"You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know."

– William Wilberforce (British Parliamentarian and leader of the campaign to abolish the Atlantic slave trade in the late eighteenth century)

Jaclyn Miles - Miss Canada 2012

Jaclyn Miles - Miss Canada 2012Growing up, abuse seemed like a normal part of my life. I was terribly bullied in grade school but experienced some severe sexual bullying throughout my four years in high school. The constant torment and put downs took a huge toll on my self-esteem and self-worth. I constantly felt threatened and unsafe at school and often feared walking down the hallways.

At the young age of seventeen, I was sexually assaulted. I felt degraded, disrespected but worst of all, alone. I was too embarrassed to reach out to my peers because I thought that they would judge me. I was scared of going to the police in fear that people at school would find out about what happened and spread rumors about me. I remained silent because I did not want to be labelled or blamed for my victimization. I thought it was easier to deal with the pain on my own not realizing that it contributed to my crushed sense of self-worth.

Years later, I was victimized again over the course of a year in an abusive relationship. This experience truly turned my life upside down. I was abused emotionally, physically, sexually and even financially. At first, I lost contact with family members and friends and soon after, I started failing school and missing work. Soon, I was almost completely isolated and then the physical and sexual assault began.

The suffering that I endured is unimaginable for most people. The damage that this person caused me on the inside and out was detrimental. I managed to find the strength to escape this toxic relationship when I realized that if I stayed, I would surely be murdered. Although I left the relationship safely, the healing process had just begun and I can say that I am still healing today.

I started to find strength in sharing my story with other abused women in my community. In January 2012, I was invited to compete for the title of Miss Canada, a competition designed to empower women and which judged solely on personality rather than beauty. I decided that I would go and share my story with the nation in hopes of being able to inspire Canadians to break their silence as I had and take a stand against abuse. I courageously spoke out against abuse and am proud to say that I was crowned as Miss Canada 2012. I educate people nationally and internationally about various forms of abuse and provide support for victims through my campaign called Break the Silence.

While at the competition, I had the pleasure of spending time with Tara Teng, Miss Canada 2011 and the current Miss World Canada. Tara is an activist who strives to end human trafficking. She pointed out to me how closely related our platforms were. I, like many people, thought that trafficking only affected other countries and did NOT happen in Canada. My eyes were opened as I learned that not only is it happening in Canada, but in my own community! I also learned how close I came to becoming a victim of trafficking myself.

I was quite vulnerable after escaping the abusive relationship and I could have easily been targeted. I recognized how important it was to prevent trafficking by educating myself and others on this important topic and began working with organizations in London, Ontario such as Men Against Sexual Trafficking. Through this, I had the honour of connecting with Mrs. Smith and am so proud to be able to be a part of the great strides she makes in ending human trafficking.

Jaclyn Miles

(Photo Credit: Ahmad A. Taam of Signature Design and Photography)