Sharing a Secret
History of Trauma

Sharing a Secret History of Trauma with Anna Maria Tremonti

Jenna Mayne: Welcome to she is your neighbour, a show where we discuss the realities and complexities of domestic violence. This podcast is brought to you by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, a charitable organization in Ontario, Canada. I’m your host, Jenna Mayne. Join me as we talk to different people each week to learn how domestic violence impacts people from all walks of life. She Is Your Neighbour, and we all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

This episode is called sharing a secret history of trauma with Anna Maria Tremonti. Anna Maria is a Canadian journalist and former long time host of the current on CBC Radio. She has served as a senior reporter on CBC the National and is a former host of the Fifth Estate. In the winter of 2022, Anna Maria released her new podcast, welcome to paradise, where she opens up about her experience with domestic violence, a secret she had been keeping for 40 years. Anna Maria has a reputation for being a fearless and hard hitting journalist. She’s reported from some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. But as, she explains in the podcast, none of these were as immediately threatening as her life at home.

This episode is the first in our six episode Survivor series, which focuses on the experience of survivors of domestic violence. In this episode, Anna Maria shares her experience dealing with a long tale of domestic violence. She talks about the shame that survivors feel and explains why she chose to share her story through her new podcast, welcome to paradise. It was so amazing to speak with Anna Maria. I really admire her work as a journalist, and when I saw she was releasing this podcast, I was both surprised and incredibly amazed by her bravery in sharing this story. I had really hoped we’d be able to get her on the show to talk about it. So now I’m really happy that we able to do that because I think she just has some really incredible information to share, and I think you’re going to really enjoy this episode. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’d also like to thank Rogers for proudly sponsoring this survivor series.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Anna Maria. Thanks so much for being here today.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Thanks for talking to me. Thanks for asking.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m so excited to have you here. We’ve been listening to your new podcast, welcome to paradise, and I, think it’s just amazing. So it’s really exciting to have you here today. So we’re going to jump right into the questions. and I’m wondering if you could kind of start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your new podcast. Welcome to paradise.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Okay, well, So I’ve been a journalist since, gosh, since before just before my 21st birthday. So a lot of years. It’s more than 40 years, and, most of it with the CBC, but I started in private radio, and I’ve, lived all over Canada, lived in Alberta, Ottawa, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, lived in Berlin, London, Jerusalem, Washington, and now Toronto. Did a lot of tv, 19 years in television, 13 with the national, was a, host with the fifth estate, and then the current was created, and I was part of the group that created it, and I did that for 17 years, and now I’m a podcaster. So, my second podcast offering, if you want to call it that, is a podcast called welcome to paradise, which is essentially a memoir podcast. It’s about me, and it looks at the long tail of intimate partner violence through the prism of my own experience. So, when I was 23 years old, I married a man who beat me, and that marriage was over in a year, and I got out, and I was very lucky to get out when I look back now. but what he did to me followed me for decades in different ways, most notably in the self blame and shame that I felt, even though I couldn’t always identify that when it was happening to me, I didn’t tell anyone. When it was over, I told a few friends. I waited two years to tell my parents. In that time, I’ve also told some colleagues, but I’ve never gone into great detail about what precisely happened to me until this podcast. And it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, and I didn’t know how to tell it, and I didn’t know how to tell it, especially as a journalist, like, with a crazy demanding schedule, with not a lot of space to what I thought was not enough space to tell it. And I didn’t. You know, I was doing a lot of work on other women who were victims of gender based violence, and I just never found the right place to talk about it in my regular kind of work. And then when podcasting really took off, I realized that that might be a way to do it because I can tell an audio story. So I started thinking about that, and, here we are. That’s kind of the background to why it’s out now and what it is.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. Thank you so much. I’ve kind of been wondering that why now, what kind of prompted you to share it after all these years? I know you talked about kind of the shame and secrecy around domestic violence and how, you felt this and experienced it and kind of held it in for a long time. And then. So I was curious why it was kind of the right time to tell your story. And with that, I’m kind of curious. How did you work up the courage to tell such a detailed, intimate story?

Anna Maria Tremonti: You know, I don’t know. if I saw it in terms of courage, I do see it in terms of honesty. I realized that if I was going to tell the story, I’d have to be really honest and I’d have to be open to being really vulnerable. And for a while, I didn’t want to do that. I mean, I thought it would be important to have my story out there because I think there’s still so many myths about who a victim of intimate partner violence is that if you see somebody who’s asking tough questions or has spent time covering war, that somehow they’re not the person to whom this could happen. If you see somebody who’s a judge or a surgeon or, you know, and in fact, it crosses all lines, all lines. So I wanted to be part of exploding that myth and have that conversation. So it was less about courage and more about, okay, I feel that I can be honest about this now. The other thing that was happening is that I was doing a lot of stories on women who were victims of, from Bosnia and the rape camps and war. Rape as a weapon of war in Bosnia to, so many women in Canada who have been victims and talking to them about their stories, that at some point, it just felt kind of odd never to say anything when I covered other issues and I had some direct experience. If it’s middle east, I would mention the Middle east. But I would never, ever, ever go near the fact that this had happened to me publicly. And one day I was interviewing a woman whose story, the brutality by her former, partner, was so severe that we changed. We didn’t say, where she was. We hid the location. We changed her name, and we were going to change her voice after we were finished recording. And she was going through her story and she was giving a lot of details that I thought would make her very recognizable. And I got worried for her because I thought, well, if we’re trying to disguise this, he’s going to know. And I asked the technician to stop the tape, and I started to talk to her about this, and she said, you know, I’m not telling you anything the court hasn’t heard. And we kept talking, and I don’t know what it was in that conversation because I was very sort of in my zone with her, but I just suddenly spilled a little bit about my story, and it was a very emotional thing for me and seemed to be for her. And we talked a little more, and then we agreed we’d keep rolling. And, I had already begun to think it’s kind of weird you just don’t mention this. Maybe you should. And it was really at the point where it was almost like a sin of omission, like a lie that I don’t say anything. And so then I started more actively thinking about how do I tell this story and when do I tell this story? And, that’s a process. And I ended up telling it this way and it took this long.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think having your own podcast, you can have maybe a bit more control over how your story is told, too. So I think it was a really unique way to tell your story and, hopefully kind of gave you the freedom to share it the way you wanted to, too. I also, when I was listening, noticed that, you know, there’s a lot of reference to physical violence in your story, but you also talk about the psychological abuse that you endured as well. At one point, you said, he’s not just abusing my body, he’s in my head. And you spoke to this quite a bit. I’m wondering if you can elaborate and explain what you meant by that.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Yeah, it’s, you know, that you heal from the physical things. And, you know, he never broke a bone. So I was, you know, again, that was a good thing, I guess. Well, I don’t guess that was a good thing. You can cover your bruises, but you can’t cover the way you feel after he does that to you. That’s kind of embedded in you. And after the first time he beat me up, he literally sat there and looked at me very calmly and told me that I drove him to it, that it was my fault. And in my emotion and confusion of that time, I absorbed that. I believed him. And so when it would happen again, I would think, oh, God, if only I had shut up. If only I had maybe left him alone for another hour, maybe he would have been fine. It would have been, you know, why can’t I be a better wife? So you start to see yourself as someone bringing this violence on yourself, that it’s your behavior and that really affects the way you see yourself, too. And, you know, he reinforces that every time and in between, and there’s a lot of self loathing that comes in there as well, because you’re feeling shame, you’re blaming yourself. On some level, you don’t know how to make it stop. You know, that out, there, people say, why don’t they leave? Why don’t they see red flags? And you’re thinking, oh my God, what did I do wrong? And. And I don’t believe you can see red flags, by the way, and I don’t think that why didn’t you leave is a fair question. But, you know, so all of these things, both societal and internally, play on how you feel about yourself. And so that just hangs with you. And that’s what we refer to in the podcast as the long tail, the things that stay with you that make you think, you know, somehow you’re to blame, and that somehow, if you had just acted differently, this wouldn’t have happened. You would have had the perfect marriage. That’s a fantasy, but I didn’t see it as a fantasy at the time. I really believed I was a player in this.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And I think there’s so much control and manipulation going on that it’s just difficult to decipher sometimes what’s real and what’s not because of their behavior. Something else I noticed was you talked about how the violence escalated, especially after you got married. there hadn’t been as much physical violence, hardly any. Before you got married, there were, I think, aspects of control. You know, you talked about him not wanting you to tell people that you were eloping, that kind of thing. So it seemed like it was gradually increasing over time, and things escalated. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about how that happened.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Yeah. You know, when this was happening to me, in 1980, 1981, no one used the phrase coercive control. And looking back, you can see that I fit a pattern of coercive control. There’s a really great book that came out last year by a woman named Jane Monkton Smith, who began as a police officer and became a forensic criminologist. She’s a professor of public safety at, ah, Gloucester University in the UK, and she’s written a book called in control. And she’s looked at the eight steps of coercive control that if left unchecked, can lead to murder or murder suicide. The number of people who actually suicide because of the violence against them, the victims who take their own lives just to get out, or because even when they’re out. They are still locked in that, that mindset. Right. And coercive control is kind of akin to a kidnapping where someone is really can. They’ve got you captive. So I see that now. At the time, I didn’t see it. There’s another phrase that’s much older called battered wife syndrome, which is still used in courts. but battered wife syndrome to me, and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not talking about its effectiveness and things, but battered wife syndrome suggests something changes in you, that there’s something wrong with you as the victim, whereas coercive control puts it all on the perpetrator. And so, yeah, those things of control happened gradually. They didn’t happen right away. And so by the time he assaults me for the first time, I’m completely confused. I don’t understand. And I think it’s a one off. And then it happens again and again and again and. But by this time, I’m down this rabbit hole with him. He’s been blaming me, and I’m believing it. And in between, you know, I remember once we were on a camping trip or something, and I had a fair bit of acne in my early twenties, and, I was eating chips, and he grabbed the bag of chips from me and threw it out the window as he was driving. And he said, you know, I was going to wreck my face. And then I guess I argued with him and he pulled over and he left me on the side of the highway. He just, like, told me to get out of the car, and he drove away. And, you know, it took like, maybe 20 minutes later he came back. But he like those kinds of very controlling things, like, okay, you don’t agree with me, get out. I’m going to leave you here. And, you know, we were in a very wooded area. There was nobody around. And, so things like that, which were very controlling. And then, you know, when you’re socializing with friends, it’s all very friendly because I’m hiding it because I’m embarrassed and ashamed. And he’s hiding it because, of course, he knows I’m keeping his secret. And so my friends thought we were the perfect couple. Like, I played along, you know? Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: Ah. And I think that’s an interesting piece, too, is nobody really knew. And oftentimes nobody does really know in these situations. It’s really well covered up. And, you know, you’re saying your friends didn’t know, your colleagues didn’t know either. And that piece I’m also curious about, like, what it was like working with Pat, or at least working in the same industry with him. While you’re going through all this, could you share a bit about what that was like?

Anna Maria Tremonti: Well, again, I was ashamed. Right? I mean, he, I saw him as the most, you know, the more charming, knowledgeable one. And, I just assumed that if people in our journalistic circle knew, they would look down on me, that they would judge me for being the victim. And right back to the idea that I’m taking some of the blame, right? Or a fair bit of the blame. There was one person who knew his mother was in the house twice. And, notably the very last beating I received from him, which was the worst one. And, I had come back to the house after he had threatened to kill me if I didn’t leave. And I left for a week. And then I came back and he was, I remember going back to the house because she was living with us in the house at this point. And I don’t know if she was upset that I was there or just worried that I was there, but she just made a beeline to the other end of the house and he came home a little later and, she never came out. she might have also been worried that if she intervened that it would get even uglier. I just don’t know. I never asked her. I never understood.

Jenna Mayne: It’s really hard to know what other people are thinking, why they don’t intervene. Sometimes people don’t know how. I’m not making excuses for her.

Anna Maria Tremonti: no, you’re right. You’re right, though. Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: But I know there was someone who did intervene once, and it was a neighbour who lived below you and she didn’t intervene herself. But I know you said she called the police and they showed up at your door, but I don’t think that was helpful, particularly for you in that situation at the time.

Anna Maria Tremonti: No. And, you know, I mean, it wasn’t, you know, I mean, we see like, there are lots of issues now with police showing up at the door on these things, and especially for racialized women. So, you know, my experience was different. But yeah, they did show up. It had been a day of a lot of noise because, it started early on a Sunday and it was on and off all day, and it was dusk by the time they showed up at the door. And he had actually gone upstairs. We had an upstairs bedroom in this apartment and there was a knock on the door and I opened it and I saw two police officers there and they asked me if I was okay. And I clearly wasn’t. I didn’t look like I was okay, I’m sure. And they wanted to know where he was and I said he was asleep. I didn’t know. I knew he was upstairs. That’s all I knew. And, they wanted to come in and I wouldn’t let them. And they told me that the woman downstairs called, that she had heard a lot of noise and he was obviously abusing me and I was upset with her. I didn’t say anything to her. I’d never met her. I, to this day, don’t know her name. I thought of her as the bitch downstairs because suddenly somebody knew our secret. She knew what was happening because she could hear it. And I was mortified. And that made me angry and protective. And, I mean, I can say that now. At the time I was just mad at her and you, know, really misplaced, obviously. Did she do the right thing? Yeah, she did what she thought she needed to do because she heard someone in distress. But I, you know, I was somebody who turned the cops away.

Jenna Mayne: It’s interesting to talk about, I think, and think about what neighbors or friends and family can actually do to help in these situations because it’s such a, tricky situation. And to know how to help, I think, is really difficult. There’s also a stat. I forget the exact number, but I think in Ontario, about 30% of women will report to police. But over 80% of women will tell a friend or a family member or a neighbor. So they actually do. We all do have quite a bit of. Of power of something that we can do to help. It’s just trying to figure out the right way to intervene or to provide support, I should say, based on what the woman needs.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Yeah. And you know, you know a lot about that because of what your organization does. Right. And I don’t, You know, I’m not somebody who would intervene. I would seek out resources to help. But I do think it’s important if somebody does have a loved one who’s going through it and they know that, you know, that you listen to them without judgment. Because I think that the self blame and the shame can run really deep. And if they feel they have a safe place to talk about it, maybe that can begin the process. And I don’t have to tell you, you know, those stats too, that, you know, when you leave those, that is the period in which you are most vulnerable. You know, that’s when murders happen. That’s when things can get even uglier. And so leaving you have to be careful to leave, and so. But if somebody’s listening without judgment, it’s a process, and maybe you can help the person you care about so much who is being abused to find a way to get the help they need to get out of there and to stay out of there and to be safe when they’re out.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, you’re so right, because it is so dangerous. It’s the most dangerous time when women are leaving a relationship and the violence is likely to escalate. And I know in your situation, he actually threatened to kill you. Like, it. It doesn’t get more dangerous than that, really. so I was a bit disappointed when I heard your story that you had contacted a shelter and at the time weren’t really given the support. I don’t know if it was because of the time or, or what it was, but, it didn’t seem that you had a lot of support in leaving. Is that right?

Anna Maria Tremonti: Yeah. And, you know, in fairness to the person I called, cold, you know, in my know, great emotion, you know, I might have said that maybe he could leave or something. And she said, we’ll get him to leave then, you know, and I thought, oh, no, he can’t. He’s not gonna. I can’t tell him anything. So I just didn’t know. Right. And the shelter system was pretty new in 1981. I think the first shelter in Canada was sometime in the mid seventies. I think that, you know, it’s not the integrated system with an Internet connection that we have today. and it’s still not powerful as we would like it to be. Right. But now people know a lot more about how to help people. So when he said to me, if I didn’t leave, he would kill me. It would just be a matter of time. I only half believed him. But the other thing is that most people don’t get told, yes, please leave. They get told, if you dare leave, I’ll kill you. Or some, you know. So for me, it was a little different. And then I went back, and then he beat me up again. And then I realized it was only after I left that I was really out. But before I was divorced, but I was still out, and I had my own apartment, and I had a job at the CBC that I realized that I could still be in danger, that I was doing morning radio. I was leaving my apartment at 05:00 in the morning in pitch black. He could be waiting out there. One night, I thought I heard a knock at my door, and I thought I heard a dog at the door, and we had this big Irish setter. And then I listened, and I didn’t hear anything else. And I was living above a little grocery store, so there’s only one other apartment next to me. There’s nobody around. And I, didn’t hear anything else, so I went back to sleep. And in the morning, when I went to leave, I was locking my door from the outside, and I looked at the door, and there were scratches on the door at the level the dog would have made. And I thought, oh, my God, they were here. What did he want? You know? And then I got worried, right? And so it was like, it took me a while to really have it sink in, the danger I might have been in.

Jenna Mayne: That’s so scary. And even though you were in this situation, I think for anyone, it’s so hard to fathom, again, because of that control and psychological abuse, you just. It’s hard to believe that violence can escalate like that, but unfortunately, it can. I think these conversations are really important, because the more we can kind of talk about it openly without some of that shame and stigma, the more we can hopefully prevent some of these situations or encourage people to get support who. Who are in these situations. So I really appreciate talking about this.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Yeah. You know, because, Jenna, I do think when I looked back once I was really out and I looked back at, that, I think that I really did believe that had I tried to stay, like, really tried to stay, he would have killed me. Like, I really would not have lived probably beyond the age of 25.

Jenna Mayne: It’s so horrible to hear, like, I don’t even know what to say to that. It’s horrible. and I think you’re right, though. Like, I think that definitely could have happened, and I’m so glad that that didn’t happen to you. and that you’re here and you’re able to share this story now. I think, it’s really going to empower a lot of people and provide a lot of hope to people in these situations, because, again, the shame and the stigma is there. It’s something that’s really hard to get past. And in your podcast, you talked with your therapist, Farzana, a lot, and I thought it was so cool that you brought her into the episodes. It was, just really unique to hear you speak with her, and I’m curious where that idea came from to bring her into the episode.

Anna Maria Tremonti: I was originally going to work with her, to be a touchstone for me, because I knew that if I was going to go back into 40 years of this, that I might need to talk to somebody about it. I had done therapy many years ago, but I hadn’t done therapy for quite a while now. That was really going to be her role, and I was going to record it just in case there was one little thing that I could use in the podcast. Instead, she becomes a really integral part of this podcast, because the more I talk to her, she wasn’t solely a touchstone. My conversations with her took me on a journey that I didn’t expect to go on. So even though I’d had therapy before, I’d never really identified, really, how deeply buried the shame was, and I’d really never, talked about that. And somehow, this time, in the way that I worked with her, I could identify that. And I remember really clearly there was a moment, you know, I had done a recorded session with her a couple of days earlier, and I was doing something around the house, and I was thinking about, you know, just kind of absent mindedly thinking about what we’ve been talking about. And I had this picture of a very heavy braid, and it was like the shame and the self blame braided with the, pain. And I realized, oh, you can separate those things. You’ve been separating the shame and the blame from the pain, and it’s kind of starting to fall away. The shame is not mine to own. The blame was never mine. And the pain, which I cry, I minimized because I was covering lots of people in lots of really traumatic situations. And I lasted a year and I got out. So what am I worried about? That was kind of my view of my past, but the pain was real, and I finally gave it its legitimate place, but because it was in the past, it couldn’t hurt me anymore. And so with working with Farzana, I understood that. And as soon as you understand that and keep talking about it, it can go away. It’s like I’m, a huge believer in the power of conversation and the power of therapy.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. It was amazing to hear from Farzana and just to hear the two of you connect during the podcast episodes, I think it was really powerful and will provide a lot of help to people who are listening, too. So I really appreciated hearing from her in it as well. Something else I’m wondering is, I know you decided after all these years to come out and share your story, but I’m wondering. You talked, I know, in episode five about confronting Pat, and I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about how you decided to share your story and whether you were worried about your safety or what your main concerns were when you did decide to share it.

Anna Maria Tremonti: You know, the journalist in me always has wanted to talk to him to hear what he’s thinking all these years later. and so a big part of this, one of these episodes is I’m trying to figure this out because I thought originally I’m just gonna, you know, I’m gonna go knock on his door. I kind of know where he lives. I’m gonna double check that he’s still there. I’m gonna knock on his door. And my friends were like, don’t go. And my father was, don’t you dare. And, you know, and then I talked to, Jane Monckton Smith about these kinds of things. And she goes, if you’ve gotten away, don’t go back. And, then I talked to a Tia khan, who did a film called a better man, where she actually did a whole film where her ex abuser agreed to sit with her and talk about what happened and hear what happened and kind of had his memory enhanced because his memory of what happened wasn’t the same. So I talked to her, too, but I was really told by people, you can’t. Not only do you not know how he’s going to respond to you, you better check out. Like, if this person is with another partner, he could hurt that partner. There could be, self harm that you trigger because, you know, you don’t know what he’s confronted over the years. It could be danger to you. It could also be, what are you talking about? I never did that to you. What do you. You know, that’s a lie. Like, it could be what I hear back might be hard to hear or might be playing with me, like, you know, my head gaslighting me. So all of those things I’m trying to figure out, do I go forward? Because what do I want to know from him? Like, I did? I, wanted to have a conversation. I wanted to know where his head was at, how he saw that period in time. But, why do I want to know that? Like, why do I want him to explain that to me? Or do I need to look into myself to figure out what. What is it from that period in time that makes me feel that I wasn’t worthy enough? Or I was like the naive 23 year old? Why do I see myself that way? Why do I do so? Why am I asking him at all? This is the thing that I really struggle with. Is there a benefit to doing this? Is that going to harm me more? What am I really looking for? And, am I looking for something that he could even give me, or do I have to give it to myself?

Jenna Mayne: Those are all good points. And I think is interesting, you say about the journalist, and you wanted to know and you wanted to ask him, think, that seems like it’s your nature. You wanted to give him the opportunity to speak. And it just makes me think about other points in your story where you talk about your work and how it’s kind of so important to you and in different ways. And one way was you covered all these stories about gender based violence, but you hadn’t shared your own story, but you also said that you felt that you kind of used your own pain and understanding to be able to support others who may be in those situations and help them tell their story. And it makes me wonder, how do you think your experience with domestic violence made you a better journalist in these situations?

Anna Maria Tremonti: I actually said to myself at some point, you know, if you had to go through this, what, can you learn from it? And I thought that what I learned from it was empathy. I learned that a lot of people around me might be going through trauma, and I can’t spot them on the street because nobody could spot me on the street. And I learned that people who want to share what’s happened to them, that they need the space to do that. And I thought that I, you know, I tried to do that in my work. I think on another level, I must have been processing my own violence, but that’s something I can talk about now and recognize now in the moment. I didn’t like when it was happening in the moment, because I really did seek that out. Like, I always sought out stories of gender based violence, no matter where I was living in the world. and like, the war in Bosnia, I just kept wanting to go back in so that I could let people know what was happening to civilians in trauma with violence, another kind of violence that they did not bring on themselves, that they cannot be blamed for and that they are forced to live with, you know? And so in some ways, it really did, very much informed my journalism and informed the way that I went forward with the questions I would ask and that kind of thing.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And I know you explained at one point how your work was almost a coping mechanism in some ways for you. and I’m wondering, after you’ve had time to reflect all these years later, has that kind of, once you made that realization did it change your relationship with your work at all?

Anna Maria Tremonti: I think over time it did. I think that, I was always someone who loved my job. So for me to work crazy hours and to, like, just go, you know, like, full out on a story is, quite frankly, on a big story, that’s what you have to do if you want to do those stories. I think where it affected me was my ability to, trust. And so in terms of relationships, I think I made a lot of. I don’t know. I don’t necessarily think the wrong decisions, but I kind of. I was afraid to commit to because I was afraid of being trapped, because I felt trapped with patients. And for a while, again, not realizing that it was him and not me, I’m thinking, okay, well, if I commit again, you know, what will happen? Will I allow m this to happen? And so I tended to kind of gravitate to other people who didn’t want to commit, which, of course, is very unsatisfying down the road in relationships. So, you know, I had my issues with relationships. I’m happy to tell you that I’ve been with somebody for quite a while now. I have his children in my life, and, so I kind of worked on all of that, but it took time. But that’s the other thing, you know, I want people to know that what you. That the trauma you face at one point doesn’t have to be your life. And, yes, some of it will follow you. And, yes, I hope you can get the help that you need to have some of that fall away. But also, it’s about understanding that you’re worthy, that you have a right to say, hey, I want a different kind of life. And then you’re worthy of a better life. And at some point, I realized that, you know, at one point, Pat wanted us to get back together. And I was like, I would run every day with a headache, and I never got headaches. And I was thinking, well, now I know I can’t go back. And it was in that moment that I started to think about it. And I thought, you know what? I could have a different life. And I suddenly understood that I had agency, that he didn’t. He didn’t get to control me. I got to pick. And it was earth shattering for me to realize that I could take another direction. And then, you know, the great irony? He decided, no, I don’t want to try again after all. And I didn’t get to tell him no. But it didn’t matter, because I had already made up in my head that that was it. And that’s what I hope other people can realize, that they’re worth a better life, that they’re worth being loved by somebody who truly loves them, not someone who. Who abuses them and calls it love. And they’re worth wanting. And, you know, it’s okay to want a better life. You deserve it. Because there’s so much self loathing that comes with this, too. Right? And none of that is ours to carry. None of it.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. I think it’s really important to talk about the healing journey. And it’s not something that happens overnight or once you leave the relationship. It happens over a long time. But it’s possible. And it’s possible for people to have better lives. And they don’t need to go through this, like you said. And there is a way out. There’s help. There’s people who care about you. And I just thought it was so powerful and moving to hear you share your story because people know you. as you said, as you know, you’re a very powerful journalist. you’ve had an amazing career, and you’re not someone that typical air quotes person who people think domestic violence happens to. And the truth is, it can really happen to anybody. And that’s why we call this she is your neighbor. This, project, it’s about the fact that domestic violence can happen to anybody from any background in any neighborhood. And so I really, really appreciate hearing about your story. I thought it was so moving.

Anna Maria Tremonti: You know, I love that you say she is your neighbor, because that’s exactly it. We walk by each other every day. We think we’re so alone when we’re in the midst of this and we’re walking by people who have been through it or other people who are going through it. And it’s so well hidden. We are each other’s neighbors. And that’s why it’s really important for someone going through this that to understand they are not alone. In fact, not only you are not alone, you are surrounded by others who might be able to help you or who have had this happen, too. So there’s no shame in this that it’s. Again, it’s not your shame. Right. But, yeah, it’s really important that we understand that.

Jenna Mayne: The, last thing I want to ask you is, I know you already have made a huge impact for all those who are listening to your story. I’ve seen people reach out on Twitter and different ways telling you, how listening to your story has really changed their perspective about themselves and made them want to talk about it. what’s it been like for you to hear from these people?

Anna Maria Tremonti: It’s been overwhelmingly affirmative. And I’m really pleased. And I’m especially pleased when people say, you know, I’m working on this. Like, I’m reexamining what happened to me. I mean, almost the number of people who have contacted me privately to acknowledge their shame, you know, in what happened to them, is just. It’s overpowering to realize how many people carry shame for so long. So I think I’m really pleased that we’re, you know, there’s already a conversation going, but I’m adding to the conversation. And I think the other thing that has to change is even in how we cover this. Like, we still cover these as isolated one offs, right? It happens here, it happens there, and we use statistics. But in fact, the other thing that we have to think about is also that our laws have to really, really reflect what’s going on. And we have to see that there’s a societal aspect to all of this as well. Right. That perpetrators who do this, can also be mass murderers, that they’ve drawn a link from a person who is a mass murderer. You saw the. I mean, the Porta pick incident is textbook, apparently. it began with an incident of domestic abuse that night. So we need to see that those perpetrators and the violence that they put upon their partner is a bigger problem for our society. It’s not just her problem. He’s the problem. If she was somebody else, he would have done it anyway. We need to really understand that. That’s what we also have to look at.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I totally agree. For so long, it’s been seen as kind of a private issue and not a public matter. And really, it is. It is something we need to address as a society. I really appreciate you sharing that, and I’m just so grateful to have you here today. thank you so much for being on the podcast and chatting with us. It was so great to learn from you.

Anna Maria Tremonti: Really great to talk to you, and thank you. Thank you for the work you do.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag hash sheiyourneighbour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter, and join in the conversation.

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