A survivor of a horrific abduction and sexual assault says life experiences don't "happen to us, they happen for us" in order for people to take responsibility in their lives.
Kerri Tadeu of Kingston was the guest speaker during the Children's Treatment Centre annual Bike-A-Thon Plus Kick-Off Breakfast on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.
"We all learn to love our chains," Tadeu explained to a crowd of hundreds at the Cornwall Civic Complex, about how people can take painful experiences and turn them into purpose.
The psychiatric nurse now volunteers with police and victims groups to help young girls and women who've been victims.
Tadeu recounted how she broke the "cycle of dysfunction" in her life by becoming an overachiever in school and work - something she would later learn was her way to process the trauma.
Tadeu had been ambushed in a Kingston mall parking lot by her attacker, Richard Joyce. She was taken to a nearby woods, where she was sexually assaulted. Joyce threatened to kill her but would later drive her back into the city and drop her on a street corner.
"No matter what my life experiences are and how much I process my trauma and no matter how many times I share this, there are just some certain things you just can't wash off," Tadeu said, her voice breaking.
Joyce is serving a life sentence in Kingston for murder. Tadeu's testimony added 12 more years to his sentence.
Her assault, which she would keep secret for more than two decades, would manifest itself as she had "irrational reactions" to the people around her, including members of her own family.
Her secret would later come out in therapy, specifically sand therapy, which Tadeu noted is at the Children's Treatment Centre.
"I was so moved when I saw that they have sand therapy. I've been all over the place and....it's not around. It's a very specialized type of treatment. The room was so safe. I was so moved that Cornwall has it," Tadeu said.
"All behaviour has meaning and we're only as sick as our secrets and we all have them. I strongly encourage you do to a fearless moral inventory about your own secrets that keep you sick," she said.