emails us, we are often their last resort.”
MacLeod said in the last four months she has seen child abuse takes many forms. Her ministry has visited many women’s shelters across the province and it came as no surprise women who flee from domestic violence often have children they take with them. The children are dealing with severe mental health challenges as a result of the abuse.
MacLeod also talked about the sex traffic trade and how most girls in this life are under 18 years of age, which makes this issue child abuse. She also noted more often than not, those being trafficked were abused prior to getting trapped.
“When I look at a room like this with law enforcement here, with members of our religious community, with our private and not-for-profit sectors, you are really making a difference towards a really strong social safety net within our community,” she said. “I learned a long time ago government cannot and should not do it all. We need to be supportive of initiatives like this (CTC).”
More importantly, she added, there were 600 people in the room who are saying no to child abuse.
“And on child abuse prevention month, that’s really important,” she said.
MacLeod said the public needs to be the eyes and ears of those children and it was our job as responsible adults. After listening to Hoelzer’s speech, MacLeod said it was important Hoelzer was here so people could see even successful people could have a past that might include abuse or other challenges.
“For her to disclose that in this room today, in front of 600 people, was very powerful,” said MacLeod. “I think she is an important role model for others that have been victims of child abuse. And to be here today with this organization, which is very much community driven and community funded, I think is a really nice intersection. A very successful Olympian to come to a humble town with a lot of grassroots organizations.”
MacLeod said that was one of the reasons she loved to come to Cornwall.
“The people of Cornwall are very resilient and she (Hoelzer) got to see that today and they got to see in her that same type of spirit,” she said.