A Canadian indigenous woman, whose identity needs to remain concealed, has managed to survive in the wilderness for 12 days after fleeing a man who tried to violently assault her. While the incident took place in the summer of 2013, the woman has shared her story with VICE news for the first time, as her attacker, 38-year-old Kevin Gladue, was sentenced to six years in prison last month for aggravated sexual assault. The woman’s nightmare began when she decided to go off-roading with her uncle and a few friends, close to where she lived in O’Chiese First Nation. At some point the truck got stuck — at which point her uncle and other passengers went to look for help, leaving the woman and Gladue (whom she knew previously) with the truck. When she decided to take a nap in the truck, she woke up to Gladue trying to sexually assault her. When she tried to fight him off, he struck her with an object, breaking her jaw in two places. She fled, barefoot, trying to backtrack the road they had been following but became disoriented.
For days, she would wander around and try to follow trails while in immense pain, eating berries, drinking water from the river and mostly trying to sleep during the day. At one point she even came eye to eye with a bear: “She just smelled me, and then I closed my eyes. And when I opened them, she was gone.” Eventually, she followed a deer she had seen acting strangely and found a well-used road where Mike Rempel, an oil and gas operator who lived nearby and happened to pass by, found her and brought her to safety. He later testified at the trial that he could barely make out what she was saying, as “her jaw was broken so bad she couldn’t even really move her mouth,” and expressed his amazement that someone in that condition could survive in such “very unforgiving territory” for so long. The woman herself says she wanted to share her story to help other people: “Speak up. Don’t be silent about people who hurt native women,” she told VICE. “A lot of people are silent, they’re too scared to talk. If you’re being abused in any way, get out.”
Read the full story at VICE.