Former 1992 Olympic equestrian Paige Lockton-Wilde is coming out as a survivor of sexual assault while a teenager, to raise awareness and funds for other survivors of gender-based sexual violence.
Now 52, Paige was just 17 when she burst onto the Canadian equestrian scene and began to experience the sexually charged atmosphere of competitive riding.
"When the ingredients in your recipe include money, power, international sport, ambitious young people with big dreams and nubile bodies full of hormones, in remote locations with no phones on most sites, where we all lived in campers and horse trailers like gypsies alongside the mentors we worked for, travelled with, and adored, in a society/time where debauchery and affairs were the norms, and add an unlimited supply of alcohol, you have the recipe for disaster and debauchery," recalls Lockton-Wilde.
She's telling her story now as the last step in her reconciliation journey. and "the beginning of a difficult conversation we all need to have." She retired from international competition in 2002 and is currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work Program at Nipissing University studying the effects of trauma.
Lockton-Wilde describes herself as "a six-foot-plus Amazonian warrior-goddess who makes 1,200-pound animals do my bidding" in a sport where men and women compete against each other on an equal basis.
The daughter of a veterinarian, "that’s like a farmer’s daughter, only with access to some pretty serious tools" she wasn't an obvious victim.
"Surprise!” she says, “My point is, if it could happen to me, who else is it happening to?”
She found out after speaking to Harriet Madigan’s support group, Women To The Power of Ten, then known as, Women Living Fit Over Fifty. She bravely shared her story with a room full of sympathetic ears.
She told the women her story of sexual abuse in a PowerPoint presentation. It brought some to tears,
“That was in 2016, just as the #MeToo movement was about to take off, and I recall that every woman there who stayed in line to shake my hand and hug me leaned in and whispered in my ear, ‘Me, too.’”
She didn’t know it was the beginning of something, in safe spaces between women, sharing their all-too-frequent realities. "It changed everything. We weren’t alone,” she exclaimed.
Nearly six years later, after the Women’s Marches in Washington and the millions-strong wave of the #MeToo movement swept the globe, Paige Lockton-Wilde admits that she is late to the party. “But,” she declares, “I have always been the last to leave!”
She is now publically sharing parts of her story to expose how common the reality of sexual assault is across all gender identities.
"I have had difficult conversations with the men in my story and come to peace," she explains. "I came back to ask them 'What are you going to do to make sure your daughters and granddaughters don’t end up a ‘Paige Lockton’ when you send them away unsupervised on their next out-of-town sporting event? How do we build stronger girls and softer boys?"
Still, Lockton-Wilde considers herself lucky.
"The men in my story were ready and the men in my story weren’t ‘monsters’. Most of us won’t experience Capital ‘A’ Atrocities committed by ‘monsters’; just the everyday run-of-the-mill lowercase atrocities committed by everyday humans in a society where it is still the ‘norm.’ Really, all I know is my story, and in mine, the men were as much a product of their environment as I was. They are full of shame and regret, are in no way a threat to go back to their old ways, and are living as compassionate, contributing members of society.
"The important thing is the conversation we start - not who perpetrated the offense. I had a lot of coaches, and so did my old boyfriend, so it could be any of the people that come to your mind or none of them. This is just MY story … but it was everywhere … and it wasn’t just girls."
"In the end, this healed my pain. I have no anger. I don’t want retribution. I DO want to be understood because most of you just know the persona I made to keep up! You can read about my experience on my Facebook page and on my blog. I deeply want others to experience their own reconciliation. And mostly, for you to believe that ANYTHING is possible."
Coming into a day when we are commemorating the deaths of 15 young women in a Montreal massacre, which thankfully most of us will not have to endure, she encourages us to focus on the everyday atrocities that allow the seeds of these sorts of things to germinate and spread.
Now, she's looking for healing and evolution on both sides – former victims and former oppressors – with the help of local services, and her message is one of hope and that ‘Anything is possible!’
Paige is challenging herself to do something she calls "scary" by singing Milck’s song, ‘Quiet’, made famous during the women’s marches with a few of her musical friends – regulars at The Raven and Republic’s Open Mic Night.
They are getting together to back her up and sing other songs of hope and resilience. It's a fundraiser at The Raven and Republic on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.
Over the next three days, Paige will challenge local businesses and individuals, to support the groups that support our vulnerable.
For Adults: Amelia Rising: Support Programs that Bring Hope and Healing to Survivors of Sexual Violence:
For Youth: OutLoud North Bay: Give the gift of HEALING and HOPE, for ALL YOUTH Who Experience Gender Based Sexual Violence in Nipissing:
She encourages anyone who thinks they may benefit from the services of agencies that helped her, to follow up with some of the agencies listed below.
Lockton-Wilde urges community, individuals, business owners, and governmental support, to a youth organization she believes will catch many of the youth who will otherwise not seek or receive treatment through existing victim services.
“Seth Compton is doing something beautiful for ALL our youth, no matter how they identify – largely out of his own bank account. OutLoud North Bay provides a safe space and the reality is that so many of them have suffered sexual abuse. They have peer mentoring programs and can connect youth with appropriate services, such as they are. They do good things. They save lives. They really need our support!”
Dec 6th, on the National Day of Remembrance and Action, she will attend Amelia Rising’s event, a vigil and march at Nipissing University at 5:30 p.m. After which, she will sing the Women’s March Song, ‘Quiet’, at the Raven, Live on Facebook. She is looking for community support from businesses and individuals alike.
Lockton-Wilde would like to see it turn into a yearly gala/fundraiser on International Women’s Day.
Amelia Rising: 705-476-3355
Community Care Counselling Centre of Nipissing: 705-472-6515
OutLoud North Bay: 705-840-6209
Ojibway Women’s Lodge: 705-472-3321