Métis writer and child rights advocate, Shelly Ann Wieringa, uses her own story of abuse, loneliness, homelessness, and eventual triumph as a vehicle to help others deeply affected by childhood neglect and trauma.
In I Never Lied – A True Story About Survival, Wieringa takes readers on a step-by-careful-step journey through her life and the disturbing, unfortunate events brought upon her by her stepfather and mother. “Then it happened. The fateful day that would convince me that dying was the better option to living.” The memoire is fraught and filled with sentiments like this as Wieringa experiences one traumatic event after another. And yet somehow, she manages to face them all with remarkable courage.
After speaking out against her stepfather for years abuse, an innocent 14-year-old Wieringa was sent by the child welfare system to Kilburn Hall, a secure custody facility for young offenders that many have referred to as a prison. “I was provided…a single metal bedframe…rubber mattress…itchy army blanket…I was banned from speaking…[counsellors] told me…I was a liar. [At Kilburn Hall] I learned to suppress my feelings…and never to discuss my issues of abuse with anyone because I was guilty.”
Wieringa finds a safety of sorts with a biker gang that parties 24/7. Alcohol, drugs and suspicious activity were common place, and yet “I was never hit, beaten or abused…I was accepted…can you imagine I felt safer living in that environment than I ever did living with my own family?”
Later in life, with children of her own to protect, Wieringa presses charges against her stepfather. Still threatened by him, she goes on the run with her family for two years. Eventually, her stepfather is arrested for weapon possession and uttering death threats against her. Found in his vehicle at the time of his arrest were photos of Wieringa.
Wieringa’s story is harrowing and brings up broader questions about the failings of the child welfare system in Canada, especially regarding the treatment of Indigenous children. After the trial of her stepfather, Wieringa accesses her child welfare file and in it discovers an abundance of evidence, red flags pointing to the abuse and neglect she and her siblings experienced at the hands of her parents, and yet nothing was ever done. Worse yet, she was blamed and held accountable for her parents’ failings.
The last line of the book strikes a chord and is representative of Wieringa’s spirit and hope for others who experience this same abuse: “Today I have happiness, contentment and true love in my life and as hard as it may be for you to understand… that love I feel is for myself.”
Title: I Never Lied: A True Story about Survival
Author: Shelly Ann
Publisher: Kaedor Kallings Limited
ISBN: 0988002906, 9780988002906
Length: 202 pages
Meet Shelly Ann
Recipient of 2014 Esquao Award – Arts & Literature
Psychology/Social Work Diploma
Advanced Level 4 Life Skills Coach/Therapist
Certified Anger Resolution Therapist
Advocate for Victims of Violence
Steward of Abused Children