Turtle Island Native Network

Indian Residential School

(formerly the Provincial Residential School Project)

Click to Connect with the Indian Residential School SURVIVORS Society

What is a disclosure?

A disclosure is your story, told in your own words. Whether you are telling your story t pursue criminal charges, in a healing circle, in counseling, or to a civil lawyer, a disclosure will bring up the same feelings.

The Provincial Residential School Project is looking at alternate ways for First Nations to disclose about their experiences. If you wanted to make a statement "for the record" but not to the police, you would have an alternative that would take your concerns, culture and healing into account.

Why Make a Disclosure after all this time?

There are many reasons why a survivor of residential school may want to make a disclosure about abuse that happened. Reasons may be:

To stop the cycle:

For some, attendance at residential schools has meant failed relationships, broken homes, inability to keep a job, drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal feelings, loss of culture, loss of family history, loss of language, and so much more. A disclosure and the healing that can follow will make it less likely that these problems will be passed on to the next generation.

To start healing:

Some feel that healing will not occur until they have faced and spoken about what happened

To be heard:

Residential school forced us to be silent. We can speak out now so that what happened will not be forgotten. It may even be possible to charge the offender and get some form of "justice" or to get compensation.

To understand:

When you look back at your life, a disclosure may help you understand why it has turned out the way it has. Understanding why you had to go to residential school may help you to take back some of the control which was stolen from you.

Whatever your reason for making a disclosure, you must be sure that you want to make it and that you do not feel pushed by others. The emotions that you may experience when you disclose can be overwhelming and can affect you more than you expect. So you should be sure and you should be prepared. The following may help you.

Before You Make a Disclosure:

You will need emotional support through this process. Making a disclosure may make you feel as if you are right back in residential school:

  • you may feel like you are six years old again
  • all of the feelings that you experienced in the school may come back
  • anger, loneliness, fear, shame, guilt, sadness, hurt, hunger, despair may all return

You may not be able to sleep up to a week before the disclosure. Feelings of anxiety, shame and guilt may make you feel like you can't go through with it. Having some support can help you. Make sure that you have:

  • 2 supporters available to talk, 24 hours per day. You should feel safe with them. Tell them before you make the disclosure. Ask them if they would be willing to talk with you when you need to. Ask them to check-in with you everyday for the first month or so. (There should be 2 people so that if you can't reach one, the other is available. Also your support people should not be immediate family members because this process is hard on them too. If it is unavoidable, then they should get outside support too.)
  • they can call the Residential School Project if they want help in supporting you.
During the Disclosure:

Make sure that you have a supporter during the statement to sit outside and wait for you. Use local victim service or community centre volunteers if you are unable to find someone. This person should stay with you all day afterward.

You may feel many things during the disclosure. There is no right way or wrong way to feel. You may feel:

  • shame at having to tell private details to a stranger
  • anger that it is a white RCMP officer taking the statement
  • relief that you no longer have to keep it secret
  • fear, as if you are right back in the residential school
  • powerful, because you have taken control of your past

Whatever you feel is okay. It is your mind and body trying to cope with the experience of having to go back. It is okay to cry, to take your time. Remember that the officer is experienced and understands that what you have to say is painful for you.

After the Disclosure:

You will need longer term help : counselling, a spiritual teacher, etc. Set your first appointment before you make your disclosure so that you can get to know your supporter. You should make a plan about your future healing journey (the Residential School Project may be able to help you with this). Facing residential school is a process. Making a disclosure is only one step.

Once you have made the disclosure, make sure that you do something to "bring yourself back" from being in the school. Right away you may feel like crying. Go with your support person and release the immediate emotions somewhere safe. Then do something that you like to do, such as:

  • go for a coffee, or
  • walk in your favourite park, or
  • visit with your grandchildren, or
  • practice a hobby

You may not feel like it, but you need to focus some of your attention on the present because it may be difficult to leave the experience of having been in the past.

For some time afterwards, you might feel so alone that you will think no one can touch you. You might feel like you are floating in a sea of blackness and that you will never find your way out. You might feel tired and drained for a few days. Some feelings you might experience are: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, and suicidal. It is possible to find your way out but it is easier and faster if you seek help.

Please make sure you have your supports in place.

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      More Information

What is the Society?  

BC Residential Schools

Common Thoughts

Making a Disclosure

If You Feel a Memory Coming

Criminal Prosecution Process

Role of the RCMP

Role of the Crown Counsel

Civil Process

Healing Principles