Family Violence and the Reluctance to Speak Up


A critical thinking challenge for students, ages 16-18

WARNING: Child abuse can be a very emotional and disturbing topic, and the case of Aurore Gagnon is one of the most terrible on record. If you need to talk to someone, remember that your teacher, counsellor, or parents are available.


It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. Families and communities usually raise children in loving environments, protecting them and making sacrifices to give the very best life possible. But what happens when something goes terribly wrong, and instead of being loved and protected by their family, a child is harmed? What is the responsibility of individuals and organizations outside the family to notice abuse and stop it? What does it take for someone to break the silence and speak up?

Aurore Gagnon was a ten-year-old girl who died of abuse on February 12, 1920. Her story shocked her community and “Aurore, the Child Martyr” has become a famous figure in Québec popular culture. She lived and died in the small community of Sainte-Philomène de Fortierville. Much of what we know of her life is based on the testimony of those who witnessed her abuse and did nothing to save her. How did this small community become so dangerous for this young girl? Why did no one intervene?

The Task

In this MysteryQuest, you will investigate what kind of person might have saved Aurore’s life when so many others did not. Your first step is to understand the facts of the case. You will begin by reading about the murder and the shock across the province as the details of the case became known during the trial of Aurore’s father and stepmother. Next, you will consider present-day explanations of why child abuse within a family may not be reported. Armed with this background information, you will analyse the behaviour of five witnesses in the trials of Aurore’s parents as you answer the question “Why didn’t they help Aurore?” Your final task is to select a fictional character who might have overcome the factors that prevent people from speaking out. In the role of this character, you will imagine the inner thoughts as this individual decides to “do the right thing” for Aurore by reporting the abuse. You will present these thoughts as a first person “interior monologue.”

continue investigation …

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Original post by Mr. D. Sader

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