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Actor's history of domestic violence brought to light as Indian Horse opens in theatres across Canada

Actor's history of domestic violence brought to light as Indian Horse opens in theatres across Canada
From CBC - April 15, 2018

Melanie Rope wants people to know about actor Will Strongheart's history of violence against her and others, before making a choice about whether or not to see the movie Indian Horse.

"It's not about trying to take away from this movie, but maybe just giving people the option to think twice before before they go and see it," said Rope, who is Nakoda woman from the Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation in Saskatchewan. She is currently a pre-social work student at the University of Regina and says she dated Strongheart for just under a year in 2009/2010.

What Rope does want, is for people to know about Strongheart`s past and to discover how he was cast in such an important film.

On Friday Rope made a public Facebook post about the vicious assault she experienced at the hands ofStrongheart, along with a photo of her swollen, bruised face after she was released from hospital.

"He was threatening to kill me as he was beating me," said Rope, recalling the night when she says Strongheart beat her in his Regina home after flying into a jealous rage. Rope says Strongheart was subsequently charged, convicted and sentenced ontwo counts of assault causing bodily harm.

He spent 18 months in custody. Six months in a Reginacorrectional facility and oneyear at the Willow Creek Healing Lodge.

It's not about trying to take away from this movie, but maybe just giving people the option to think twice before before they go and see it.- Melanie Rope

Rope's post, which detailed other allegations of abuse from other former partners of Strongheart, was shared widely on social media beginning on Friday morningnearly 10,000 timesuntil being pulled down by Facebook on Saturday.

At the same time, Indian Horse, a film in which Strongheart plays a supporting role, is getting national media attention as it begins screening in theatres across Canada.

The much-anticipated film is based on the award-winning novel by the late Richard Wagamese and tells a heart-wrenching story that brings to light the trauma caused by residential schools in Canada through the eyes of an Ojibwayboy who finds his escape on the ice, playing hockey.

Strongheart plays Virgil, the best friend of the main character Saul Indian Horse, and a fellow hockey player.

Amid the buzz circulating around Rope's post is a division over whether or not people still want to see the film. It has also sparked a heated online commentary about domestic violence.

Strongheart:'This matter has been dealt with'

In an emailed response sent to CBCon Saturday about the statements made against him in the Facebook post, which detailed numerous allegations against multiple women, Strongheart did not respond to each individual claim made against him, but did write that he was very aware of what was posted about him.

"This is about the 10th time such posts have been made in the last eight years," he wrote.

His email goes on to say: "I wish to inform you that this matter has been dealt with as of 2010. However, due to my recent involvement in film, and other outlets; these two women have found reason to post and continue to post whenever I am mentioned publicly.

"I have addressed this many times over on my social media accounts, letters/etc. I have made public and personal apologies, held myself accountable for the negative actions I had done and hoped each time was the end of it."

Both Moore and Rope said they`ve never received a personal apology.

Rope says she's been contacted by hundreds of women since posting about Strongheart. She says many have been expressing their support for her speaking out, while others have been telling her their own stories of domestic violence.

"There are so many women that this resonates with. I think it's important. So many women out there feel alone and feel like they are trapped in these relationships with men," said Rope.

But others are calling out Rope and her friend for speaking out about their experiences with Strongheart, and calling into question the timing of the post.

Rope says she and others have been speaking out about Strongheart for years.

This time, people are paying attention

It's just that, unlike past attempts to share her truth, this time more people are paying attention.

Rope said it was deliberate to post about Strongheart, once again, as the film was hitting the big screens across Canada.

Rope says there are many reasons why she continues to share her story. First of all, she says she wants Strongheart to take accountability in a public way for what he's done to her. She also wants to see someone take accountability for casting him in the film and elevating his public prominence.

Details about Strongheart`s conviction oftwo counts of assault causing bodily harm in November 2010 can be read inparole documents shared with CBCby Rope.

"The circumstances of your conviction are that when you get drunk, you then become jealous as you feel your partners are unfaithful to you. You hit, slap and jam your fingers in their throats so they cannot scream. You do not dispute the details," states the document.

The Parole Board indicated in the report that it was aware of three women who had experienced violence at the hands of Strongheart, though charges were not laid in relation to the assault against one of the women because police could not contact her, according to the document.

'I choose to not be silent'

Danielle Moore says she is the woman mentioned in the document, who police could not contact, and she too is speaking out about her four-year, on-and-off-again relationship with Strongheart that she says involved beatings and violence.

She has grown close to Rope over the years and shetoo wanted Rope to post about Strongheart`s past and make the abuse known, knowing it was likely to get more attention in the context of the wide release ofIndian Horseon Friday.

All he does is try to degrade us for speaking our truth.- Danielle Moore

'You need to have integrity'

Film producers, Strongheart responds

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