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I suppose I could say that I was born into the women’s rights movement: Nellie McClung was my great grandmother.
This genetic thread connected me to the women’s movement and helped shaped my views and boundaries:
- I would never accept less than fair treatment from others.
- I would never let anyone treat me as many of my peers and their mothers were treated.
- No one would ever get away with hitting me.
Yet, it happened. I met, married and had two sons with a man who swept me off my feet. I was 17 and he was 30.
His friends marveled at how much he had changed since he had met me. I didn’t understand what they meant until I became pregnant, and his violent nature was slowly revealed.
After each violent incident he would be remorseful and beg me to forgive him. I was pregnant and invested. I hid the violence from our friends and family, but the violence increased and I was diminished.
Many people have asked why I stayed in the relationship for so long. FEAR: fear that he would act on his threats to kill my family, my mom, my brothers, my sisters and even our own children, if I left him.
He also threatened me with guns and knives and had a growing association with a motorcycle gang.
One early dawn I fled the house to seek medical help at the hospital. While being wheeled out of an x-ray for injuries to my head, face and neck, he showed up. I ran into the crowded waiting area and it stopped him from hurting me. Police escorted me out of the hospital and to an emergency shelter.
I received counselling at the shelter, but I did return to my home: my sons were there, I had no money, no job, hadn’t worked outside the home in years, there was no way I would find work that would cover the cost of childcare and rent. I felt trapped, frightened, isolated and alone. I saw no way to be free.
I was eventually able to leave for good. Armed with the information from the shelter, I made a plan and when it was possible, I packed up my sons and we made our escape to my sister’s home: the distance offered some security.
After fleeing my ex, I returned to school and went on to complete my university degree. I also gave birth to two wonderful daughters. While raising my daughters and going to university, I worked as a community educator and taught abuse prevention to high school students.
My sons are grown men now and though my ex stole them from me for 15 years, we were reunited after the birth of my granddaughter and find great joy in our renewed relationship. I am also married to a wonderful man whom I have known since high school, and together we enjoy our six children and three grand children.
My story can be difficult to take in, but I’m sharing it because I want to break the silence. When we don’t talk about abuse, the stigma flourishes and we lock the door to safety and hope for other women.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation Campaign to End Violence provides hope and possibilities for women across Canada who have stories like mine.
I am so grateful for their incredible work and hope you’ll join me in raising hope for women who have experienced violence.