Chris RoutWARNING: This story contains details that may be upsetting to some readers. 

My brother and I were raised by our mother, who was a single mom. We struggled financially, lived in one bedroom apartments, and relied on donations for food, Christmas gifts, clothes, etc. For a while we even lived in one room in a rooming house! But we always had an abundance of love. My mom always went out of her way to make sure my brother and I were happy and knew how much she loved us.

When we got older, she went back to school to fulfil her dream of becoming a nurse. Then she met a man. He seemed nice, had a job, and didn’t mind my brother and me. She was happy and we were happy for her. But shortly after they got married he started to display signs of jealousy, which soon turned into anger.

One night I came downstairs to find my mom huddled in a corner with her face bloody and beaten. Nobody should ever see their mom like that. He had beaten her for saying ‘Hi’ to another man. 

Abusive men always try to manipulate women into coming back with promises of ‘change and improvement,’ which my mom believed for a while. But she finally built up the courage to leave him. One day when my brother and I were out of the house, she told him she wanted a divorce and there was nothing he could do to change her mind. 

He started punching her. She ran upstairs and he chased her, grabbed her, threw her down to the floor, and strangled her until she died. Then he went back downstairs and drank a beer before calling the police. He actually sat there and had a beer while my mom lay dead in the bedroom! He never tried to revive her, never called for an ambulance, nothing. 

During his trial, we learned my mom had frequently visited Denise House, a women’s shelter. Some of the staff came to court to show support for my mom and my brother and me. I later served on their Board of Directors as a way to give back for everything they’d done for us. 

He was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with no parole for fifteen years. He served those years and was recently released. 

My brother and I were forced to grow up at a young age but thanks to the great lessons we’d learned from my mom, we survived. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, and I received treatment for over five years. 

Not a day goes by that I/we don’t think of her, cry, and still suffer. My mom missed out on so much life and the life she did experience was one no woman should have to live. 

My mom is the reason I speak out against domestic abuse. She is still my mom. 

–As told by Christopher to Diane Hill

Denise House is located in Oshawa, ON and is supported by the Canadian Women’s Foundation Annual Campaign to End Violence Against Women.