NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is being lauded for his bravery after writing in his new memoir that he was sexually abused as a child.
The Toronto Star has published an excerpt of Singh’s book, “Love & Courage,” which will be released next week. In the chapter, Singh opens up about the racism he faced as a boy in Windsor, Ont. because of the colour of his skin and his head covering.
Singh says in the book that a taekwondo instructor that taught him self-defence as a way to fend off bullies — a now-deceased man identified as “Mr. N” — took advantage of him.
“Mr. N abused me. He tied his perversion to my performance, which was my primary motivation,” he wrote. “It didn’t take long for the abuse to seem normal. That’s the thing about abuse — it can make the victim feel an overwhelming sense of shame, a shame so disabling that one suffers in silence.”
In the excerpt, the NDP leader also wrote about how shame and stigma led him to deny the truth of the experience before coming to grips with the fact that he was a victim.
“I would have to accept that the abuse really did happen, that it had taken a devastating toll on me, and that I was not to blame.”
The NDP applauded its leader for talking about his experience in a statement to HuffPost Canada.
“Jagmeet’s willingness to open up about his experience with racism and sexual abuse will help others going through the same experience.
“His courage to tell his story and brave honesty will help people with shared experiences know they’re not alone.”
Singh described his childhood in Windsor as “rough” in an interview with HuffPost in 2017.
“There was a lot of racism as a brown kid, with long hair and funny-sounding first name…. I got in a lot of fights all the time,” he said.
“Kids would say: ‘You’re dirty, your skin is dirty, why don’t you take a shower’ … or ‘You’re not a boy, you’re a girl because you have long hair,’ and then they would just come up and pull my hair, or just punch me.”
In the same interview, he shared that his father had been the one to sign him up for taekwondo so that he could defend himself.
Singh said the bullying forced him to be confident.
“That makes you less of a target when you are very sure of yourself,” he said. “I tried to carry myself very confidently and I had to try to develop this mentality that people are going to stare at me, they are going to look at me, so I better give them something to look at.”
He later transferred to a high school across the border in Detroit, after his father became concerned about daily fights at his Windsor school.
Singh is the first non-white person to lead a major federal party. After he won a byelection in February to represent the B.C. riding of Burnaby South, Singh told supporters they had made history.
“When I was growing up as a kid, I could’ve never imagined someone like me ever running to be prime minister. Guess what? We just told a lot of kids out there: ‘Yes, you can,'” he said at the time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter Saturday to say Singh’s “courage to speak up will fight against stigma, and help so many people know they are not alone.”
With Singh’s openness about his abuse, many on Twitter pointed out that he’s continuing to change what it means to be a federal leader.
Others simply praised Singh for the impact his vulnerability would have on other survivors.
NDP MP Tracey Ramsey and Independent MP Jane Philpott also applauded Singh for his courage.
Singh’s memoir will be released Tuesday.
With files from Althia Raj