“Safe Space is a story filled with triumphant contradictions: sadness and joy, darkness and light, tragedy and hope. Nic was silenced for decades, but with a strength that few find, he is silent no longer, speaking not only for himself but for those who remain voiceless. Nic’s search for a hero to protect him reveals the hero that was inside him all along.”
Michelle Stilwell, Paralympic Champion & Past MLA, Parksville Qualicum
SAFE SPACE is the story of my abuse, my survival, and how Star Wars saved my life.
I grew up in northern Canada, in a town I call Hopeless. When I was five, in search of the best education available, my parents enrolled me at Blessed Virgin of the Bleeding Heart Elementary.
The priests who were trusted with my care and education confused me. Some days I was praised. Some days I was punished. I was rewarded for keeping secrets for them. It started when Father Vitus had me reach into his pocket to get some candy. Shortly after, he abused me in the back row of a school movie night. On another occasion, he stripped me naked and forced me to touch him and watch him for his pleasure. Brother Ignatious strapped my bare buttocks as his erection dug into my stomach. And I was raped—repeatedly.
From kindergarten to grade four I endured repetitive and horrific abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. My childhood was stolen from me by those who were entrusted with my education and spiritual upbringing. They groomed me. They conditioned me. They threatened that if I ever revealed what was happening that God would destroy my family for what I had “forced” them to do to me. I was continually beaten, raped, and was even thrown down a flight of stairs in an attempt to kill me.
In the spring of my grade four year, my mom discovered extensive bruising on my body. She did not know of the sexual abuse, and wouldn’t for years to come, but that was enough. I was saved—pulled out of that school. Unfortunately, the damage had been done.
My soul was shattered by the years of abuse. As I grew up, I continued to blame myself for what had been done to me. I overate to mask my shame. I attempted suicide.
Then one day I walked into a theatre playing Star Wars: A New Hope, and my life was changed forever. Star Wars became my therapy. It taught me spirituality, understanding, and the strength to overcome the horrors I had faced. Most importantly, it helped me grow from a victim into a survivor.
It was not until I was in my thirties that I let go of this secret I had been keeping since I was five years old. I had told no one, not even my parents or fiancée, until one day when the dam inside me broke and it all came pouring out, allowing me to start my true path to healing.
But the journey never ends. I appear successful and whole on the outside: a PhD graduate, a professional fight director, an actor, a university professor, a husband, and a father. On the inside, however, I’m still the child who was beaten, manipulated, and abused.
This book chronicles the emotional and psychological distress that I endured as a child, and how the search for acceptance, love, and hope is a never-ending fight. It is a book of sadness and rage—but, most of all, of hope. It is a story of resilience and how the importance of having something to hold onto can make the difference between life and death. It is my story—the story of a young boy finding the delicate balance between the light and the dark as he learns to live and grow.
Safe Space: A True Story of Faith, Betrayal, and the Power of the Force is for anyone who wants to understand how abuse continues to affect victims and their families long after the act.
“Lacerating and inspirational, Nic Harrison’s narrative of his abuse and recovery is filled with moments of terror and joy. The wonder is not that he survived, but that he survived with such love, equanimity, and imagination. He credits Star Wars but I credit him: Jedi, luminous being. Read this book and feel the Force.”
Jerry Wasserman, Professor Emeritus of English & Theatre, UBC
“Nic’s book is an absolute miracle. Not many survive taking on the dark side, but Nic not only survived but he personally lightsabers Darth freaggin Vader. This book is courage, and its wisdom needs to be passed on.”
Johnathon Schaech, Actor/Activist
“Just like Star Wars, this is a powerful story that will linger, that will trouble and inspire, long after the telling of the tale..”
E. Paul Zehr, PhD, Author of Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero
“A harrowing tale of intergalactic survival. Nicholas Harrison has the Force.”