“I feel like I have a new life now. One that will be free from abuse.”

With the support of a women’s shelter, Jennifer* was able to leave an abusive relationship, begin healing from the trauma and move forward with new hope.

Content Note: Gender-based violence.

I WAS LIVING IN an abusive relationship that got even worse over the COVID-19 pandemic. He was losing control, drinking heavily, and because we were home all the time, he could get away with even more abuse. It got to a point where he had brought 22 guns into our house and was making death threats.

With the help of police, I was able to get out of immediate danger. But, there were still so many barriers to establishing long-term safety and rebuilding my life. Huron Women’s Shelter was there for me. My experience with the shelter was life-changing and my counsellor was phenomenal.

Over the following months, the shelter supported and advocated for me as I continued to navigate safety threats from my ex-partner, including stalking and financial abuse. I was in a position where I didn’t have access to my funds, so the shelter provided access to funding that allowed me to relocate. I was able to really have my life back.

Access to weekly counselling and group therapy has also helped me to heal and better manage symptoms of PTSD. When I first got in touch with the shelter, I was having nightmares, couldn’t keep food down, and always felt hyper aware. The counselling also helped me to address childhood trauma that was linked to generations of abuse.

For the first time, I can see what’s abusive. Before, I was so entrenched in it that I couldn’t see what was happening. I now feel empowered to support other people in abusive situations, so I write for a forum about domestic violence. It started as part of my therapy, and it’s helpful to know that I can make a difference in others’ lives.

I think there’s a gap in public awareness about intimate partner violence that contributes to victim-shaming. People can make insensitive comments like “Why didn’t you just leave?” without understanding the legitimate fears and barriers women face. If people were more aware, more women would feel safer coming forward.

Also, there are more barriers for women living in isolated rural areas like I was. When I did seek health-care supports, they were often located in communities that were too far away. That’s why it’s so important to support shelters and violence-prevention services throughout Canada.

I feel like I have a new life now. One that will be free from abuse. I will not forget the support I received from Huron Women’s Shelter as long as I live.

Huron Women’s Shelter in Ontario has received funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

*Name changed for privacy.