Mike Farwell

Self-proclaimed ‘born and raised Kitchener kid,’ Mike Farwell has more than 20 years of radio and television broadcasting experience. Currently, he works with Rogers Radio in Kitchener as the host of the ‘The Mike Farwell Show’ and the play-by-play voice of the Kitchener Rangers on 570 News. He is also a columnist for the Kitchener Post.

For many years, Mike has been heavily involved in the community. Four years ago, he was motivated to join the Board of Directors at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. At the time he joined, a big focus was on a capital campaign to pay for the construction of Haven House in Cambridge.

“I would say that’s been the main focus of my four years on the board, making sure that we stayed on track with Haven House,” he said. “Making sure the funding stayed on track, getting messaging into the community about what Haven House was all about, and working with the board on those other governance issues around getting us settled and started in the new area in Cambridge.”

Voices Carry

There was one event in particular that helped Mike make the leap to join the organization’s board. “I got motivated to get involved with Women’s Crisis Services, specifically, around the controversy that erupted when Bill Cosby was coming to the Center in the Square. It heightened my awareness of issues relating to consent and sexual assault,” he said.

When Bill Cosby came to town, Mike was part of a group that organized a counter-event called ‘Voices Carry’ which raised funds for both the Sexual Assault Support Centre and Women’s Crisis Services. Rather than holding a protest, the event was meant to present a positive alternative option to the Bill Cosby show.

“We organized a concert and speaking event. We invited the community to come to our event as opposed to going to see Bill Cosby at The Center in the Square. Anybody that brought a Bill Cosby ticket could come into our event for free,” Mike shared.

I’ll never forget what she said to me, ‘Talk to the women in your life and don’t ask ifsomething happened, ask them what happened, because statistics tell us something did.’ It was a real eye opener for me,

he said.

“We got a bunch of stuff donated, we had a silent auction, we had great, powerful stories from great, powerful women like Brenda Halloran shared that night, and we had a little bit of music. I think we had a pretty uplifting night,” he said.

With upwards of 200 people attending the event and nearly $12,000 raised, Mike said he was very proud of the way a small group of people came together to execute the event and the way the community responded to it.

“We just said listen, let’s try to use this controversy as a way of motivating people to think about things differently,” he explained.

Better Understanding Domestic Violence

Mike thinks that we should all keep ourselves open to experiences that change our perspectives and enhance our understanding of issues such as domestic violence. His years on the board did this for him.
“It’s not lost on me what happens within the walls of this shelter. I’m in and out of both of these buildings, Anselma House and Haven House, many times through my work as a trustee with the board and it doesn’t escape me that these buildings are used for far more serious purposes than our governance meetings,” he said.

He shared the mixed emotions he felt after the initial tour he received of Anselma House. “It really helped me understand what’s being accomplished with the construction of these two shelters and what it means to the families that need them.”

“On the one hand, you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh.’ We didn’t meet any mothers and children, but you realized that you’re in the room where there’s a TV set and toys and things like that, so you can imagine children playing and mothers gathered around. It’s hard because you know that they had to be here,” Mike said.

“But on the other hand, you’re looking at it going, ‘Well, I’m glad that we have this.’ It made me even happier and prouder for this community and for what was done under Mary’s guidance prior, and Jen’s guidance today, to keep these shelters as going concerns in this community and to have a place to come that’s not depressing,” he said.

Knowledge is Power

Mike knows that learning about the realities of domestic violence is not an easy or pleasant process. He shared, “When I learned how prevalent it was and the numbers that we were talking about, it was really disheartening for me.”

Despite this, he knows the knowledge he has gained has provided him with the tools to help. There was a time when a friend approached him seeking advice for another friend. “It was a really unfortunate situation where the husband in the relationship became an alcoholic and was physically, emotionally and financially abusive. This woman was just left in tatters,” he said.

“I was relied upon for a bit of guidance and support to get this woman who was in danger into the proper care, to get her into the proper channels, and help her find her way through the system,” said Mike.

I think it’s important for all of us just to be caring. I think that if we’re aware enough of our surroundings and the people that we are close to, then we can recognize when something is amiss.

he said

He expressed that it was through his community connections and what he had learned through his role on the board that he was able to answer questions like, “where she would need to go to find support, what kinds of things she could do, what would happen with schools, what happens if you go to the police, and is there support financially or otherwise available?”

Mike said, “I remember as this was going on, they had some support through agencies like Women’s Crisis Services. She didn’t come to the shelter but she was given the support that she needed to get out of a really bad situation.” Fortunately, this woman had a strong network of friends and family that helped ensure she had an apartment and other supports in place for when she was ready to leave the relationship.

Through this experience, Mike began to better understand how domestic violence is a journey. He acknowledged that even if someone asks you for guidance, you still need to let that person make the decisions for themselves, even if that means the person returns to the relationship.

“I’m not that person. So I can’t presume that I would do it this way. When you’re not in it, you have no idea. You have no idea what feelings they have, what emotions they’re going through,” he explained. Therefore, he recommends using a supportive and non-judgemental approach if someone comes to you seeking advice on a personal situation involving domestic violence.

Mike said, “I think it’s important for all of us just to be caring. I think that if we’re aware enough of our surroundings and the people that we are close to, then we can recognize when something is amiss. And we make sure that we’re there to say things like, ‘I support you,’ or ‘Is there something that I can help with?’ I think it’s critical. I think it’s critical for the well-being of our community.”

Building a Strong Community

To Mike, being a good neighbour involves educating yourself about domestic violence and trying to better understand the struggles that women who experience it go through.
“It goes right down to the little things of noticing a change in your neighbour’s patterns with lights and cars, to know if they’ve gone away or if there’s something wrong at the house. It takes a village to raise a child; it takes good neighbours to build a strong community,” Mike said.

He wants to remind people to carry this attentiveness to all members of the community because no one is immune to experiencing difficult times, including public figures and community leaders.

He said, “I think of Bryan Larkin a lot because he’s a leader that I’ve learned a whole lot from in my lifetime. You see him and think, ‘Of course, the Chief of Police has it together.’ I think you forget sometimes that he has normal things in his life that happen to him. Maybe he gets in a car accident. When a leader like Bryan would talk about that, it brings it home for people that may be experiencing it or may recognize this is happening in their community without consciously thinking about it a lot.”

Mike continued, “I think it’s important for people to know that we experience real things in our lives, just like they might.” He said this is why it’s important that community leaders support domestic violence awareness and prevention.

“Let’s remove the stigma. Let’s try to normalize the conversation a little bit. I can only imagine, but if you’re the one that’s in it and your world is crumbling around you, you must be thinking that you’re the only person going through this. To hear that you’re not, and not only that, but there are support systems within your community and within your neighborhood to get some help, then I think that’s a great message to get across.”

Being a Good Neighbour

No matter how difficult they may be, Mike emphasized that discussions surrounding domestic violence need to continue taking place. He said, “We need to talk openly about this issue in our community because sadly, it’s just so prevalent. So it really means a lot to me to be involved with facilitating that conversation in whatever form it takes. And I don’t think we can prejudge what form it should take.”

He recalled something Brenda Halloran had said at the ‘Voices Carry’ event, in reference to the statistics that one in three women have experienced abuse.

“I’ll never forget what she said to me, ‘Talk to the women in your life and don’t ask if something happened, ask them what happened, because statistics tell us something did.’ It was a real eye opener for me,” Mike said.

He shared, “I’m a big fan of this community. I think we’ve got so many things around here that are going so well. I talked about these two shelters already, Anselma House and Haven House, they’re a real testament to what we can do as a community. But we have to remember what they’re for. We aren’t done yet”

“I don’t think we can be afraid to have the conversation. In fact, I know we can’t be afraid to have the conversation. We need to have people in leadership positions in our community standing up and saying, ‘Hey, listen, we have a problem here. And this is the name of the problem. So what are we going to do about it?’” he said.

Coming from an industry where repetition is key, Mike said, “We have commercials that run 100 times so that you can reach enough ears. I would say the same as this is concerned. I don’t think you can talk about it often enough. ”

He said once the people leading these conversations are starting to be exhausted by it, then just maybe the message will finally be permeating into other areas of our community.

“To be able to have these conversations around this really important issue, it matters. It matters to our community, and it matters to me,” Mike said.

Mary Wilhelm

Mary Wilhelm is the Executive Director at Woolwich Counselling Centre, a non-profit organization in Elmira that provides professional counselling services for individuals, couples, and families living in the rural Townships of Woolwich, Wellesley, and beyond.
“We are part of the Violence Against Women program through what is now the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services,” she shared. “Part of that funding envelope involves providing services for women and children involved in domestic violence.”

She explained that a lack of education and awareness surrounding domestic violence is a big issue for many rural women. Women are often unaware of the many forms of domestic violence, as well as the support services that are provided locally. In many instances, women do not realize that they are experiencing it themselves until they begin to work through this with a counsellor.

“They may come in with another issue – it may involve their child, a death in the family, or another problem – then they get discussing their partner not being supportive. Then you learn more and more and realize that they have an issue of domestic violence going on that they’re not quite aware of. They have a sense but don’t understand all the facets that are going on. When you start unpacking that with them, they understand more of what’s been happening to them in that relationship,” she said.

“Once we are aware and they’re within our Woolwich Counseling Centre, we can definitely do something about it. That’s not a problem, it’s just getting them there and making them aware of the resources,” said Mary.

One of the resources that staff can utilize when a case of domestic violence arises, is their partnership with Women’s Crisis Services. For the past 5 years, the organizations have worked together to support women experiencing domestic violence. An outreach worker from Women’s Crisis Services is available to meet on site with counsellors and clients at Woolwich Counseling Centre.

“The outreach worker comes to the rural area of Elmira to help provide resources for women that we have seen that are in crisis and need some sort of support from the city: support from the shelter, legal advice around housing, support on whether to leave or not, or a safety plan. This connection has been just working beautifully, it’s just wonderful,” said Mary.

Risk Factors for Rural Women

Mary believes that connections like this are so important because there are not the same kinds of supports available for women living rurally as there are in the cities. “In general, for the rural women, it’s a lot more difficult to get resources and to leave. For instance, there’s very limited subsidized housing out in the area and it’s almost impossible to get,” she said.

With no shelter nearby and only costly transportation options like taking a cab in and out of the city, isolation and accessibility are huge barriers for many women.

“You might be isolated in a small farming community with no one else around to talk to. Your only way into the town of Elmira might be with your spouse while coming to do shopping, with him dropping you off, so you have no opportunity to get assistance on your own,” Mary said.

They may come in with another issue …
Then you learn more and more and realize that they have an issue of domestic violence going on that they’re not quite aware of.

she said.

She explained that if supportive housing isn’t available in someone’s home area, they often have to move to an entirely different area when leaving the relationship. “You’re not just moving across the city or moving from Waterloo to Kitchener, you’re maybe moving miles and miles away from home,” Mary said.
This is especially difficult because in cases of domestic violence, it often takes women many attempts before they are able to leave the relationship for good. “If you’re moving back and forth that’s really difficult because you get established in a new community and then to go back out to the rural area where you’re not supported would be a huge burden,” she explained.

“You almost would speculate that when somebody from that rural location makes the plunge, it would almost be harder for them to go back, that they may be less inclined. But there may always be the emotional draw and maybe the lack of support, so they would go back,” she said.

The higher prevalence of weapons in rural areas adds an additional layer of risk. “There’s always a farmer with a shotgun. If there’s a mental illness in either partner, you have a double problem and higher risk for homicide or suicide. So you’ve got that added piece on it,” Mary said.

Initiatives to Reach Rural Women

In rural communities, unique approaches are needed to increase people’s understanding of what domestic violence is so that women can identify it when they see or experience it.

Mary explained, “It’s an education thing and an understanding of how the relationship has transpired and is operating. It may be something that has been going on for years and years, so the person is inundated that way and doesn’t realize how they’ve been surviving, how they’ve been coping in that unhealthy relationship.”

Woolwich Counselling Centre provides outreach services and some group awareness programming for women, but Mary thinks as a community we must join forces to provide the best support and education possible. She explained that a new rural initiative has started, which is focused on reaching rural women who are experiencing domestic violence.

Mary said a group was formed to “consider how to best reach out and advertise so that rural women can be aware of the resources open to them within their local town or city.”
“There was a lot of brainstorming around how to do that in a way in which their anonymity would be protected and they wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to their violent partner knowing that they were doing this. It gets really tricky,” Mary said.

Cell phones and internet – sources of information that we often take for granted in the city – are not always accessible or reliable in rural areas. This creates an added challenge when considering how to provide resources and information to women.

Mary said some strategies included leaving posters with a phone number for women to rip off in local grocery or corner stores, utilizing the places that more isolated groups are already visiting. She shared that this is especially important for one of the five different Mennonite faiths.

“They might travel horse and buggy so you’d be leaving them in spots where they might frequent and would see the poster and could secretly tear off a number or write it down,” she explained.

Being a Good Neighbour

In order to continue providing these essential resources, non-profit organizations look to the community for help. “There’s never enough funding, that’s the problem. The funding is so low that if community leaders don’t support it, there’s not a chance that there’s going to be a plea for additional funding from anyone,” she said.

Community leaders can help by being vocal about the prevalence of domestic violence and the need to make it a priority. “The more you have leaders talking about it and expressing concern about it, the more widespread the knowledge is, and maybe then funding would follow through,” Mary said.

The more you have leaders talking about it and expressing concern about it, the more widespread the knowledge is…

she said.

She continued, “I just don’t think there can be enough awareness brought about domestic violence, bringing it out in the open and having people talking about it. The promotion is great. It needs to be done.”

It is for this reason that Mary supports the #SheIsYourNeighbour project. “I’m happy to be a part of broadcasting more information about it. That’s why I think this project is really important because it’s saying domestic violence is everywhere,” she said.

She urges people to remember that even if they live in a different district or township, rural women are still part of our community, they are our neighbours.

“It’s not somebody completely remote who you don’t know. It doesn’t matter if it’s rural or city, it is women of all races, women of all economic situations, it crosses all boundaries. Domestic violence is not just an issue in the city. It’s everywhere. No matter where you go,” she said.

For Mary, being a good neighbour means supporting anyone who is expressing some concern about an unhealthy relationship that they’re in. She said if she is ever in a group of family or friends and hears people discussing this type of situation, she won’t hesitate to plant a seed.

“As a social worker doing this work all day long, it’s sort of ingrained in you to assist by listening, by offering education and support to anyone that I would run across that would seek it out,” she said.

This is something she believes everyone should do. “Once you say the words, it sometimes sticks in somebody’s head. I like planting seeds so I think it’s really important that everyone speaks out and plants that seed in a way that doesn’t scare off or intimidate or frighten somebody into backing away and not talking about it all together. It’s a tightrope you’re walking, but I’d rather say something than not,” she said.

Cavell Johnson

Former professional basketball player, and current coach of the KW Titans, Cavell Johnson has a passion for helping others achieve personal growth and development.

He discovered his innate ability to help others during a transitional period in his own life. After being released from a team in Europe, he was left waiting to figure out where he would play next.

He shared, “I’m passionate about basketball and I felt like it was being taken away from me, so I started thinking about different passions that I have. What are things that I’m very passionate about that no one can ever take away from me, that I will always be able to impact wherever I am?”

A Passion for Helping Others

Cavell realized that what he genuinely enjoys doing is helping others discover and reach their full potential. This led him to coaching and working with youth.

“I enjoyed the developmental process of working with youth, seeing how you show them something, they work on it, they get more confident at it, and they excel at it. Then they grow up and they want to show someone else how to do that,” he said.

He said he grew up being coached in many different ways throughout his life.

“I’ve now used those different approaches to coaching to help build my own philosophy and approach to coaching, not basketball, but the development and growth of people,” he said.

Helping those around us is also a way to help ourselves grow, Cavell said.

“As we invest in the development of the people around us, you have no choice but to be developing yourself because you’re more cognizant of what’s going on around you and you’re more in tune with your own personal growth,” he said.

He believes that focusing on building relationships also provides the opportunity to build thriving communities.

Using Education to Build Healthy Communities

Cavell grew up in the United States and spent many years living on a farm in Southern Virginia. Although he is not originally from Waterloo Region, he is very fond of his new community.

“This is my home. This is a community that outside of being here for work, I could see myself starting a life here. I feel so much love in this community,” he said. “I just want to continue to grow that.”

This is a big reason why he wanted to become an ambassador of the #SheIsYourNeighbour project. He believes that nurturing a strong community involves educating people about issues that the community is facing – issues like domestic violence.

With this project, we want to have a healthy home body and a healthy community body, so it’s important that we educate.

he said.

“The healthiness of our community starts in the home,” Cavell explained. Before we can create a healthy community, we need to be clear on what that means, he said.

“You won’t know how to be healthy if you don’t go to health class, go to the doctor, and become educated on how to take care of your body,” he said. “With this project, we want to have a healthy home body and a healthy community body, so it’s important that we educate.”

He continued, “You go to the dentist to get a healthy mouth. You have to go to the source to learn about it and then achieve it. Right now, this project is a source and that’s why I want to help push this out into the community.”

Moving out of the Dark

Cavell said that as soon as he began working with Women’s Crisis Services, he realized how much he had to learn about domestic violence.

“After our initial meeting, it opened my eyes to the various types of domestic violence that I was just completely unaware of. It made me want to learn more so that I can conduct myself in a more healthy way in relationships that I’m going to be in, whether it’s a serious committed relationship or just my interactions with women in my life,” he said.

Learning about the many forms of domestic violence had a big impact on him. “To have my eyes open to that now, I know without even recalling specific situations that I’ve seen it far too many times,” he said.

We tell ourselves we’re not in an unhealthy situation or relationship, but we don’t even know because we haven’t even educated ourselves.

he said.

“I’ve witnessed physical domestic violence. I’ve witnessed emotional and verbal abuse. I’ve witnessed what I  – or the people in the situation – may have thought was just an argument, but they were just so used to that way of arguing that they wouldn’t classify it as abuse or violence,” he said.

Without education, people are left trying to navigate relationships in the dark, he said. “We tell ourselves we’re not in an unhealthy situation or relationship, but we don’t even know because we haven’t even educated ourselves,” he said.

Cavell thinks this is something that impacts all people. “We don’t always recognize unhealthy behaviours in our relationships. So I really think it’s important for us to seek that education so that we can definitely say and know that we’re striving towards healthier relationships.”

He said having the desire to learn and to change is the first step in the right direction.
“I hope that people have that desire to be better. It doesn’t always mean that you’re going to be better with or for the person that you’re with – but at least you’re becoming more sensitive to who you are and how you are affecting other people,” he said.

The Mindset of an Athlete

Coming from the world of professional athleticism, Cavell said he has had to retrain certain mindsets that he carries with him, in order to be more sensitive to how he is impacting others.

“As top level professional athletes, we condition ourselves to think certain ways and be certain ways, not knowing how they affect the people around us sometimes,” he said. “We are trained to hijack our minds to push through and persevere with a certain sternness that can bleed over in wrong ways to those more intimate facets of our lives.”
This is why it’s important to be able to identify what behaviors and thought processes can be harmful in relationships. For instance, Cavell said “Coaches have come at me extremely verbally strong but I wouldn’t take that personally, I wouldn’t take it as verbal abuse. It’s just, that’s what is motivating me and is getting the job done, it’s reaching me. That is not true for everybody.”

He emphasized that athletes need to be wary when carrying certain mindsets into other areas of their lives. “If we have a child in our lives, a spouse, or a significant other and we want to motivate them, we might tend to use some of those motivational tactics that we would use in our sport. It doesn’t work that way,” he said.

“We have to take a different approach because this isn’t a game, this isn’t sports. This is life, family life, and we have to be sensitive to that mindset and know where to place it, when to use it, and with whom we can use it,” he stated.

Cavell said this is why it is crucial to raise awareness about domestic violence in our community.

“If we’re not educated on what certain things look like, sound like, or feel like around domestic violence, then the mindset that we must have to compete at a high level could actually lead to these different forms of domestic violence without us having a clue,” he said.

Being a Good Neighbour

Cavell thinks that like many athletes, men in general have their own form of reconditioning they need to work through. “We need to take a step back from the way we’ve intentionally or unintentionally conditioned ourselves to perceive the relationships or interactions that we find ourselves in, to pause for compassion,” he said.

“We’re so driven and hard wired to persevere, push through, fight, and to have a harder edge to our approach to life,” he explained. “Just take time to pump the brakes on that. Have a softer eye and a softer heart for how we live, how it affects the people in our lives.”

For Cavell, a healthy community is a compassionate community. Therefore, being a good neighbour means offering support to the people around you. “It’s not always support in the way that you think you should be supporting. It is support in a way that person needs,” he said.

In order to truly support somebody, he said you have to try to understand where they’re coming from and the situation that they’re in.

“We also have to listen to these victims. Or even if we don’t know that they’re victims yet, listen to people who confide in us, with a desire to be understanding of their point of view, and with compassion,” he said.

Doing this will help us continue to grow as individuals and as a community, spreading the love that Cavell says is already so strong in our region.

Tric Fletcher

Tric Fletcher’s media career began in radio and has progressed into television and much more. “Radio was my first love,” she explained. “I went to Ryerson for Radio and Television Broadcasting.”

Some of her past roles include working as a news anchor, producer, and hosting her own show for several years called “Grand River Living” which aired on Rogers TV. Currently, she is a radio personality on Faith FM’s Afternoon Drive. “That’s where my love is. I can have my faith and a job that I love all in one,” she said.

Tric also works with her husband, Chef D. She is the producer of the TV show “At Home with Chef D” and she also helps run the administrative side of their catering company. Tric and Chef D first met when she was working in television and she actually helped him get into TV in the first place.

“My producer was looking for a chef and asked me if I knew anyone,” she explained.
She put his name forward and to test his on-camera skills, she followed him with a camera for a week as they attended the National Restaurant Association (NRA). They quickly realized their partnership was a recipe for success.

When Chef D TV first came to life, Tric was also producing her own show called ‘Impact’. The show covered stories of people who have had an impact on someone else’s life without even knowing it.

“Your interaction with a person can put someone on a different trajectory. Those are the stories I like and I got amazing stories from people,” she said.

Tric understands the power that can come with sharing your story, which is part of the reason why she wanted to get involved with the #SheIsYourNeighbour project.

All That Glitters is Not Happy

She knows that not all stories are easy to hear or to share, but when it comes to domestic violence, opening up the dialogue is vital.

“SheIsYourNeighbour is a great way to open up that conversation because you don’t always have a black eye or something visible. People are embarrassed and they don’t want you to know. It’s not a comfortable conversation,” Tric said.

She recalled a time when she asked a neighbour about the jewellery she was wearing, which initiated a deeper conversation.

“I remember she had these rings all over her hands – beautiful, sparkly rings and I told her it must be nice that your husband loves jewellery. She said every time they get in a fight, he does something bad. When he sobers up and realizes the terrible things he’s done, he buys her a ring to apologize. All of a sudden they weren’t pretty anymore,” she said.

…When he sobers up and realizes the terrible things he’s done, he buys her a ring to apologize. All of a sudden they weren’t pretty anymore,

she said.

Status, prestige and affluence do not exempt someone from being vulnerable to domestic violence, but they can discourage a woman who is experiencing it from speaking up. For instance, while participating in Women’s Crisis Services’ play ‘Rage Against Violence,’ Tric met a woman who was married to an important public figure.
“It was a very difficult journey for her to leave because of that,” she said.

Tric said she can imagine that the pressure to remain silent is especially heavy when your partner is a public figure. This is why she thinks it’s important to create a safe space for people to express when they need help. She said she hopes that the #SheIsYourNeighbour project will encourage women to open up and seek help.

“You know, when you’re a little kid and you hurt yourself, and you’re like, ‘I’m okay, I’m okay.’ Then you run all the way home and you’re okay until you get in your mom’s arms, where it’s safe to not be okay. That’s what I love about this – it opens the door to being safe not to be okay,” she said.

What Makes a Woman Leave

Many years ago, there was a time when Tric had to reach out and admit she needed help. “Sadly, I’ve been in relationships that have been abusive,” she said adding, “You don’t even know you’re in one. You think this is just a bad day or a bad week. But no, this is wrong.”

When she was in her early 20s she was in a relationship that was psychologically abusive. “When you’re with that person all the time, they basically force how they see you, onto you. Then when you do something that they don’t like, it’s all you and your fault,” she said.

When he became angry he would regularly threaten her, but she tolerated it. Eventually, she was able to leave the relationship. “It’s the weirdest things that give you the courage to get out of the relationship,” she said. The spark for her came when he threatened her cat.

During a big blow-up she described, “He grabbed my cat, and he held it over the balcony, and threatened it. We were like 19 floors up,” she said. At this point she remained very calm and it became crystal clear in her mind that she needed to leave.

After spending some time arguing, with him insisting that she come to a party with him, he finally left. “I knew I had to get out of there now. I started packing up a bag and then I heard him come in and I shoved the bag in the closet. He asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him I was cleaning up and to just go, that I didn’t want to be around him,” she said.
Knowing he might come back again, she acted quickly. “I grabbed the cat and put it in my coat. I grabbed what clothes I had and went down to the bus station,” she said.

She was in Hamilton at the time and she needed to catch a bus to her mother’s house in Toronto. “I got on the bus with my cat and went to the back and I’m like, ‘Please don’t meow, please don’t meow.’ There was a couple sitting beside me and they asked, “You okay?” I said yeah but my cat was not supposed to be on the bus so I didn’t want him to meow.”

Tric said she was extremely grateful because when the cat started to meow, the people next to her on the bus stepped in. “The couple started singing a little song so it sounded like them who was making noise. I got to my mom’s with my cat, all in one piece,” she said.

Creating Safe Spaces

Tric said it’s important to raise awareness about domestic violence so that people recognize the signs as well as the many forms of domestic abuse.

“To keep the conversation open is huge. Without awareness, places like this don’t exist. What if you don’t know about Anselma House and somebody talks to you about what they’re experiencing? We need to know that the support nets are there, not only for you if you’re the one experiencing it, but if that person across you is,” she said.

People must learn that violence and abuse is happening in our community. Tric said, “When you’re sitting in a room full of people and you think of that stat of one in three women experience violence, well, if it’s not me, and it’s not you, that means it’s her.”

We need to know that the support nets are there, not only for you if you’re the one experiencing it, but if that person across you is,

she said.

When you realize how prevalent it is, it opens your eyes to be able to support people, she said. “I think you take the naivety away. Then you notice the signs. It sticks. You create a sticky surface and all of a sudden things don’t just wash off your back. It makes it easier to have that conversation to say, ‘What’s up with the rings?’” she said.

Tric said being a good neighbour involves really being there for someone, even when it’s difficult, and even when you’re feeling tired or crabby. “It’s interesting how you go through everyday thinking about the things you don’t want to do because you think you’d be giving too much of your energy away,” she said. “But how do you know it’s not you that is supposed to be getting something from that?”

Being a Good Neighbour

It’s about creating safe spaces for people to open up, said Tric. “An environment where you have the tools and the arsenal to be able to hug that moment longer, so you create a safe space for that person to release,” she said.

This means listening to the voice inside you that pushes you to step outside yourself, she said. “That little voice inside you that says, ‘I need to do this,’” she explained. Tric thinks listening to these pushes will challenge us to be better human beings.

“Sometimes these pushes take me to an uncomfortable place. I think to myself, ‘I’m not going to talk to that guy or I’m not going to engage with that homeless person’ but you have a push to do it. If you respect that push and follow it, beautiful things happen. And if you don’t, you’re closing yourself off to something that could be beautiful. Maybe not even to that other person, it may be for you,” she said.

“We’re all one family, we are all brothers and sisters,” she said. “Whether it be in Kitchener, Waterloo, Canada, North America, worldwide, we are all one family. If we’re not picking each other up, we’re just looking down on other people and that’s not good.”
She encourages people to do what they can to help others. This could be something as simple as offering an extra-long hug, complimenting someone’s hat, or singing on the bus to cover up a ‘meow’- you never know how a seemingly small action could have a very large impact on someone’s life.

Darryl Fletcher

Darryl Fletcher – also known as “Chef D” – is the founder of a thriving local culinary business, Chef D TV Inc. He hosts the popular cooking show, ‘At Home with Chef D’.

“We’ve just finished filming Season 7 and are getting ready to film Season 2 of ‘At the Cottage with Chef D’, which is really cool,” he said.

He also offers catering services, often preparing meals for artists on tour at larger music events such as London’s ‘Rock the Park’. Some of his past clients include artists such as B.B. King, Stuart McLean, Blue Rodeo, and more.

“You name it, they’ve probably had some of our food,” he said. “Which is really great because they don’t get good food on the road, even though you think they would. So whenever they come through, we always give them the best of the best.”

Recently, he opened a Studio Kitchen and is developing a dinner club membership. The new space allows him to hold special events ranging from weddings to team-building events. “It’s opened a whole new side to our catering business where you can come and have a meeting at our place,” he said.

It was through his work that Chef D first learned about Women’s Crisis Services, when he was asked to help with an event. “That’s how I found out the real story of what Women’s Crisis Services is all about. I had no idea,” he said.

Chef D has teamed-up with the organization for many events over the years, the most recent being the delicious brunch he provided at this past Mother’s Day fundraiser, “Hats Off to Mom!”

‘Rage Against Violence’

He shared that one of the most impactful experiences he has had with the organization was when he participated in a play held in honour of Woman Abuse Awareness Month (WAAM). In 2015, a one act play titled ‘Rage Against Violence’ was performed at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge.

The play featured intersecting storylines that illuminated how different people are impacted by domestic violence. Perspectives ranged from the woman experiencing the abuse to first responders and how it affected their lives.

Chef D participated in the play alongside other community members including Chief of Police Bryan Larkin, the previous Mayor of Cambridge, Doug Craig, and Kathryn McGarry, the current Mayor of Cambridge.

I didn’t realize the impact that it had on other people, such as first responders like the police or the nurse looking after injuries, how it affects them,

he said.

“Each one of us had a part to play and I played the nurse. It was very moving. I didn’t realize the impact that it had on other people, such as first responders like the police or the nurse looking after injuries, how it affects them. I just went, this is a bigger issue than what I ever anticipated it to be,” he said.

He explained that the play was very emotional for some of the actors.

“Some of these ladies were abused earlier in their lives so this really brought it back,” he said. “I had the opportunity of seeing firsthand with the play, not only what happens to the ladies that come here, but also how it impacts other people. I had never really thought about it that way.”

Chef D said the play was a great way to introduce domestic violence to the public. “It just really opened people up to the issue. It was incredible to see. You got to see the victim who we don’t always see. It’s not a victimless crime. It really moved me,” he said.

Why We Need to Talk About It

The experience inspired him to continue donating and learning about other ways he can support the organization.

“If I can help by lending my voice to say, ‘Hey, this is a real problem,’ to ensure it doesn’t go unnoticed, that’s why I want to stay involved,” he shared.

Although it can be difficult, Chef D thinks that it is essential that more discussions about domestic violence start taking place.

“It’s something that people don’t want to talk about. If you’re the victim, are you going to go to your neighbours and say, ‘Hey, look at me?’ No, you’re going to hide from it because you don’t want another beating to take place, or you feel that you have to put on a brave face. So I think there’s a lot of times that we don’t see the truth in it,” he said.

It should be talked about it and it should be out in the open because it affects all of us,

he said.

Chef D said this can make people feel like it’s an issue that is not relevant to them or that they live in ‘too good of a neighbourhood’ for it to be taking place around them.

He clarified, “It happens to people with lots of money and to the very poor. It’s an epidemic, and I think it’s becoming worse in our society, not better. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. I think that we should be talking about it more and more, to freely talk about it and open those doors.”

He said he’s happy that organizations like Women’s Crisis Services exist to support women facing the many unknowns when leaving a partner.

“It’s a whole different ball game that a lot of us will never understand. We live in a very affluent society and we don’t know that feeling. To start over again, there’s a fear that comes with that. As well as the fear that the person who did this to me might be able to do this to me again,” he said.

Influencing Young Men

Chef D believes increased dialogue will help more people understand the realities for many women. “It should be talked about it and it should be out in the open because it affects all of us. Not only that, but it affects the kids. The circle that happens, I’d like to cut off that circle,” he said.

He explained that men need to consider the impact of their actions and the influence they can have on boys and young men who look up to them.

“Often the women are the victims, the men are the abusers. I want to show some young person looking up to Chef D or Chief Larkin or Cavell, the coach from the Titans, that these are really positive role models that you can become,” said he said.

“Am I perfect? Not in a million years. But I’m out here to say that this is not right. This is not supposed to be reality. We should be loving, supportive, and deal with our anger issues in another way,” he explained. “Men are loving and compassionate. They don’t have to use their fists to make a point. And I think that’s it. That’s the easiest way to explain why I want to get involved.”

Chef D calls us all to step outside our comfort zones and consider how we can help those around us.

“I think we tend to – and I’m guilty of this just as much as anybody – come home through the front door and not want to deal with the world anymore. But, the world’s out there still,” he said.

Being a Good Neighbour

He urges people to take action if they believe someone might need support.

“If you notice something changing in a person, open up a dialogue with them or maybe phone your local services, like Women’s Crisis Services or the police if it gets to that,” he said. “I think sometimes we think when we’re phoning the police, it’s always the negative note but they can really help. That is what they’re there for. They are there to build the relationships and build the trust.”

He believes that relationship building is something we can all make a point of doing better. “I think we should all get to know our neighbours. Just be part of your community. That could even be just saying, “Hi”, waving, or that type of thing. You never know the impact of a smile,” he said.

Chef D wants to remind people that there are many ways you can make a difference in someone’s life.

“When it all comes down to it, the community supports us, so why can’t we support the community?” he questioned. “It’s not always about money. Everybody thinks it has to be that you write a cheque. Well no, you could come and volunteer for a dinner, you could do a barbecue to raise some funds that way, or maybe even bring in some gift cards that can help the ladies and their families get back on track again.”

He encourages us to think about our own lives and the opportunities that we have to create change.

“I live a really great life. I have a beautiful wife, I have some amazing kids and an amazing granddaughter. I have recognition, I have a great TV show, I’m living my dream. So if I can share and help out, that’s what it’s all about. That’s always been the mandate of Chef D deep down inside. If I can help show some awareness using my platforms, that’s what I want.”

Heather Caron

As a Family Lawyer who has been practicing in Kitchener-Waterloo for 17 years, Heather Caron frequently encounters domestic violence in her line of work. In her role she said, “I represent one party or the other, either the husband or the wife, whether they’re married or common law. I represent them in custody, access, divorce, support issues.” She explained that there are many ways to move parties through the process including litigation, mediation, and collaborative law, but a great part of what she does is helping people manage their expectations and cope with the heightened levels of stress.

“There is a lot of emotional abuse, at the least, when couples are separating,” she said.
When dealing with a new case, domestic violence is always a consideration. “One of the questions that we screen for is domestic violence, because we have to handle the file differently if there’s a risk of domestic violence escalating,” she said.

For cases involving child custody, Heather said the question that the judges need to consider is, “Is there domestic violence towards one of the children or towards any other member of the family?”

This is legislated in the Children’s Law Reform Act under Section 24, Subsection 4. Despite the law, she said that in her experience, it is rare that any form of domestic violence other than physical abuse is taken seriously.

An Early Encounter with Domestic Violence

It is not only her experience as a lawyer that makes her especially adept to handle cases involving domestic violence, she has also experienced it personally.

“I have a lot of insight into that situation now. I know what to look for. When people are being a little vague, I know to probe a little bit more because of my past experience,” she said.

Heather explained that many years ago, she was in an abusive marriage. She said, “I was in a very bad situation and didn’t even have my high school education. It was a lot of emotional abuse and a lot of threats.”

“The emotional abuse, it undermines you so much that you just can’t focus on what you’re doing. It becomes an obsession to just try to survive.”

she said.

She shared that when they were on their honeymoon outside of the country, he strangled her.

“It was horrifying,” she said. “You just don’t understand where it’s coming from or what to do about it.” She said she was left feeling shocked and indignant.

She said there was also financial abuse. Heather was always very independent, starting to work when she was 14 years old, and getting her driver’s license the day she turned 16.

However, she explained, “My ex-husband made it impossible for me to work because I never knew what was going on. The emotional abuse, it undermines you so much that you just can’t focus on what you’re doing. It becomes an obsession to just try to survive.”
In one instance she said, “He pushed me down a flight of stairs backwards and I was knocked out. When I came to – and I was in my pajamas in the middle of winter – he told me to get out of the house.”

By this point she already had a plan in place. “I went to a neighbour’s because she left me a key. Thank God for that neighbour,” she said.

One of the last things her partner said to her was, “At least I have my high school education.” In that moment she promised herself, “Well, we’re not leaving it on that note.”

Finding Support at Women’s Crisis Services

When Heather decided to end her marriage she spent several months at Anselma House. There, she was connected with a support worker and counsellors.

“They helped me in a lot of ways. They were available 24/7 to talk. I had to kind of shut out my family and friends for a short period of time, because I needed to sort it out myself,” she said. “They helped me to navigate that too, to tell my family that I’m okay and to keep in touch. I used a lot of their resources that way.”

This wasn’t the first time that she was a resident at the shelter.

“I stayed a couple of times, actually. Because of course, it’s a journey. You go back and forth, and back and forth, trying to figure things out,” she explained.

Heather voiced that a big help for her was participating in a counselling group run by Anselma House. The group was a safe place for her to vent and reflect.

“The shame and the guilt, they paralyze you. They keep you in the relationship because you’re afraid to talk to anybody about anything. You think it’s your fault because they’ve told you this. Only until you reflect and talk to people about it, and get their reflection on it, then you can start to pull back the veil of shame and guilt and make it more transparent. Then you can see that it’s not your fault,” she said.

The experience of stripping back her shame and guilt helped her set a new path for her life.

“I always wanted to go back to school but the whole situation made me realize that it was my own fears holding me back. So I started down that journey after I left him. I went back to finish my high school and then I got my undergraduate degree,” she said.

Following that, when the promise of a management job at her workplace fell through, she gained the motivation to apply to graduate school. “I got into all three programs that I applied for and I went to law school,” she said.

“In a way, domestic violence was actually the impetus for me to go back to school,” she said. She explained that her experience did contribute to her pursuing a career as a lawyer. “It definitely was something that drew me there. It wasn’t willingly and it wasn’t wittingly though,” she said.

She emphasized that the success she has found did not come quickly or easily.
“It was such a gradual process. It’s probably only in the last 10 years or so that I’ve been able to envision myself that way. There was a huge gap between where I thought I was and where the world thought I was. It was very difficult to change my own expectations of myself. It takes a long time,” she said.

Understanding It’s a Journey

Heather hopes that sharing her story will help people understand that escaping domestic violence is not an easy process; it’s a journey.

“For the people in the community who are struggling with domestic violence, they can see that somebody else can make it out of that. I’m somebody who’s very visible and not ashamed of it. I’m proud of my role in that; not how I got there, but that I got there. I found a way to make it a positive experience for me. I turned it around,” she said.

She knows that everyone’s journey is different.

“Human behavior is very difficult to change. So for anybody to take any steps forward at all is huge,” she said.

“The most dangerous time for women in a domestic violence situation is when they leave. If there’s any kind of overt violence, it’s going to escalate at that point.”

she said.

She equates it to other times of transition such as the grieving process or quitting smoking. The feelings are never ‘gone’, you just learn to feel them less.

Actually leaving the relationship is especially difficult. “The most dangerous time for women in a domestic violence situation is when they leave. If there’s any kind of overt violence, it’s going to escalate at that point. Women know that and that’s how they’re kept in this relationship,” she said.

Heather said it’s the fear that often keeps women from leaving – fear of not knowing how they’re going to face their partner or what’s going to happen when they do.

In addition to this, there are many other components that make it difficult to leave.

“You have to have the financial resources. You have to have the emotional energy. You have to have the physical resources, a place to go. If you have children, it gets more complicated. Do you take your children out of school? It’s very complicated and it’s a web,” she said.

Being a Good Neighbour

Heather believes it is important for people to understand the realities of domestic violence.

She said that women often don’t even realize that what they have experienced is “domestic violence.” In her role, she helps women understand when they need to stop excusing or justifying the actions of their partner and take legal action.

“Harassment is in the Criminal Code. It’s not okay. We need to educate people how this translates into everyday interactions. The shove is not okay. The bullying is not okay. Being aggressive and coming up to somebody and towering down on them and intimidating them, is not okay. All of that is violence. I think if you call it what it is, it makes it a little easier to address,” she said.

“You can get out and you can live a much better life without the burden of this kind of a relationship.

she said.

For this education to happen, she says people need to start talking to each other. “You may not get a warm reception, but I think that we need to lift that veil of shame and guilt so that we can talk about it individually and as a community,” she said.

“We need to change our approach to it and reframe it so that we can move forward through this,” she said. “It’s not that woman’s problem. It’s a problem for society, it affects the whole community,” she said.

Heather said it’s important to stand together as a community and to recognize that any form of domestic violence is unacceptable. It’s also important for women to know that there are resources and help available.

“I think that I’m probably a pretty good role model for the community as somebody that came from nothing – not even high school – and now I’m a lawyer. I went through the domestic violence issue,” she said.

As someone who has stayed in shelter and accessed community resources, Heather said that most of all, she wants women to know that there is help and there is hope.

“You can get out and you can live a much better life without the burden of this kind of a relationship. You don’t even know what your possibilities are. You can’t imagine what the possibilities are until you get to the other side of that,” she said.

Leo Tobi

Leo Tobi is passionate about community. No matter what he is working on, he wants to see people striving and thriving. This carries over to his role with the KW Titans as well as the new direction he has taken professionally which he describes as, “a new journey, one that merges my passion and talents.”

Leo works as a Relationship Management expert and Motivational Sales Leader. He has also been involved in the Kitchener-Waterloo Rotary Club for approximately seven years which supports community endeavours and organizations.

“The nice thing about Rotary is that you’re not in it by yourself. Collectively, as a group of Rotarians, we have a lot more power when we band together and share time and resources to do good in the community,” he said.

The club raises funds in a number of different ways which they distribute to community groups. “We can write cheques to organizations, such as Women’s Crisis Services or KidsAbility, anything that is a community asset that requires funding and investment,” he explained.

Connection with Women’s Crisis Services

It was through Leo’s passion for community that he was first introduced to Women’s Crisis Services. A friend, Harmony Voisin, asked him to join a planning committee for a golf tournament that would raise funds for the organization. This began his journey of learning about domestic violence.

“I really became aware of the organization’s work and need for support my second year on the golf committee. That year, we were invited to host the first golf committee meeting at Anselma House so that we understood what it is that we’re supporting. For me, it was a very emotional experience,” he said. “It was quite visceral and shocking for me to realize that there is such a big need.”

Visiting one of the shelters and learning more about the services offered to the residents was a transformative experience for Leo. “I feel passionate about what you do. It’s sad that it’s required. But it affects me emotionally and rather than just sit in the corner, I want to do something about it. So whatever I can do with the time that I have, that’s what I want to do,” he said.

For Leo, this has evolved into working with the organization in many capacities, such as attracting sponsors for fundraisers, providing services and sponsorship, advocating for other men to become involved, and connecting other community entities to Women’s Crisis Services.

Overcoming Misconceptions through Education

“Just the mere fact that it’s so prevalent – we’re at capacity in two different shelters in our region – speaks to the need for education. I think this is a key element that is missing. You can’t use hush tones. Let’s talk about it openly. I mean, that’s how you educate the masses. Don’t hide. Be open,” he said.

Leo believes that education and awareness are crucial.

“I’m a prime example of the need to educate. I had a misconception of what domestic violence really was,” he explained.

“It is experienced by a large range of people and there are so many types: emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, and financial,”

he said.

“When the phrase ‘domestic violence’ entered a conversation, I immediately had images of battered women, women from mostly lower socio-economic situations. We know that that’s not the case. My perception was both naive and a sheltered point of view,” he said.
He now understands that domestic abuse does not discriminate. “It is experienced by a large range of people and there are so many types: emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, and financial,” he said.

Leo was also unaware of how domestic violence affects children. He learned that at any given time, almost half of the residents at Anselma House and Haven House are children.
“That’s what really saddened me years ago, that there were almost as many children as women in need,” he said.

A Call for Male Advocates

Although Leo is frustrated about the extensive need for domestic violence shelter and services locally, he has chosen to channel those feelings into a commitment to advocating for women.

“As a man, I believe I would be one of the first to respond to a female being mistreated in my presence. I don’t have any compunction at all for not supporting, recommending or advocating to other men to do likewise,” he said.

“Being exposed to it forces you to contemplate and think about how you can help this person and what services or organizations are there to do so,”

he said.

Back in the early to mid-70s, a cousin of mine from Toronto was dating this fellow at a church camp. I happened to be there when she was very upset,” he said. Realizing that it was the man that was upsetting her, he made a point of being there for his cousin until the man left.

“That was the closest I think I’ve come myself personally,” he said. He realizes that although this is a fortunate situation, it had also left him naive to the realities of domestic violence for a large portion of his life.

“Being exposed to it forces you to contemplate and think about how you can help this person and what services or organizations are there to do so,” he explained.

He challenges all men to take a stand even if they don’t think they know someone who has been personally affected.

“If you’re a male in Waterloo Region and you care about the women in your life, consider what would happen if one of your loved ones – whether it was a daughter, sister, or whoever – was affected by domestic violence in whatever form it takes. Would you do something about it? Well, here’s your chance. You can do something about it now by learning more about Women’s Crisis Services, and educating yourself and other men to do the same. Education alone allows you to recognize opportunities to help,” he said.

Being a Good Neighbour

Leo believes that overcoming domestic abuse will require a united front. “It’s a community problem. It’s not just an individual problem,” he said.

“If we are educated and if we recognize the various forms of domestic violence, like my eyes have been opened, then as a good neighbor, we can do something about it,” he said. “Whether it’s to direct those affected or simply advise those who we may come in contact with, that there is safety and shelter and help that can be provided by trained professionals.”

“Wouldn’t it be a much better place, a much better Waterloo Region, if Women’s Crisis Services was not needed as a service center in our community?”

he said.

In Waterloo Region, so many community leaders are focused and working towards the goal of making Waterloo Region the best place to live, Leo said.

“They’re all willing to help in whatever way they can to assist, find talent, invest, advocate, or volunteer, all to ensure that our community leaves a legacy as a great place to live, work and play,” he said.

“Domestic violence is contrary to that vision, so I feel it is important to educate and advocate with the purpose and mission of lessening the need for the services that Women’s Crisis Services provides,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be a much better place, a much better Waterloo Region, if Women’s Crisis Services was not needed as a service center in our community?”

Once you have a better understanding of domestic violence, Leo said you can begin viewing situations in a new light, with a heightened awareness of signs and red flags to look out for. He said it is important that support and guidance is offered in a non-judgemental manner.

“I’m here to help. Let me see if I have the resources that I can help you. I think that’s what it’s about. That’s what being a good neighbor is, looking out for one another,” he said.

Katie Fox

Graduating from the University of Guelph in 2017, Katie Fox works in marketing and development for Waterloo-based IT solution provider, FoxNet. Her father started the company in 2002 and it has truly become a family business.

“I work there with my two older brothers,” Katie said. “It’s super fun working with family.”
On a personal level, Katie enjoys taking her dog on hikes, spending time at her family cottage, and listening to country music. Professionally, she is helping FoxNet strengthen their ties within the community, which is how she first connected with Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.

For years FoxNet has hosted an annual golf tournament which has raised over $200,000 for KidsAbility since its inception. As a company, they decided they want to do even more for the community, in addition to the tournament. “We wanted to support charities we haven’t supported before,” she said.

They decided to host a charity event called ‘Nashville Night’ with all proceeds raised to be split between Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region and Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region. Katie said, “We thought that these were two really important charities in our community and it just felt like it was the perfect fit.”

The June 22 event will feature live music, food, a mechanical bull, and a silent auction.
“We are super excited and have some great sponsors who we really wouldn’t be able to do this without,” Katie explained. “We would like to do more after this event and are really hoping to make this an annual thing.”

Feeling Stuck in Controlling Relationships

With a mother who works in public health, Katie has been made aware of many situations involving domestic violence.

“Oftentimes you have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors which is one of the reasons we wanted to get involved with this charity and this campaign. Domestic violence can happen to anyone and usually these women are in situations which make it extremely hard to leave,” she said.

Katie has witnessed this happen to a family member whose husband controlled her both financially and emotionally.

“Domestic violence can happen to anyone and usually these women are in situations which make it extremely hard to leave,”

she said.

“She is the kind of woman where everything is okay. She always puts on a smile,” Katie said. “She doesn’t really like to express her emotions or what she is going through.”

Often when she made plans to go somewhere she would end up cancelling and making excuses.

“It was very evident that he was controlling in all aspects of her life,” said Katie.

“He was a lawyer and she wasn’t working. When you are in that kind of situation where you have built a life with someone, it kind of keeps you stuck in that position. Finally, she was able to leave, but it did take years,” she said.

Katie shared she has also had many friends who have been in unhealthy relationships. Many of these relationships started as early as when she was in high school.

“I don’t know what it was but every relationship – whether that was my own or my friends – all relationships seemed to be super, super controlling. And I don’t know if it was maybe an insecurity thing because we were younger and newer to relationships,” she explained.
She said nearly all of her friends experienced a jealous or insecure partner that would make them feel guilty for doing anything without them, even if that was just hanging out with girlfriends. This also extended to relationships she saw in university as insecurity issues would arise when groups started getting together and going out.

“As we’re getting older, I think we are able to kind of put our foot down because we know that isn’t right or that isn’t normal,” she said.

The Rise of Insecurity Brought by Social Media

Recently, younger generations have had to undergo a reconceptualization of what is considered ‘normal’ in dating and relationships within our current social media era.
One adjustment has been the use of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble which Katie explained can lead to a fairly vain process of meeting new people.

“You’re literally swiping through pictures, you have no idea who the person is, or if you’ll get along with them. It’s strictly based on looks. You know, it’s pretty scary, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into,” she said.

Katie said the availability of apps like these can make it more difficult to trust your partner.

“If you’re bored, or you’re wanting to see what else is out there, you can easily just pull up an app and scroll through. You kind of have whatever you want at your fingertips. We all know that that’s what you can do, so the end result is a lot of insecurities,” she said.
These insecurities are heightened when combined with the use of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram that allow people to constantly compare themselves, their lives, and their relationships to others.

“When you’re on Instagram, everyone’s lives seems so perfect. They’re in perfect shape. They have the nicest clothes,” said Katie. “It’s that you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people all the time.”

If you are already feeling uncertain of yourself or your relationship, you only have to go to the ‘Explore’ tab on Instagram to make yourself feel worse.

“There’s women who are posing and they’re on beautiful islands and then it’s like you compare yourself, “Okay, I’m in Waterloo and I haven’t been on a trip this year.” You get in your own head and I think it really contributes to many insecurities that women have,” she said.

Katie said these insecurities can result in women tolerating behaviours and actions that they really shouldn’t.

“You see all these beautiful people on Instagram and you think if you get mad at your boyfriend or girlfriend, that they’re going to leave you, right? And it’s just going to be so easy for them to find someone else who is way better than you are. Again, it goes back to the whole comparing thing. It’s pretty sad,” she said.

Celebrities and Cheating

People don’t only compare themselves to those they know personally, but also to celebrities. This comes at a time when a lot of today’s biggest and most ‘followed’ stars seem to normalize fighting and cheating within their relationships, whether they be depicted in music videos, on reality television shows, in memes, or as part of people’s lives shared through social media.

“Cheating is just thrown in your face. Everyone cheats, that’s how the world portrays what’s going on right now,” Katie expressed. “I know some of my friends that have been cheated on and by people that you would never think would cheat. You just never know.”

“I think this project is raising awareness and hopefully encourages the community to feel safe and not ashamed to speak up,”

she said.

She said there is often a lot of manipulation that comes with cheating, a prime environment to allow abusive behaviours to creep in, often without people realizing it.

“It’s just a whole circle of lies and manipulation. And a lot of times people, unfortunately, get sucked back into it. Oftentimes feel like they’re the problem and they were the reason why they were cheated on,” she said.

Katie thinks this is especially problematic for younger generations who are just getting into these kind of relationships.

“They have no idea what’s right or what’s wrong because they haven’t been educated. They don’t have the experience and it’s scary being in your first relationship,” she explained.

“If you have never experienced a relationship, it’s hard to identify something as ‘wrong’, to say, “Oh, no, this actually is kind of abusive. I shouldn’t be dealing with this. ”You just kind of go with it. You think everyone else is dealing with it,” she said.

Being a Good Neighbour

Katie believes education could play a huge role in helping people work through their insecurities.

“I think it’s super important for women and girls of all ages to feel secure and to know that they’re better than what they’re putting up with,” she said.

One thing this would do is help people realize they are not alone in their feelings and self-doubts.

“For a long time I didn’t think that everyone else was comparing themselves to social media. So I think it’s important to educate the younger generation that everyone feels this way and it’s not just you,” she said.

“If someone you know is going through something, or you think they’re going through something, just talk to them. Let them know that you’re there for them,”

she said.

“I think this project is raising awareness and hopefully encourages the community to feel safe and not ashamed to speak up,” she said.

Katie believes a big part of being a good neighbour is making time to be there for one another. “Especially now, people are so busy. People come and go. They are busy with their own lives, often avoiding what’s going on around them,” she said.

She thinks this needs to change.

“I think we all just need to really work together on this. We need to get back to being supportive of one another, to not get so caught up in your own lives. Also watch what’s going on around you. Watch for signs. If someone you know is going through something, or you think they’re going through something, just talk to them. Let them know that you’re there for them. We all need to be encouraging and supportive,” she said.

Juneyt Yetkiner

“Really living the dream pretty much is my job,” international musician Juneyt shared. His main musical style is Flamenco, particularly focusing on instrumental Flamenco. “I like that music a lot, I like that styling. It’s more sensitive, it’s from the heart. It’s very soulful,” he said.

When he sings, he often opts for songs that carry themes of love, transforming them into new, Flamenco-inspired versions of themselves. He also writes his own songs.

“Every song has some kind of message to it and a lot of it to do with my past,” he explained.

People often tell him that they love playing his music as background accompaniment while they are working. More recently he has even heard that the soothing quality of his music helps children fall asleep.

“Some kids won’t sleep unless my music is on and that makes me so happy,” he said.

To little surprise, he is regularly sought out to play at weddings and other events, including those for charity.

A Personal Connection to Domestic Violence

For several years Juneyt has worked closely with Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, regularly donating his time and talents for fundraisers such as WAAM-A-PALOOZA and Hats Off to Mom!

“Pretty much anytime I am needed I will always be there,” he said.

Juneyt says he has a special place in his heart for Women’s Crisis Services because he has known many women who have experienced domestic abuse. In fact, he himself grew up in a home where there was domestic violence.

“My dad was a nice guy at the beginning but something happened to him,” explained. He said his father became both verbally and physically abusive to his mother.

Not only did the abuse impact his mother, it also weighed heavily on both he and his sister.

“It was hard for us too because as a child you see it first hand,” he said.

For those who do not experience it personally, domestic violence can be difficult to comprehend. Telling someone to leave an abusive situation is easier said than done, Juneyt said.

“For the outside person it’s easy to say that. Everybody said that to my mom, “Leave him.” But how is she going to leave? Do you understand what is going on?” he said. There are many barriers to leaving, Juneyt explained.

When he grew older, he was able to help his mother escape the abuse that she was experiencing.

“At one point I decided enough is enough, took my mom and left. We were each other’s support. My mother is an immensely strong women.”

He explained that his grandparents were a big help to them at the time.
“Being a single mother in a country like Turkey was hard. Being a single mother in any country is hard,” he said.

“At one point I decided enough is enough, took my mom and left. We were each other’s support. My mother is an immensely strong women.”

he said.

The Consequences of Normalizing Violence

Juneyt has witnessed how domestic violence is often normalized and accepted in many places.

“It is hard for a woman, especially in Third World or developing countries, because there are a lot of patriarchal men-driven societies,” he said. “In a culture like ours at the time, which is a very modern culture similar to Canada, unfortunately violence happened. We stood through that.”

At a young age, he had started to question whether he agreed with the societal norms.
“I had a lot of things going on my mind at the time. In my mind I was like, ‘this is so unfair because it’s a man’s world letting us survive easily, but women can’t.’” he said. “If women don’t speak up it is because they have been weakened in their soul.”

Juneyt explained that domestic violence negatively impacts a person’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, which can lead to a long and difficult journey.

“Abuse can bring up a lot worse things like suicide. I know because when I was a kid I felt worthless because of my father and how he treated me. When you feel worthless, especially in this world, you want to just end it. A lot of kids go through that,” he said.

He said it’s important to consider how children are impacted when they witness and experience abuse, as well as when they hear that abuse is acceptable.

“A child is like a sponge. The way I see some men talk with each other, those talks are toxic to children. Like when they talk about stuff like sexual abuse as something to be proud of in front of their children. This happens a lot in this culture and every culture. When you talk about that in front of a child, what do you think it does?” he questioned. “It makes that child exactly like who you are. That will keep going like a loop until somebody stops it. That is why we need to educate men.”

Building Public Awareness

For Juneyt, becoming more educated about domestic violence was an empowering experience and has encouraged him to take an active role in raising awareness.

“16 calls a day,” he said, reflecting on the amount of domestic violence calls that Waterloo Regional Police receive. “I guarantee that means there is actually tenfold of that because women are too scared to call. That means as we are speaking right now, there is abuse going on out there.”

“If it wasn’t for me being educated and understanding the importance of this, I would not have stepped up.”

he said.

“If it wasn’t for me being educated and understanding the importance of this, I would not have stepped up. I would just have been a regular person on the street just turning a blind eye to it. A lot of people do that and it’s not okay. When you see it, you take action towards it,” Juneyt expressed.

He said creating a culture of active participants ready to speak out, removes violence from ever being an option. This forces men who have relied on it in the past to seek out alternatives. He challenges men to think before they act.

“Take the time off and think. Beat that weakness because it is a weakness. Your strength becomes a weakness the minute you use it wrongly. Always think about that,” he said.

Juneyt said he believes a lot of women are unaware of the services available to them and therefore, they feel isolated. He continued to explain that this loneliness can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

“When you lose hope, you lose help, you lose everything,” he said.

As a public figure, who regularly performs in front of large audiences, he knows he has a greater reach than the average person. He takes this as an opportunity to vocalize his support for survivors of domestic violence and to inform women of the services that exist to help them, such as those offered by Women’s Crisis Services.

Being a Good Neighbour

“Whenever I perform, they can see that this is a person I follow and he is supporting my cause. He is supporting what I’m going through. This will show them that they actually are not alone,” he said.

He also knows that messages can carry beyond the initial people we share them with.

“Words spread fast. People that we can’t reach, all of a sudden have hope and help,” he said. “I want to create awareness. I want people to know that they could help some other person. They don’t have to be linked to you as a friend or family member. Take this out of your circles and reach anybody on the street. Give a stranger help and hope.”

Juneyt said it’s important to support those experiencing domestic violence and he explains that there are many ways you can help.

“Just take them out for a coffee, talk to them, understand what they are going through. That could be you someday, man or woman, it does not matter,” he said. “Be their friend. Because then they will have hope that they can get out with that help.”

Jacquie Hanley

A long time educator, passionate about empowering women through language, Jacquie has always taught and continues to do so. She is often up early in the morning teaching young children in virtual classrooms in China before beginning her day job at the University of Waterloo. In the evening, she teaches refugees and new immigrants to Canada from a variety of countries and all walks of life. She also runs a series of Employment Webinars for newcomers to Canada.

For years she has worked as a sessional instructor teaching English at the University of Waterloo. In her full time role, she focuses on philanthropy and major gift giving. She supports the Vice President, Advancement and indirectly the President, with overall stewardship and administration in donor management, alumni, and other university and community stakeholders.

Jacquie also finds time to volunteer with Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. This is her way of giving back to the organization that provided her with support services many years ago.

Experiencing Abuse as an Expat

“I lived abroad for several years as an expatriate with my ex-husband and my three kids. He was not a very nice man and he is not a very nice man to this day,” she said. “I guess my first clue should have been to run the other way.”

As she thinks back to their honeymoon on Young Island, she says it was far from what she had imagined. She remembers her new husband ignoring her for most of the trip. She also recalls being pushed down a set of stairs and thrown into a shower.

“I was okay with it because I was told I had to be,”

she said.

“I remember my leg bleeding and saying to myself, ‘This is bizarre. I must have fallen myself. He didn’t really push me, that’s not really the case,’” she said.

“I phoned my dad and said I must have made a mistake and I wanted to come home. My dad said to put him on the phone, so I did. In typical fashion of an abuser he said in that cool, smooth tone, ‘Don’t worry, it was nothing. She just had a bit too much to drink and didn’t eat anything. She’ll be fine. I’ll buy her a couple more days in Young Island, and she’ll be good,’” she explained.

Jacquie said this became the pattern throughout their marriage. Every time she was hurting, she was always given something such as new furniture, a kitchen redesign, or a vacation to Canada or Puerto Vallarta.

“It was always the carrot that was dangling,” she said.

“We lived in Trinidad and Tobago and it was like opulence,” Jacquie explained. “We had everything. We lived in paradise, we had maids, we had gardeners, the typical expat lifestyle.”

Their life which looked wonderful on the outside was far from how it seemed. Throughout their marriage, Jacquie experienced many forms of abuse, although she didn’t realize it at the time. She was made to feel completely worthless and undesirable, all while being kept as a financial hostage. She tried to reach out to friends, but most didn’t understand.

“My best friends would say to me, “what’s wrong with you? You get everything you want, you’re living in paradise – what is your problem?’” said Jacquie.

Her husband began to live somewhat of a double life. He would come home for a short while, she would become pregnant and he would go abroad. He would return just before she had the baby, and soon after would leave again.

“I was okay with it because I was told I had to be,” Jacquie said. “I had to be the supportive, loving wife at home, creating a strong foundation for my family and my children, loving my husband and doing the best I could. Never letting on to the children that there were any issues.”

Returning to Canada

After many difficult years with her ex-husband, Jacquie separated, which was the toughest thing she faced.

“I was not only rejected by my husband, but now also by the host country,” she recalled.
No longer having status in Trinidad, she and the kids were deported and returned to Canada.

“I felt I was living a Cinderella story in reverse. I had the riches, and went to rags of sorts, living on assistance because I had nothing,” she said.

“They don’t see a hurting person. There are deeper hurts beneath the veneer of everything. It’s not about the clothes, the attire, the position,”

she said.

In the beginning, Jacquie was receiving support from her ex, but eventually this stopped.
“When you live as an expat you don’t necessarily amass assets so your only asset really is the income that you earn, which was significant, but he didn’t want to share it,” she said. “Here I am thinking this man is going to support us but he didn’t want to. He wanted to keep the money for himself and I had to be okay with that because there was no reciprocal enforcement orders between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.”

Back in Canada, Jacquie was not sure what she was going to do with her life after living abroad. At this time, she sought support from Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.

“When I think of why I came to Women’s Crisis Services, it’s because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know I was abused when I came there,” she said.

Jacquie was set up with a support worker who helped her access many community services, while also helping her come to terms with her situation.

“We started talking and I became more aware of what abuse was. I was abused but nobody believed it, not even me,” she said. “I did the workshops on abuse, and the cycles of abuse and I saw myself. I just broke down. I was in a business suit. The women beside me weren’t in suits. I thought, “You don’t fit this profile? You don’t fit here! You lived the high life! Anyone’s dream life! You weren’t abused? What part of you was ever abused?”
She struggled with accepting what had happened to her because she really didn’t feel like she suited the stereotype of an abused woman.

“If someone was sitting across from me at a table they may think, “Abused? No way!” Society looks at women that way. They don’t see a hurting person. There are deeper hurts beneath the veneer of everything. It’s not about the clothes, the attire, the position,” she said.

Moving Forward

She continued meeting with her support worker and together they developed a plan for Jacquie to continue pursuing a degree, which she had began in Trinidad through the University of New Brunswick.

“I decided that education was where I would find my greatest strength and my greatest love and that’s where I ended up. I pursued it,” she explained. “I was very strategic in finding the employer for my lifetime. I decided that I would apply to the University of Waterloo, an organization that would eventually help me co-parent my children, by housing them, schooling them, and helping to put food on the table. I am forever loyal as a result.”

“I think it’s really important for women to have a map of what’s next,” said Jacquie. “It’s also important to educate women on the resources and community supports that are available. They don’t know you can access a student loan to go back to school and do a degree online like I did. I did two. I have a Masters degree, I’m convocating in June,” she noted.

That being said, it’s not just about the community offering this information, Jacquie said.

“I think women also need to feel inspired enough and motivated enough beyond the walls of abuse to even want to make their situation different,”

she said.

“I think women also need to feel inspired enough and motivated enough beyond the walls of abuse to even want to make their situation different,” she said.
She understands that this is easier said than done. To this day, Jacquie has never received the full child support she was owed.

“You have this circle and when you look at it, it never ends. Long after the abuse is ‘over’ it continues. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t. I’m living proof of it and I’m living it every day,” she said. “I know I am 15 years behind my peers in all aspects of my life, because of what I have been through. I will have to work until I’m 80, but that’s okay. I’ve accepted these things.”

For Jacquie, helping empower others is what drives her to persevere. During the most difficult times of her life, there were certain individuals and organizations who provided her with help.

On an individual level, she explains her parents provided her with a place to stay when she and her children needed it. She is also grateful to an anonymous woman who bought pyjamas for her children at Christmas every year, who they referred to as “their angel.” KW Children’s Drama Workshop helped her daughter and her niece by offering a scholarship to participate in several plays, all of which helped raise the girls confidence and self esteem. On another occasion, as part of Friends of Hockey, she and her son helped to raise more than $25,000 in arena upgrades for their local community arena. As a result, the they put her son through hockey for all the years he played for the community, paying for his equipment and fees every year.

Being a Good Neighbour

Jacquie says being a ‘good neighbour’ is important because you never really know what someone is going through.

“How many more people are like me and don’t talk about it? They don’t want to ruffle any feathers, or raise awareness in their own community because, god forbid, somebody might look at me different.” she said.

“I am your neighbour! Look at me! I am still standing! I am resilient! In spite of what you see or think. I was mistreated, I was hurt, I was rejected, I was left to my own devices, abused by one system after another. I was mother and father to three children, I was considered to be a nothing, always feeling so alone to fight the next challenge. But I am not the island. I am part of a community. I am your neighbour.”

“I’m happy to share because I’ve come out the other side in so many ways. But, it hasn’t been without struggle.”

she said.

Jacquie says although telling her story is difficult, she felt it was something that she needed to do.

“When I saw #SheIsYourNeighbour, I thought I had to do my part,” Jacquie explained. “I’m happy to share because I’ve come out the other side in so many ways. But, it hasn’t been without struggle.”

“We just don’t know what women go through or experience because everything has to look so good and be packaged well on the outside. We have to be everything for our kids if our husbands abandon us, like mine did. We have to recreate our lives, re-engineer everything. Sometimes, we have to start right from scratch, and we don’t even have the benefit of a community,” she said.

This is something that we can change. Jacquie suggests taking a minute to learn about the women in your community and consider what you might be able to do to lend a hand. This could be shovelling someone’s driveway, cutting their grass, or offering to take their kids to a hockey game.

“It’s a matter of reaching out and saying, ‘hello’ to your neighbour. Finding out about your neighbour. We live behind our closed huts and screens and don’t even bother anymore.” she said. “We need to work together in this. Somehow, we can fix this, we can.”

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