by Charlotte Karp
VANCOUVER – When Nicholas Harrison was five years old, he was sexually abused, thrown against a wall in attempted murder, whipped with an electric cord until he was covered in welts, and told by the priests and teachers at school that he deserved it.
As a child, he believed it.
“The priests used religion to scare me,” says Harrison. “That’s how pedophiles do it – they want to make sure you’re not going to say anything, so they terrify you. They say they’ll kill your family and it’ll be your fault – you’re making the priest do this to you because you’re dirty and bad.”
While Harrison still lives with the abuse as an adult, he lives functionally, has a successful career, and has written a play about his experiences to encourage others to speak out. One of the best parts? The production features Star Wars.
“When my mum pulled me out of school, we were at a drugstore and there was an R2-D2 figure I was looking at, and she said, ‘Do you want that?’ I had just been pulled out of school and I had these welts all over me – anything I wanted, I was going to get. I carried that thing everywhere,” Harrison recalls.
“I loved the idea of a small group of people taking on something so ominous” he says. “Darth Vader in his black robe was like a Roman Catholic priest, so this rag-tag group of Wookies and robots banding together really spoke to me.”
When Harrison started speaking out about his abuse, people asked how he could accuse “poor, frail old men” when he was so strong by comparison, forgetting that he was a child at the time and his abusers were not 80 but 40 or 50. How Star Wars Saved My Life is about putting an end to these misconceptions and reminding people that it’s okay to talk about abuse.
“This play is about hope and breaking down the barriers of silence,” Harrison says. “It’s about being able to survive and carry on, making a positive effect on the world, and being heard – there are so many people who have had traumatic things happen to them, and they never speak about it, so inside they’re hurting and decaying. If they felt they had the ability to be open about it, maybe they could work towards living a life that isn’t full of pain.”
How Star Wars Saved My Life runs from December 6-10 at Performance Works.