Using Music to Heal
from Trauma and Abuse

Using Music to Heal from Trauma and Abuse with Carlos Morgan

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

This episode is called using music to heal from trauma and abuse with Carlos Morgan. Carlos is a Canadian rhythm and blues singer. He won a Juno Award in 1997 for his R&B soul album called Feelin All Right. He has new music coming out soon with references to past relationships and his experience with domestic violence. This episode is part of our six episode Survivor series, which focuses on the experiences of survivors of domestic violence. In this episode, Carlos talks about experiencing domestic violence as a child and the impact this had on his life and future relationships. He also explains how his music has been an outlet for him to heal from trauma.

It was great to get reconnected with Carlos for this episode. We actually met in 2018 when he performed at our annual fundraiser for Women Abuse Prevention Month, which was a concert fundraiser that year. So it was nice to get connected again, and I was so grateful to learn more about his experience.

Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence, abuse and self harm, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’d also like to thank Rogers for proudly sponsoring this survivor series.


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

Carlos Morgan: Thank you, Jenna. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah. It’s great to see you. So today we’re going to talk a little bit about domestic violence again. Really excited to, have you here a part of this conversation. Can you maybe just start by sharing a little bit about yourself?

Carlos Morgan: Born and raised in Toronto to jamaican parents. Raised in a two parent home up until the age of twelve when my parents split up. I have an older brother and older sister, although my father had children outside of, the home with other women and the woman who raised me, which isn’t my mother. My birth mother, whom I only met once, when I was nine years old. And I had siblings with my birth mother, whom again, I have not met. All that to say is that was raised in a home where there was a lot of violence, physical, verbal, mental, sexual. There was abandonment, neglect. So the home I was raised in was volatile, hostile, violent. There were moments of, quote unquote, love. But as a child, my experience was filled with a, lot of pain and abuse. And even in my conception, based on what I was, what my father had told me there wasn’t, I wasn’t wanted. And so coming into this world and into the family that I came into and, being raised by my biological father, but again, his way of disciplining was beat first and maybe ask questions after, and then being raised with a woman who never showed or expressed any love to me formed and shaped my childhood, which, moving into my young adulthood up to where I am now, shaped a lot of my experiences in relationships. So to go back, yeah, I saw a lot of abuse, domestic abuse in my home, my father beating on my stepmother, and again, my brother, sister, and I being the victims of abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse. There was sexual abuse, and not just in the home, but even amongst the church community that I attended and the church community that, I was raised in, so many of these experiences, as I said before, shaped who I was. And seeing how my father treated my stepmother, quote unquote, and seeing how he treated other women and women that he had other children with outside of the home, you know, the one thing I learned was that I, ah, did not want to be like my father. However, and unfortunately, not having and seeing or being taught, I had to teach myself. I had to learn myself. I had to raise myself. And in teaching myself, raising myself, rearing myself, I had some, I went through some very painful experiences. And another thing, the one thing I ended up doing in my adult relationships was I would enter into relationships with women who were like my father. Because one of the things I learned through counseling was that I was attracting the same type of woman or the same energy. One therapist that I saw for a very long time, and she opened my eyes to many, many things through my years of therapy with her, was she would always say to me that I’m trying to heal my brokenness and my trauma and my childhood wounds through the relationships that I would have and what I would do. So I would stay in abusive relationships and on both sides, verbal abuse for the most part. At times, it got physical, and I’m the kind of person, I put myself on blast. I put myself on blast in a way, to say that I call myself out and hopefully that. And, I do it for two reasons. 1 may be selfish, but I do it for two reasons, because I’ve come to realize that when somebody speaks their truth, their own truth, when somebody else try to speak somebody else truth, they can manipulate it and make it any way they want it to be. So I say to myself, or I speak out that, yes, that I behaved in ways that I saw, what I was taught, what I learned, but I realized that that’s not who I am, and that’s new to, who I want to be. But unfortunately, in those experiences that there was where I was trying to resolve my pain and my brokenness in relationships and me staying in situations where I’m now being abused. And then I get to a point, and I’m the kind of person that. And I’ve worked hard at this, but there was for many years where I would engage in harsh, verbal, volatile, violent verbal confrontations. And I, and I, and I carry. I carry remorse and regret for that. So going back to my childhood, seeing how my father had hurt women, you know, my. Again, my stepmother and even my birth mother, I just realized. I just found out maybe two years ago, after I found out that my birth. I’ve been looking for my birth mother all my life, and I just found out a couple of years ago that she died. So I’ve not had the chance to ever meet her.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, wow.

Carlos Morgan: And,

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m so sorry.

Carlos Morgan: Thank you. So, as I was finding, out information about her, I found out some very disturbing news as to one of the reasons why she didn’t want me. And a sister of mine went through the same experience. Her mother went through the same experience with our father. So all that to say is, through everything that I’ve seen, everything that I’ve been through, ways that I was abusive, ways that I was treated, in ways that I had mistreated and or abused women, I continued to work on change, and in hopes that speaking as openly, honestly, transparently, and truthfully, that my experience will, hopefully be an inspiration, especially for men, to change their behaviors and attitudes and realize that if there’s something that they’re doing, that they’re treating and or calling women out their name, that they need to say, okay, this isn’t right. Two things. I am writing a course, and I graduated with my master’s degree last year in community music from Wilfred Laurier University, Kitchener Waterloo. And part of my thesis was on, contemporary and commercial hip hop music. Hip hop and there are four elements on contemporary hip hop that I address, and two of those four deals with misogyny and sexism in contemporary commercial hip hop. How women are, treated or viewed, portrayed in hip hop, and looking specifically at black women and how black women have been treated in hip hop. And hip hop being a small example or a microcosm of a huge issue when it comes to abuse pertaining to black women, I totally. I completely recognize, know, and understand and realize that women of whatever racial background face this problem. So I want to put that out there, however. And on the other hand, when I see how black women are portrayed in the media, how, they’re portrayed in various aspects of life, but specifically in what I’m doing in hip hop. And so one of the things that I address is, for example, when I hear how a lot of these hip hop call women out their names and then they’re being objectified and in my opinion, disgustingly portrayed, I feel broken as a man, seeing that my sisters are being portrayed in this way and against from men, and I get offended. and I look at that and say, okay, well, I don’t want to. And I will not look at any women in that way or call women out their name in hip hop. And how, women are portrayed is one of the things that I address in my social justice hip hop program called Sound Perspectives. The second thing is I wrote a song called where I’ve been, where I’m going. That’s going to be on my new album that I’m m releasing in the fall. And in it, it’s more. It’s an autobiography of my life. And I address some of what I’ve been through, and I’ll share portions of the lyrics. Second verse goes, as I grew older, learning to become a man, I experienced pain that I couldn’t understand. I was afraid to tell the truth. And living responsible anger was the only way I knew to live my life. It was my survival. Now, Sarah, Sandy, Tracy, Karen, Charlotte, and Renee were some of the women that I hurt along the way. I thought valuing myself through sex that I thought was love. I believed that I loved them and that they loved me, too. But love is not based on lies. It’s based on truth. And so, to every woman that I’ve hurt, I’m sorry, that are, portions of the lyrics of the song. So the song is basically saying, this is the life that I came into. This is the world that I came into, the experiences that I’ve had, how it shaped me, naming some of the women that I mistreated and how I felt that even though they said they loved me, I was lied to.

Carlos Morgan: We were lying to each other. We were hurting each other. But I am taking and owning responsibility and accountability for m my partner by saying that I’m sorry and asking, for forgiveness and striving to do better and how I could be, an, agent for change in this issue of domestic abuse towards women.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate hearing your journey, and I know it can be difficult to talk about this, but it sounds like you’ve done so much growing and, learning on your own journey already. So I know you would probably know from that, that it’s empowering to talk about, and it takes away some of the shame and stigma that’s historically been associated with domestic violence. Like, I think the more we can actually talk about it and have these conversations, the more we can make change, like you’re saying. And there’s a lot of things you said there that stuck out to me, you know, starting with your childhood experience. that was. That sounded very painful, and I appreciate you elaborating on that. You know, you said that you had to. You had to teach yourself how different ways of being, which is a lot of responsibility for a kid and for a person, too. And then, you know, you made your way into music, and you’ve been so successful. And I know you described some of your relationships you went through there and how they weren’t perfect, but you kind of learned on your way and you went to therapy. There was lots you did, and I loved you explaining about the thesis that you wrote and then also about your new song. I think it’s really fascinating to see how you’ve brought this into your life and into your music and tied it all together. So I’m just wondering if you can kind of explain how you got to this place, especially with your music and in your journey. Like, how did this kind of self discovery come about?

Carlos Morgan: it came about because I was feeling such dire pain and sadness and sorrow. At one point in 2005, I had contemplated and I was seeking to commit suicide. I was. I didn’t want to live anymore. And if I didn’t find ways to change how I was feeling and what I was doing in 2005, I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to live anymore. And thank God I found support groups for addiction because my abuse that I had suffered and that was still plaguing me in 2005 and affecting me in 2005 had gotten so out of hand and I needed help. And then. So that was in 2005. Going back to 1994, I started going to support groups and one of the very first support groups I started attending was at a church in North York, and it was a support group, was called Survivors, of dysfunctional families. And then I went to another support group for, Survivors of incest. And then in the late nineties, I started going to survivors for codependency between support groups. Then I started seeing one on one counseling. I was going two times a week for about three years. I go see my therapist two times a week. And then I stopped for a little while and resumed more counseling, stopping. And then in 2005, I started going to support groups for sex addiction, sex and love addiction. And I, did that for two and a half years, six days a week, because the pain and my struggles with my self esteem, my self value, self love. Like, for example, as I said before, I would get into toxic, abusive relationships, and mentally, I’d be like, I don’t want to be here. I’m not good in this situation. We love each other, but we’re not good together. And I would always hear my therapist say to me, Carlos, what you’re doing is you’re getting into, you’re leaving one toxic relationship and entering into another toxic relationship, abusive relationship, because that’s what you know, that’s what you saw going up, and that’s how you were treated. And then what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to resolve your childhood in these relationships, and they’re just not working, because the women that you’re in relationships with, they’re also broken, and they’re coming from their own toxic, abusive childhood. And whether they’re aware of it or not or they know or not, the both of you are now in this relationship that you’re in, and you’re triggering each other, and now you’re here to do the work. And your partner, maybe she is, maybe she isn’t, but for you, Carlos. And so it’s taken years. And, again, I’m still in therapy. I still see a therapist twice a month because I still thank God I’m not where I used to be. And I’m a lot older, and I have a lot more wisdom and a lot more knowledge, and I’m, more mature. And I think for me, you know, I sometimes get to the point where it’s like, okay, I’ve done all the work, but until my last breath, I think for all of us, work doesn’t ever stop until we leave this world, until we leave this earth. And sometimes I get frustrated with myself, so. But however, my awareness is always, I want to be better. I want to do better. And if I start to feel myself going in that, wrong, toxic direction, I will just stop, and I’ll stop, and I’ll just sit. I won’t do anything. I’ll process what I’m feeling, process what I’m thinking about. you know, do whatever. Just. I’ll do my best to be cognizant and aware just to stop so I don’t go down that rabbit hole. So I use all these methods, if you will, to keep my awareness open and then look back at where I’ve been and no pun intended, and where I’m going and what I’ve done, what’s been done to me, the person I want to be, the person I don’t want to be anymore. I, hope that answered your question.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that did. Thank you. I really appreciate you talking kind of about the cycle of abuse, too, and how it impacted your relationships. Like you said, it was a great explanation there of how you would enter these toxic relationships, and it was the both of you in it, too. It wasn’t just you. It wasn’t just her. You both kind of had a role, and I’m sure that took a long time to kind of unpack and figure out, but I so appreciate you saying it, because I think it would give a lot of hope to anyone who’s listening, who’s been through something similar and is still figuring it out for themselves. It sure does provide a lot of hope to know that you’ve gone through this and you’ve been able to kind of find your way through it, and you still are. And I’m also just wondering, you know, it sounds like music has really been, a big part of your life and kind of a way for creative expression and working through some of this. I wondered if you could touch on that a little bit more.

Carlos Morgan: Yeah, well, you know, the one thing I give Jehovah thanks and praise for every day is the gift of music and for blessing me with the gift of music and the gift of voice, the gift of song, to write, the gift to express myself through music and through dance. And again, I’ve not always used music in positive ways. I. At one point, I used music as a means in a way to manipulate women, and I used it in a way to manipulate women because of my low self esteem, because I thought music was the only way I would gain any kind of attention. I didn’t think that on my own merit, as just a person, that somebody would look at me and say, you know, and then even when women did look at me, there were women who just said, I don’t care about Carlos Morgan, the singer songwriter dancer, and, you know, the famous. I just. And I didn’t get that because of my brokenness. I didn’t. I didn’t hear it, I didn’t understand it. But all that to say, music has been the one source of love and feeling safe, feel a sense of belonging, and it has helped me through music, through prayer, through reading the Bible, through scripture, which I’ve slacked off a lot from lately. But getting back to, has helped me immensely. again, not speaking to what anybody else believes or don’t believe, but I believe in God. I believe in the scripture. I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God. I believe in the word of God. I have a lot of questions, but that gift of music that God created and given to me and being able. And I could write songs about how I feel, and I find it very therapeutic. I write songs about. I’ve, written songs about relationships ending. I’ve written songs about the song I just shared with you. I’ve written songs about people coming together, about having faith, using faith or whatever you believe in as a source to overcome trials and tribulations that we all go through in life. I’ve, written songs about heartbreak, when I’m going through a breaking up of a relationship. And these songs, the songs I’ve written has helped me through. Like, I’ve listened to many songs that other songwriters and singers have performed and written that have helped me through. But being able to do it myself is very cathartic. So, I’m so eternally grateful to Jehovah God that I have that gift. And I hope that whatever songs that I write and I put out into the world, that whomever hear my voice and my lyrics and my words, they’ll feel like, man, thank you, carlos. Because they’re using my song as a source to get them through their difficult time or even if they’re dealing with something, with trauma. I wrote another song called Long Hard Road, and it’s actually. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, and that’s going to be on my next record. It’s the country soul song. You know, it’s got country elements in it. And chorus quickly goes, it’s a long hard road that we’re all traveling on a long, hard road but each day I can be strong to face whatever comes and never give up while I carry my life’s heavy load on this long, hard road. You know, one, of the lyrics say, I have regret for the pain I caused and done. I have no excuse. So to everyone that I’ve treated wrong, please forgive me for hurting you. And I just. And I listen back as an objective listener, and I’m like, on one hand, I’m like, I feel proud of myself, and on the other hand, I’m like, I’m listening to myself, and I’m feeling like, okay, I can keep going, you know? I have another song called have a little faith, and it’s like, you know, takes a little time to get back up, you know, to love yourself inside. And that’s what we all need to do. We got to start with loving ourselves inside, you know? And there are many artists that inspire me to write this way. You know, Donnie Hathaway and Stevie wonder and Marvin Gaye and, Barry White and Lionel Richie and Diane Carroll and Joni Mitchell. And there’s certain songwriters that I listen to that inspire me to want to write songs about. Bob Marley is another one about loving ourselves, loving each other. India another one. There’s just so many that inspire me to want to write songs outside of the everyday. I love you. You broke my heart. Leave me alone. Let’s be together. Let’s make love. I want to write songs that speaks to the heart and soul and spirit of humanity. and that’s what music is. I’m telling Jenna. I just. Man. Yeah. Music, for me is like, it’s everything, you know? and so. Yeah, yeah.

Jenna Mayne: Thanks so much for sharing that. I think so many people can relate to that. I think music is so powerful, and it’s something we use. We have our two emergency shelters, and we have a music therapy program.

Carlos Morgan: Wow.

Jenna Mayne: And it’s the most popular program we have for women and kids. Yeah, they love it. And I think it’s just a different way. You know, it’s another alternative to talk therapy. If that doesn’t work for someone, it’s just another way to express yourself and kind of explore what you’re going through. So true. I can really understand what you’re saying there. and I really appreciate you elaborating on that.

Carlos Morgan: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for letting me share that.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah, no, thank you. So, one more question before we go. I’m wondering if you can talk a bit about how you think we can all be better neighbors to women, kids, men, to anyone experiencing domestic violence.

Carlos Morgan: well, I think predominantly for women is that women, in so many ways, women are stronger than men. That’s what I believe, that so many ways women are stronger than men be. All that to say is that when women are sorry, when women are going through, domestic violence experiences, of course we need to, show support, rally around, rally around women who are suffering. So, for me, we need to rally around and take care of and support women who are facing domestic abuse. Whatever. If it’s programs or whatever’s, created, can be implemented and supported, that can, one, eradicate domestic abuse. Two, there are resources for women and children to turn to that can heal. They can find healing, they can get on their feet, and they can turn to people, and that, can support them and help them move in a positive trajectory in their life, for their life, for their children. And, again, love and support. I’m all for that. I’m very outspoken when it comes to these things. And again, I think these are things that we can do to help women who are like the shelters, definitely shelters. And the way shelters that help and support women are helping them get back on their feet and giving them resources so they could be safe and take care of their children.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much, Carlos. You’ve really been an inspiration to talk to today, and I know that everyone listening to this will get a lot of hope out of it, and we’ll just be inspired by you. So, thank you so, so much for being here.

Carlos Morgan: Thank, you. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag she is your neighbor on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter, and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

Sharing a Secret
History of Trauma

Sharing a Secret History of Trauma with Anna Maria Tremonti

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

A Story of Mental Health
and Coercive Control

A Story of Mental Health and Coercive Control with Cheryl Haskett

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

This week’s episode is called a story of mental health and coercive control with Cheryl Haskett. Cheryl is an entrepreneur who runs her goat milk ice cream company, utterly ridiculous, from her family’s farm in bright, Ontario. Cheryl was first connected with us at Ah Women’s Crisis Services in 2019 when she donated ice cream to our clients and shelter for Thanksgiving. From there, Cheryl told us of her experience with domestic violence and how this inspired her to give back to women in similar situations. This episode is part of our six episode Survivor series, which focuses on the experiences of survivors of domestic violence. In this episode, Cheryl talks about her previous abusive marriage and how this led her to stay in a women’s shelter in Barry, Ontario with her two young children. We talk about the services that she was able to access while in shelter and how she now uses her business, utterly ridiculous, to give back to organizations that support women. I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak with Cheryl about her experience, and I really appreciated the discussion we had about mental health and how it’s never an excuse for abuse or violence. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’d also like to thank Rogers for proudly sponsoring this survivor series.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Cheryl, thanks so much for being here today.

Cheryl Haskett: Hi, Jenna. I am so excited to be with you.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. It’s just really great to connect with you again, and I’m really looking forward to, hearing a bit about your story today. So can you actually start by just sharing a little bit about yourself?

Cheryl Haskett: Yeah, I’m a, 40 something woman, married at the moment, actually, with two boys and two stepsons. So four boys all over the age of 17. So you can imagine the amount of testosterone that’s running around. My place started, out my kind of life, bit of a challenging way. My backstory. I had an abusive family situation that I left when I was 16 and then started to find my way through life, and then got into a relationship, and then got out of that relationship, which we’ll talk about, I guess, a little bit got into a completely new career started over, and now I actually own my own business called utterly ridiculous, and just this past year opened utterly ridiculous farm life. So we make goat milk ice cream, and we do on farm tourism. So we work with alpacas and baby goats and lots of fun things. So, yeah, that’s a little bit about me.

Jenna Mayne: Well, that’s so cool. Thanks for, sharing that. So we’re going to start by talking a little bit about your personal story, and I’m not sure where you’d like to begin. If you want to talk, I know you just mentioned you had a bit of a family experience when you were, in your teenage years, and then you also were in a relationship when you’re a bit older, too. So I’m wondering if you could share a bit about that and you can kind of choose where you’d like to start off.

Cheryl Haskett: Yeah, okay I think it really does start when I was young. So I grew up in a family that had a lot of challenges. So there was a lot of physical abuse, emotional abuse, alcohol and drug abuse. Often, watched my stepmom being abused. And so I grew up in that environment and looked to kind of leave that environment. But when I was young, even though I had the opportunity to probably be taken away into a group or foster home, I was more terrified of being in the unknown than being in the known and so it wasn’t until I was 15 when I first left home and then went back and then 16, I left home for good and started on a journey towards trying to heal and trying to move forward very early into that, things kind of fell apart at school. I finished high school and was starting to think about a career. But I also started dating this boy, and it started fairly early where there was some, I guess what I would call now, red flags that I wasn’t really paying attention to. And the interesting thing was I had a very specific image of what abuse looked like, and I carried that image of abuse forward, and I vowed never to have a relationship like that, to never have a family situation like that. And I put a whole lot of things around myself to have that happen. But I was completely naive, ah, at that young age, about all of the different kinds of relationships and all of the different kinds of abuse and what those things entailed. And so I was kind of living this life. Got married really early. I couldn’t even have a glass of wine at my own wedding so I was married before I was 19 and found this kind of picture perfect postcard family, my husband’s family at the time, and fell in love with that idea of family and didn’t realize that there was a lot of underlying issues and challenges that really were a problem so there was a lot of mental health issues as well inside of that. And my husband, when he was my boyfriend, was very controlling, very, afraid of me talking to anyone else and it started out with these areas of control and kind of grew into that and, jealousy, a lot of jealousy and so it seemed when we got married, I was kind of given an ultimatum. I was going to go to college, I was going to move into social work for teenagers, and really excited about that. And then I was given an ultimatum. It was college or him and his family. And I obviously made the choice I thought was the right one at the time but in looking back, it was the first in a step, towards going into a pretty strong abusive relationship. And so as, as kind of the marriage went on, you know, those control issues were still there, the jealousy was still there, but in different ways. I was kind of denied being intelligent, having any kind of intelligent conversation was really kind of working for his family business, had to kind of follow in those footsteps and do what he needed me to do. And, you know, the kids were being kind of used against my ability to grow myself. And then, of course, we had some other situations where sexual abuse came into that, and it just became too unbearable at some point for me. And I was in a community of faith at the time. I do have a strong faith, but when you’re in a christian community, sometimes you can get backlash, from those kind of expected things, right? You stay in a marriage and you work it out and and it’s all fine and I had the privilege of connecting with a pastor who did say, you can go, this isn’t something that you need to stay in. This is not healthy. And I was really grateful for that. I lost a lot of friends through that time period and left and had a real struggle on how to move forward. I didn’t have a job because I worked for his company. I wasn’t paid, so didn’t have an income, couldn’t get unemployment insurance, so many things that so many women have gone through. And now I had to think about starting all over again and then fighting a court battle at the same time. And I was living at a friend’s cottage, and then they sort of turned a little bit on me. Kind of were expecting I would just go back. And so I ended up in the women’s shelter in Barrie, Ontario. And it was the first time somebody really helped me understand that there’s more than one kind of abuse. And that because just because I wasn’t bruised doesn’t mean I wasn’t in an abusive relationship and that was a really big turning point for me because up until that point, there was kind of this underlying you’re not abused, like, you’re fine like, I don’t see any bruises. And my own history, was even kind of shouting at me in that state where it was kind of like no, there’s so many women in worse situations than you are. Just suck it up. Just move forward. Like, this is what you have to do and I realized at that point, I didn’t have to do that. What I was feeling, that internal struggle, was real. I just started watching this Netflix show called maid, and that’s just bringing back so many feelings and memories and this sense of, you know, I wonder how many women are in that position where because they don’t, you know, and not to at all diminish the physical abuse, because that’s real and it’s terrifying. But there are other forms as well that are just as damaging. that don’t really get talked about. Going to find housing or getting your doctor to take you seriously when you don’t have a bruise on your face. It’s hard to get anybody to really listen and to really support you in that situation. I’ll pause there. That’s a lot of background maybe there’s some other questions that you’ve. You’ve got or you want to dig into.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that, Cheryl. I know it can be difficult to talk about these things, but I think the more we do, the more we raise awareness about the issue and kind of take away some of the shame and stigma that historically used to be there and really does not need to be. and I think it’s really brave of you to share your story, too. So thank you again for doing that. There’s lots of things you said. There’s. That was interesting to me. Even in the beginning, when you’re talking about your childhood, and not wanting to leave because it was more of. The fear of the unknown was, scarier than the known. And I think that’s something a lot of women run into when they’re in these relationships. As well, because even though your situation may not be great, you don’t know what it’s going to be like to leave. And there’s just so many barriers to leaving. Right. It’s not that simple. Simple. So it was great to hear about your pastor too, who encouraged you. I think having someone in your corner, in your community, who understands you can make a really big impact. and something else you touched on was all the different types of abuse, which I think we need to talk about much more. I think so many people do think of it as physical abuse, but hopefully there does seem to be a bit of. More of a growing awareness recently anyways, of the different types. I, find that encouraging because I think until we recognize how dangerous some of the power and control is, even without the physical abuse, we’re not going to have a true understanding of domestic violence. So I really appreciate you elaborating on all those pieces and I’m wondering if you could tell us a bit more about your journey at the women’s shelter and what happened when you got there.

Cheryl Haskett: It really was a turning point in a lot of ways and I’m, you know, eternally grateful for the opportunity. I spent five weeks there, which at the time was a bit unprecedented. I was able to see women come and go and was shocked at how many women have come and gone multiple times. And that’s not something everybody understands. And even for me, understanding, like, do you not just leave? But there’s so much underlying, there’s so much challenge and fear and shame and like we were talking about just a moment ago, this whole idea of, the unknown, you know, when, when you don’t have all these other support structures in place and funding and housing. And housing is such a big issue right now it’s terrifying. So it’s like, can I get out. There and do it on my own? Do I have the capacity? And when you’re already in a position where your self esteem and your confidence and your sense of who you are is diminished, and crushed, it’s really difficult to try and pick up all those balls and move forward. And so the time that I spent there, being able to get the 24 hours day, if I woke up at four in the morning and needed to talk to someone, someone was there. And to be able to see the spectrum of women and their kids coming through and connect with them, it created a couple of things. It created this sense of empathy and understanding and the broad spectrum of abuse and the impact of that on my life and on others. Lives, but also how deep rooted it can be and how challenging it is to move forward and it kind of opened my eyes to, my gosh, like, how am I going to make it? And so getting some of the support systems in place and help with navigating housing. I mean, at the time, I had no way to get any money. I had to go on welfare. I had to get, subsidized daycare and subsidized housing and. And managing those things, that alone was very shame inducing for me, and it shouldn’t be. but it felt like my life was going to be over because I was going on welfare, and being able to kind of navigate that a little bit, and being able to get the support in the home was amazing. I remember having the opportunity, to cook for all the women, and, you know, that’s not something everybody gets to do in those situations, but it just happened at that particular time that they allowed me to do that and to be able to feel like I could still contribute. Like, I can still give back, I can still do something here and I don’t have to crumble. I had. I remember one moment where everything was coming down where, you know, my family doctor, who was part of my family’s, like, history, like, you know, they were very entrenched.

And so things that I told my Doctor, you know, and asked for a recommendation for housing, he just refused to write. Like, didn’t matter how many times I went to him, it didn’t matter that he sent us to counseling, he just refused and I just felt so defeated that the system was just so broken. and being in courts and trying to navigate that and becoming my own lawyer and figuring out case law, it was just overwhelming. And I was able to sit with these loving women who had been there with so many other people holding their hand and go, Cheryl, you can do this. Like, you can do this, and we’re going to do our best to help you along the way. I was able to, at the time I was there, release a butterfly. It came out of the chrysalis before I left, and they gave me the opportunity. I actually have a butterfly tattoo on my back because that part of my life is behind me. And, it was just this, a lot of metaphorical sense, but it was a rebirth for me about what could be possible. And it wasn’t easy when I left, believe me like, it was tough. It was really, really tough, and I had to go through a lot. and at the time, one of the things that was so challenging was, you had all of this support system emotionally and physically around you in the shelter, and then all of a sudden, you’re out in the wild, and it feels like the Band aid’s been ripped off and you’re all on your own. And I know there’s a lot more support systems in place now than when I had gone through. But, it was certainly this start for me of a new life and a new way of looking at life and a new way to try to move forward and figure out, who am I? Who am I as a mom? Who am I as a human being, and how do I want to move forward, and how am I going to do that without the support structures and this family I created for myself that was just broken?

Jenna Mayne: Well, I’m so glad you were able to use the resources that are out there. I know not everyone is aware of them or able to access them, so it is amazing to hear that you were able to use them, and they did make such a difference for you. I’m also curious how you were able to actually leave the relationship, if you don’t mind me asking, because something we always tell women and we try and, educate the public on is just how dangerous leaving the relationship can be, because violence can be likely to escalate. And we do recommend working with an outreach worker to make a safety plan. And, I’m curious how you were able to get about accessing the shelter.

Cheryl Haskett: Yeah, it was a process like I think so many women go through, where you try to fix things and I remember I left sort of for a little bit, and then we tried to work it out and went back. You know, it was kind of this back and forth thing. but I got to a couple of points in the relationship that, for me, and I don’t know if it’s like this, for every woman that’s been through this, but I think from what I understand, there’s a lot of women that have these defining moments, and sometimes you have multiple ones, and you end up having to do it more than once. But I had a couple defining moments, and one of those moments was, we were in counseling and sitting there, and the counselor was really kind of going hard at my now deceased, ex husband, and saying, like, he needed to make some of these changes and he basically said, your wife is going to leave you. And he looked at that counselor while I was sitting beside him, and he, you know, was holding my hand, and he said, she will never leave me. And just matter of factly and was done with the counseling, like, we’re done. And, it just was this penny that dropped. Like, I just felt so sick in that moment. Like, this is what my life has become, that. That you think I don’t have the strength, that I. I can’t do this. And, it set a fire in me to go, you’re wrong. Like, I do not have to raise my children to have this kind of relationship. And I really focused on, is this the kind of marriage I want my children to see? And it wasn’t and that really set a lot of balls in motion. And then there was a second defining moment where I went back to the house to see him, and he was in bed his family has a history of bipolar and he was in bed and wasn’t trying. And at that point, I was like okay, I’m going to try to give you an opportunity, to show me that there’s something different and he looked at me and rolled over, didn’t even get out of bed, and said, I’ve been waiting for you to come back and get me out of bed and help me. And I’m like, nope, can’t go down this. I cannot. I cannot keep going down this road. mental illness is not an excuse for abuse. And I felt like that was continually also being put on me at that point like, bipolar is this thing, and it’s a horrible thing. It’s a horrible thing, but it’s not an excuse to abuse someone else. And I had to really accept that and swallow that and believe that for myself because other people were trying to put that on me. And so I ended up, of course, at a cottage, ah, of a friend of mine for a little bit. And then somebody mentioned, because I had to leave and I didn’t know where to go at that point. And someone mentioned the women’s shelter, and I was like, I’m not abused. Like, I don’t have any bruises on me and I fought with that, and they said, just call and so I called and I had a conversation and then went in, and that was it. From there on, it was like, there is this sense of validation that what you’re feeling is real, and it’s okay, and you belong here, and we’re going to help you in the best way that we can to move on and. to move out if that’s what you choose to do.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that. And I think, since you’ve been there, I know you’ve accomplished so much in your life. You have your own business now. Utterly ridiculous. And you’ve been able to really kind of jumpstart this new life, it seems like. So I’m wondering if you could tell us a bit more about your business and how this came to be.

Cheryl Haskett: It is a bit ridiculous, honestly. when I left, I mentioned I was on welfare. I was, you know, one of the things, at the time, I don’t know if it’s changed, is you had to go and you had to talk to someone to start the job process when your kids were of a certain age. And I wanted to get off welfare, I had, you know, been having to go to the food bank and all of that kind of stuff. And when I went to the job interview, or the career, interview, this woman, she was very dismissive, just really hard woman. And she put these couple of things in front of me, and one of them was this call center and it was a call center in the town that I used to live in with my husband. It would have put us right back in that circumstance, in that situation close to where I just mentally and physically and emotionally couldn’t be. and she said to me, if you get the job and you don’t take it, you’re cut off of welfare like, you won’t get a check. And I knew that I would get the job like, I had enough confidence. It’s a call center. And another one was like a Tim Hortons person. And so I ended up, thankfully, finding another opportunity, like, the same day that I had to accept this job or be cut off welfare. And it was in the area of, emotional intelligence training. And so I went down this, like, entirely new path of opening up the brain science around fight or flight response systems and triggers and all kinds of things, which really, really helped me, in terms of my, of course, relationship, and my past and how to move forward that helped me get to the next stage and I then kind of went into this entire 13, gosh, the last 1318 years, in learning and development and teaching about emotional intelligence and conversation and engagement and all of that. And so I actually had a really great career that I was loving. my current husband is a farmer. We went through a number of things, but, at one point, we were having a conversation about creating a product from the farm and how that would happen. I have a love of food and so we went down this whole journey of what would that product look like? And we started talking about ice cream. I mean, ice cream goes with every possible moment you can imagine when you’re alone, crying, wondering how you’re going to make it through. Like, you just picture this tub of ice cream when you’re in your happy moments and celebrating it’s ice cream. And so we went down this path of ice cream for that one reason, really. how can we create something that allows for that, that puts joy on people’s faces? And then recently, with COVID and everything else, you know, hard to launch. We launched the ice cream in 2019 and then Covid hit. And as a new very niche product, it was hard. And people kept asking if they could come to the farm and do goat yoga and snuggle with baby goats. And. And so we added on a whole agri tourism element, and it’s bringing together my love of facilitation and food and animals and all of this kind, of together. And I was able to do that. I never went to college, which for a lot of people that would hold them back. I was able to get some additional learning in lots of different areas. And I took learning in and I took the life learning that I had, and I applied it with some of this other learning, and it allowed me to use all of what I’ve been through to support other people, to have the kind of conversations that you need to have to help people understand that there’s. There’s ways forward and you don’t have to be a hostage to your memories and to those triggering moments, of your life. And so this whole idea of starting a business, which seemed crazy a long time ago, it’s all new territory. And as women coming out of those situations, that’s some of the scariest thing we’re going into. Completely new territory. Can I do this? And you don’t always know how it’s going to end, but if we don’t try, we don’t live.

Jenna Mayne: And I know there’s a few different ways you give back through your business as well. I was wondering if you could share a bit about that.

Cheryl Haskett: Yeah. So we, you know, before we even started the ice cream, I still don’t actually get a paycheck from my businesses yet, but it was really important to us, and to me personally, that the value of giving back and contributing, and in particular to food, security, certainly to agriculture, because we have a link to that. But the whole idea of food security and, it’s so big. And, you know, being at the women’s shelter, being on welfare, being in a lineup to get Christmas presents and a hamper at, ah, Christmas time, or having to get food from the food bank. That’s one of those just baseline things that we need, and it’s a terrifying thing to think that we don’t have. And, I’ve donated a lot of ice cream along the way, including to the shelters. And sometimes people are ice cream, like they need peanut butter and they need beans. Yeah, but why shouldn’t someone who’s going through those situations have a treat, too? That’s not fair, you know, to just have the baseline. And I was really committed to making sure that there was something just a little extra, that maybe that person wouldn’t have been able to have or to get. We also donate, fam. donate, goats through world vision, to do food security and create businesses and opportunities in third world countries. But the work that we do here as well as is critically important. I’m really hoping that as we continue to go, especially here on the farm now, that we have facility to create an annual event where we can raise money for, specifically a scholarship program for women coming out of the shelter who maybe want to start a business, or they want to go back to school and they want to. To kickstart their life again. They want to figure out who they are and how they can contribute, you know? And they, they want to move forward with their life, and maybe they just don’t know how they don’t have a mentor who’s been there already. They don’t know the networks to access. They don’t understand who to talk to. And. And so that’s something that’s. I hope I can launch this year. We’re working on that right now. But, that’s something that is in the works and something very specific to this, which has been, really true to my heart. I don’t want it to be a one time thing. I want it to be an ongoing opportunity, so.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, that’s amazing. I love that idea. I think that would be just a fantastic opportunity for women who are moving beyond violence and moving forward with their lives. And I remember when you donated ice cream to our shelters. It, was around Thanksgiving, and it was so nice. I know it was a really nice treat for everyone, like you said, not just your normal breakfast or lunch, it was actually a treat. And you also had sent along a video at the time, too, saying, happy Thanksgiving, to pass along to the residents, and you shared a bit of a message for them, and I’m wondering if there’s any sort of message you’d like to share right now to anybody who’s listening, who might be going through a situation like this.

Cheryl Haskett: I would say right now, you know, your past and my past is part of our story that it’s never going to go away. It’s never going to be completely erased, but it doesn’t define your future, and it doesn’t get to dictate your worth or your confidence or your contribution. The ability to start to dream again. I remember it was hard you have to set up all these systems and structures, and there’s just surviving. It’s just doing the next thing to survive and whatever that looks like. But there will be a time when you move from surviving and you start to create new strategies and you start to think about thriving, and that’s a place that’s possible. And in your darkest moments, when you’re bawling in a corner somewhere, hiding away from your kids so they don’t see it, you know, those moments are real and they’re going to happen, but they’re not going to be forever. And so don’t feel like you can’t dream again. Don’t feel like this is never going to end, because it is. And I’m proof of that you know, I’ve used some of those things to move forward and what I’ve taken from that, instead of all of the bad things, is how to create an opportunity for empathy. How to understand people a little bit. More, how to understand myself and recognize. That we all have these blind spots, and to move from shame to I am a human being, worth, value, and I have something else that I can give to other people, whether that’s my kids or my community. And success looks different for every person. So it’s not always about a business it’s not always about finances sometimes it’s about, I got through this week and I didn’t yell at my kids, or I didn’t have one of those moments where I just wanted to curl into a ball that’s success and sometimes you need to just be grateful or to look at what’s the one victory. And even now, sometimes when we’re having a week or a month or something where everything’s going wrong, it’s like, what was my one victory for today, or my one victory for this week? And holding on to that? And for those individuals for whom the physical abuse is not something that’s part of the relationship you’re in or the family dynamic that you’re in, just know that there are multiple forms of abuse and every single one of those can be damaging and whether it’s sexual or control or any number of those issues it’s not okay. It’s not okay. And what you’re feeling is real, and there are people that can help you to move through that. And mental illness is not an excuse for abuse. it’s not your responsibility to be abused because that person is ill. And so I just want to encourage those individuals that are going through that that it’s okay to protect yourself and your kids.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that. I’m also wondering, before we go here, if you could share some advice on how you think we could all be better neighbors to those who are experiencing domestic violence.

Cheryl Haskett: I mean, I think there’s always these opportunities where there’s events happening and there’s donations. Financial contribution is a big thing. and it really helps. Like, the shelters are very underfunded, the systems around that are challenging, but that’s not always possible for people. I know we’re spread so thin. Some of it is simply understanding and educating yourself on abuse. being able to recognize those signs and be a friend to someone where you see it and be gentle. not to lump on more shame if somebody has had to go on welfare or needs extra support, being there to be that ear. And maybe you’re the type of person who has seen someone go through the shelter more than once. Just know that this is an incredibly challenging process, and it takes years for abuse to set in and so how can we think that a day or two is going to unravel all of that? And so it takes time, sometimes, and not to be discouraged because you think somebody should be over it by now that’s not always the case and so there’s just this sense of just kindness, which we should just be doing as human beings anyway.

Jenna Mayne: That’s great. Thank you so much for being here today, Cheryl. I really appreciate learning from you and hearing about your story, and I know it’s going to be really encouraging for everyone who’s listening.

Cheryl Haskett: That was my pleasure.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag hash sheisyourneighbor on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter, and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

Staying in Shelter
as a Teen Mom

Staying in Shelter as a Teen Mom with Sarah Tieleman

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

This episode is called staying in shelter as a teen mom with Sarah Tieleman. Sarah is an entrepreneur from New Dundee, Ontario, who runs a candle and gift company called so Rustic. In February 2021, Sarah partnered with Women’s Crisis Services on a candle fundraiser. She told us about her personal experience with domestic violence, and later that year, Sarah became a member of Women’s Crisis Services board of directors. This episode is part of our six episode Survivor series, which focuses on the experiences of survivors of domestic violence. In this episode, Sarah opens up about her journey as a teen mom experiencing domestic violence. She explains how she stayed at our Anselma house shelter in Kitchener, and now, 20 years later, she is actually a board member of women’s Crisis Services. It was really cool to hear how it was a full circle moment for Sarah when she joined the board of directors, and it was pretty awesome to hear from a board member and a former shelter residential. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and child abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’d also like to thank Rogers for proudly sponsoring this survivor series.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Sarah, thanks so much for being here today.

Sarah Tieleman: Hi, thanks for having me.

Jenna Mayne: I’m so excited to have you. It’s nice. We were just chatting earlier and saying how you’re on our board of directors, so it’s, especially exciting to have you here. So could you actually start by sharing a little bit about yourself?

Sarah Tieleman: Absolutely. So my name is Sarah. I am a business owner. I own Sew Rustic candle and gift company located in New Dundee. I am a mom to two boys, three year old and a 23 year old. So there’s a bit of a gap and I’m sharing this crazy thing called life with my best friend Kyle. And, you know, like pre pandemic, we were traveling and, well, we had a baby and, going places, road trips, antiquing, doing some home rental stuff. And then the world went a little crazy and we’ve, you know, like everyone else, been sitting here at home trying to entertain ourselves with Netflix.

Jenna Mayne: Exactly. Thank God we have Netflix, because that’s been getting me through.

Sarah Tieleman: Yeah, totally.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. So, again, I really appreciate having you here today, and I know you’re going to share a little bit about your story with us, which I’m really looking forward to learning more about. So I wondered if you might just be able to start by sharing a little bit about your experience with domestic violence.

Sarah Tieleman: Absolutely. So, like I said, I’m a mom to two boys with a bit of an age gap. Guess we’ll just rewind a little bit. So before, I, was 15 years old, and I fell in love with the guy that had the car, with the friends, the job, the freedom. He said all the right things, took me to all the right places and treated me well. He made me feel so grown up. And at 15, that was a pretty big deal. and we got pregnant twice and we miscarried twice. But the third time, we didn’t miss Gary. And that’s sort of when his tune kind of changed. And he moved out of his home, his parents home, and moved into his sister’s. And, he was very much against, you know, having a baby. And, you know, we just kind of put it on the back burner. I guess we thought maybe we’d miss Kerry again. And, we just continued on living a life. And he became increasingly agitated and violent and obsessive with things that I did in war and where I went and who I talked to. And, one night we went out to, all ages event. And I had gotten my hair done that day and got professional makeup done. And he was very upset that I had been looking that good, going out in public. And, upon returning home that night, I experienced my first ever brush, with, assault and domestic violence. He, had me pinned to the ground repeatedly, kicked me in the back, holding his hand over my nose and mouth. And that moment, I remember it so vividly that I go right back there when I think about it. And, I remember in that moment, I tried to get the attention of his sister, who was sleeping at the time, to come and get him off me, do something, help me in some aspect. And she did. And he, you know, stopped. And she. She didn’t do anything further. I went home to my parents the next day, and I was fooled by his remorse. And I went back the day following. He was going to change. And I believed it. And why, like, why wouldn’t I believe it at the ripe old age of 15. I believed everything. So fast forward a couple months, and, he had gotten his own apartment, and I moved in, and it was very freeing. We felt like this newly married couple, and I felt like the adult that I pretended to be until he asked me, are you still pregnant? And I was. And we were at the point of no return. and he became very angry and went back to the person that assaulted me in his sister’s spare bedroom, locking me in our apartment, taking the handset of our phone with him when he went out at night, you know, demanding I perform sexual acts that I wasn’t comfortable with, treating me like property and not like. Not like a person. And, you know, that was. That was scary for me. I didn’t. I didn’t see a way out. I didn’t see a way other than to just live through it. And I did live through it, but it resulted in black eyes, fat lips, bruised cheeks. And, that’s when I sought refuge at Anzalma house and stayed for a couple of days. I managed to leave. went to insomnia, and then eventually I went home to my parents and became a mom at 17. And, when our son was born, he wanted to become a father. He wanted, you know, he was, you know, actually overjoyed that he was going to be a dad. And the thought of his rage coming out on our son never crossed my mind, and it should have, because he assaulted our four month old baby when he was in his care for less than 45 minutes. And that’s, you know, that’s when my life completely, completely changed. And he was charged with child abuse and he got probation. And then I, on the other hand, lost custody of our son and had to live with my parents and prove to family and children’s services that I was a good mom and capable of parenting. And I did, however I made that happen. And it wasn’t an easy task, with what felt like all the odds were stacked against me. It was like. It was the biggest challenge, but that was my son, and that was. That was, you know, I was. I was going to give him all of me. So 23 years later, he’s the best fight I ever fought. And the road that we took to get where we are now had so many challenges. You know, at times it felt like doors were slammed in my face, and every time I tried to open a new one, it felt like I was going to fail. Made lots of poor choices and bad decisions. And then I had an awakening of sorts. My son was going to school, and I wanted to be proud of his mom, proud of our life, and not embarrassed. And I wanted him to have everything that he could ever need in his life. So at that point, I went back to high school, finished, and got my diploma. I went on to attend college three times. And, you know, although throughout my life, while I have had a supportive family, I’ve leaned on my community for guidance and support. And it’s because of that that has, you know, grown me as a person and made me who I am today. And, yeah, I feel like being on the board of directors now. It’s come full circle, completely full circle, and then sharing this story with you all. And there’s lots of different layers that we won’t get into, but, it’ll take a lot more time than we have today. But that’s what led, me to ensemble my house.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that, Sarah. I know it can be really difficult to share these really personal moments, but I think it’s really powerful and it’s really empowering for. For women who are listening, who are going through similar situations and to hear how you were able to make it through. So thank you for that. What kind of struck me about your story, too, was how young you are. I think sometimes people think about domestic violence happening to older married couples. They don’t think about it happening to 15 year olds, but the reality is, it does happen. And we know that violence can escalate when women become pregnant, too. So that was another kind of interesting piece of your story. I wonder if you want to elaborate on any of those pieces a bit more.

Sarah Tieleman: I think, one thing that really stuck with me, like, when I was, writing notes of what we were going to chat about today, was that rewinding back to when I was in the thick of that situation in my life, there wasn’t the Internet. I mean, there was. But it wasn’t as complex as it is now. And there wasn’t as much, readily available information and resources for someone going through what I was going through. And it was, you know, there wasn’t a lot of counseling agencies that were able to help someone in my situation. There weren’t a lot of. There was only one option for shelter. There was only one option for young teen moms. There wasn’t a slew of places that I could reach out to. There was only so many community services available at the time. So, you know, today, there’s so many resources and options and places to go and people to talk to that I think that you, you know, there is an upper hand to be had if you are facing domestic violence.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s just how the resources have changed and just knowledge and understanding of what’s out there too.

Sarah Tieleman: Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: and I know Anselma House looked a lot different at the time. It wasn’t the same building it was today. It would have been a different. Yeah, a different experience staying there altogether. So I wondered if you could share a bit more about your experience at Anselma House.

Sarah Tieleman: I mean, it was 23 years ago, it was a bit of time, but, you know, I remember it was very welcoming and I, at the time I didn’t want my family to know what I was going through. So I did go there first and, you know, sort of reach out to like, what’s next for me? Like, I’m now I’m pregnant. This man doesn’t want to be with me. And they sort of guided me to the direction of, you know, Ontario works and St. Monica House and all the different other organizations that I leaned on to get through being, you know, a teen mom. They had these programs called morning munchies where we’d go every Tuesday morning and like, learn about healthy eating while you’re pregnant. And I connected with so many different resources from walking through one door and that door was the door of Anselmo. And I don’t quite remember like the actual experience itself of, you know, staying there overnight. I kind of, I think maybe sometimes when it’s, it’s a memory that is entangled in so many emotions, you just sort of block it out a little bit. So I remember that, that it was because of that connection that I was able to reach out to services that helped me in my parenting journey.

Jenna Mayne: That’s great. I’m glad once you got there, you were able to get those resources and kind of help you move forward. Something else that you had talked about was just the kind of the obsessiveness and the control that was displayed in the beginning as things started to escalate and even just around what you were wearing, where you were going, that kind of thing. And I think that can be a red flag that people don’t always know about in the beginning because it’s not something we’ve talked about historically a lot. And people sometimes think physical violence is, you know, the, the only type of violence. But I’m wondering if you could talk about some of these earlier, pieces where the control was displayed.

Sarah Tieleman: I. I was going to say that even as of late in the last 23 years of dealing with my son’s biological father. Even when we weren’t together, you know, going to court for child support and custody and all that fun stuff, he was still trying to control me, even though there was no way that I was ever going back to him. you know, even in our last meeting, at the courthouse, when our son turned 18, I, want to say my son, actually, when he turned 18, it was. It was kind of like, you know what? This is it. You can’t ever, ever do anything to me again. We. We have parted ways. Our, you know, our child is of legal adult age now, and your assistance is no longer needed. so it was just. I think it was like a. Like a whole lead up of him thinking I was his marionette and he was going to, you know, do what he wanted with me for as long as we were connected as biological parents to this child. I did feel like once our son turned 18, it was like, okay, you’re done. You’re no longer in my life.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that makes sense. And it makes sense that the control still continued after the relationship ended, because, unfortunately, we know that this happens to women. you know, it depends on the situation. Sometimes it could turn into stalking behavior. Sometimes there’s still the control through the children.

Sarah Tieleman: Oh, he never had any contact with my son. But I will say that every time I had to have a meeting of sorts with him or any type of communication, I was terrified. I was terrified. Just, what’s he going to say? What’s he going to say to me? How am I going to respond? What is that response going to be? I, try to calculate, you know, come up with things to say back that were, you know, one up from. From something that he would say to me and even. Even sharing the story here on a podcast. I was a little nervous that maybe, what if he hears it? And then I thought, you know, what? So what? Because then he’s going to see that I’ve come. I’ve come out on top, I’ve come out ahead, and it hasn’t changed me. It hasn’t changed the course that I’ve taken. It’s made me a better person. I’ve learned from it, grown from it, and I’ve, you know, helped others go through it by providing an ear to listen and guiding people through uncomfortable, difficult situations.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that makes sense. And I’m wondering, what kind of led you to join the board of directors for women’s crisis services? Like, I think, you know, so brave you’re able to get through something so traumatic at such a young age. But like you said, it’s really come full circle at this point, and now you’re on the board, so I wonder if you could share a bit more about that.

Sarah Tieleman: Yeah, I think that, ah, connection sort of happened by way of happenstance, I guess you would call it. Like, it was just sort of fell in my lap at a time that I wasn’t looking to help out an, agency. But, I’m really glad that I did. It came up in conversation around the passing of Jennifer Campbell, and we did a Campbell fundraiser that she was so heavily involved in women’s crisis services, so we rallied up some money and got, donation in her name. And then the conversation was brought to the table about, hey, you know, what did you do in your past life? Or how did you get here? And, we talked about my education and my work experience, and then there’s, you know, some talk about they’re looking for a board member and you might be a good fit. And I sort of thought, you know, this could be like a really good way for me to have my story come full circle, come back to the place that I started sort of thing, and, and, give back to the agency that gave me so much.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, it’s amazing. I think it’s fantastic that we’re able to have survivors on the board, who’ve been through this. I think it’s, it’s a whole other level of understanding.

Sarah Tieleman: It is. And to have somebody, like you said, like somebody that is a survivor, and not only am I a survivor of domestic violence, but I’m a parent of a, ah, child that was a victim of child abuse. And to have like a real, you know, living, breathing, walking, you know, person that’s walked in those shoes on the board, I thought was something that, you know, I could bring a lot to the table and I could bring my story to light. You know, maybe, you know, even if one person hears my story, then my job is done. And if it helps them in their healing process, or knowing that there’s more to come that’s positive, then I’ve done what I came to do.

Jenna Mayne: I’m wondering what impact this experience had on your life growing up in the directions it took you. And I know you have your own business now and everything, but I imagine it was quite a difficult journey to get there with everything you went through. And I wondered if you wanted to talk about that a bit.

Sarah Tieleman: I think, like growing up as a young mom with having dealt with domestic violence and still having him be sort of a part of my life for so many years. I did put up a guard, and I had a lot of trust issues, and I was really insecure, and I was afraid of, like, ridiculous things happening to me that were never going to happen. but, you know, it did lead me to going to school for social services, and then I ended up working for Ontario works, and it was just like, again, like, I have since helped the agencies that helped me, so it helped me. I volunteered with St. Monica house. I’ve got a talk coming up at, one of their other locations. And working with you guys and just paying it forward. I pay it forward in so many different ways with my business. We do a lot of charity fundraisers, and we give back, and it’s just sort of my way of saying thank you to the community that raised me up.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, the Jennifer Campbell fundraiser that you had mentioned earlier was really special, and she was definitely a big supporter of our organization. So, it was pretty amazing you guys were able to, work on that and create that and then have some of the proceeds come back to us here and help other women and kids moving beyond violence. So, that was a pretty fantastic example of that.

Sarah Tieleman: I was thrilled to do that, and I was really happy. Like, when I, you know, we went to the bank and we got the money out and we wrote up the checks to her family and to, to your organization. It was just really moving to know that we were able to do that, not just for one cause, for multiple.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, exactly. What a difference, it can really make when we all kind of work together on that kind of thing. I’m also wondering, I know since you were such a young woman when you went through this experience, and you were also a young mother going through this as well, I’m curious if there’s any kind of words of encouragement or anything you would like to say to women going through a similar situation.

Sarah Tieleman: I would say that, you know, if you would have told the 15 year old me that this is where I’d be right now, if, you know, fast forward 23 years, I would not. I would not have believed you. but really, I think what’s important is to not be embarrassed of reaching out for help, not to be embarrassed of your situation. you just never know what somebody’s dealing with. Just walking around, you have no idea what’s weighing heavily on their shoulders, but, reach out, lean on your community, connect with the resources. You know, one door opens, so, so many. So just even, like I said, walking through one door and saw my house, it opened up so many other doors that, that helped me get, you know, got my name on housing and, you know, got connected with childcare subsidy and got myself back to school. It was just so many, so many. Like the domino effect. So many things happened because of that. So just reach out. Reach out to anybody that will listen. Make sure you have a backup plan. Not a backup plan, but, like, an exit strategy, an emergency. Emergency plan. And ask for help. Ask for help. And, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t. If you. If you’ve got that one red flag, if you’ve got that. That funny feeling, just go with your gut. Go with your gut. You know, you can trust yourself more than you can trust anybody else.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. I like what you said about the emergency plan and reaching out for help, too, because I think, you know, a lot of people will say, why doesn’t a woman just leave? Like, people don’t always understand all the complexities and the barriers to leaving, right? But the other flip side of that is leaving is a really dangerous time. We know that’s when violence is most likely to escalate. Women are more likely to, unfortunately, be killed in these situations as well. not to mention women in rural areas that are even higher risk because of weapons on the property. So I think there’s so many different risk factors to consider, too. So that’s why I think it is so important to get help. Make a safety plan. If you’re in this situation, don’t necessarily try and do it on your own, if you can help it. Not everyone, is able to, in the moment, access these supports. But I think that’s a really important piece you highlighted there.

Sarah Tieleman: And I think a lot of things, like, some women might think, oh, what about my things? What about my stuff? What about my kids toys? Like, they are just things. They can be replaced. You can’t be replaced, you know, or, how am I going to get my kids there? Like, what about the car seats? What about the strollers? You know, what, put $20 in your shoe and, you know, underneath your. The sole of your shoe and just get out. Just go and you’ll figure it out. You know, you’re not going to get arrested for jumping in the back of a cab because you are escaping domestic violence and you don’t have a car seat, right? Just go. And, you know, it’s. It’s so very freeing once you do go and you can just take that deep breath of like, I’m out, I’m out, and I’m safe.

Jenna Mayne: I wonder if you could talk a bit more about that. What it feels like to be. To be out and be safe and maybe how that feels in contrast to what you went through.

Sarah Tieleman: I’m not gonna lie. Like, you know, it’s not like it never goes away. It’s not completely freeing. Like, you know, you’re. You can say, oh, you know, I feel so free doing this. I feel, you know, it’s been so many years since I’ve been in that situation, but I still. There is a, you know, a smidge of me that is afraid of him, you know, who knows? So I just. I feel like, you know, it is. It is freeing. It is, like, liberating. I do feel very proud of myself and all the obstacles I’ve accomplished, but there’s still that teeny weeny part of me that is afraid. But then I think, no, sarah, you’re not going to let him win. You’re not afraid of him. Look. Look what you came through. Look what you went through. And it’s not even, like I said, there’s layers. There’s so many things that happened because of that situation, like fighting to get custody of my son back when I didn’t do anything. that in itself was like the worst, the worst path I’d ever been on. And then finally getting him back and getting my own established apartment was like, wow, I did it. Look it. Look what I did. And then looking back at, you know, what I have now? I have this successful business, and, you know, I’m in. I’m helping other organizations. I just think, like, that part of me sometimes seems like that wasn’t really me. It wasn’t really my life, but it was. It really was me.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. I think it can be jarring sometimes for people to look back because you almost feel like a different person, in a way, because so much has changed. But I think when someone takes so much from you, you kind of are a different person in a way at that time.

Sarah Tieleman: Yeah, exactly. And I think for me, like, having this conversation, I know I said it already, but it is closure. It’s. He always said, you’re never going to amount to anything. You’re never going to amount to anything. And I think. Part of me thinks, I hope you hear this so that, you know, that you did not change my life in a negative way. I took that negative and I made it a positive, and I did that myself, and I did amount to something. And this 23 year old young man, you know, you can’t take any credit.

Jenna Mayne: For that, yeah, it makes a lot of sense. And I think that kind of speaks to why that this conversation is important to you. And I don’t know if there’s anything else you wanted to add there about why this is important to you, to kind of talk about it now.

Sarah Tieleman: I think, you know, just like I said earlier, if one person hears my story or hears, you know, what I’ve gone through, and then it just. It just sparks that light. For them to get help and reach out, then it will have been worth it. Worth every ounce of pain, every challenge, every struggle. If I can help one person get through what I’ve gone through, if somebody hears this and then picks up the phone and calls or tucks that $20 in their shoe so that they can catch an uber or catch a cab or whatever just to get to safety, I think for me, it’s just to make an impact and reach as many people as I can. And I think also for me, I didn’t get a lot of help because there wasn’t a lot of resources, you know, going through life as a single parent. And, like, I did have a very supportive family, but I think moving forward, I just kind of toughed it out and sort of just grew through what I went through. And now that there’s so many available organizations out there, I think people can really benefit from them.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think so, too. And so part of this project and this podcast, it’s called she is your neighbour, to emphasize the fact that it can happen to anybody in any neighbourhood, no matter who you are. But the other part of that is we really want to encourage people to be good neighbours and think about what we can all do and how we can all play a role to support those going through it. So I’m wondering, your thoughts on how you think we can all be better neighbours to women and kids experiencing domestic violence.

Sarah Tieleman: I think just always have an open door policy. You know, you’re always welcome at my house if you, you know, if you’re. If you’re fleeing from domestic violence or, you know, you’re. You’re uncertain if your situation is going to turn into something, you know, something violent, something potentially that’s going to harm yourself and your kids. You know, you show up on my porch any day, anytime I’m. My door is open, and I will be as much or as little as you need me to be. I think some people think, oh, you know, I don’t want my neighbours to know because they’re going to be nosy and they’re going to pry, but I think, you know, if you have that non judgmental open door, I’m here for you whenever you need me. I think people will be more willing to reach out and look for help. And I think, too, like, you know, when you say it’s, she’s your neighbour. I’ve got a huge following on Instagram, and now all my followers and whoever else listens to this podcast, they’re going to know. And you look at someone and you think, there’s no way they’ve gone through that. But now you know. Now you know, I have. Now you know how many other people are living with this or dealing with this that haven’t had an opportunity to speak out?

Jenna Mayne: Exactly. I think it can be easy to assume that domestic violence happens to one specific person, and we just don’t even know the amount of stories that are out there and the amount of people that this affects.

Sarah Tieleman: Yeah. And I think the biggest thing that I would say to somebody that is in the thick of this is that don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. You know, fear is. Fear can be your worst enemy. Don’t let fear, hinder your decisions. Like, you can get through this and you don’t need to be afraid. You are stronger than you think you are.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much, Sarah. I really appreciate you being here today and sharing this with us.

Sarah Tieleman: You’re so welcome. I’m so happy to be part of this. I’m happy to be sharing my experience and my knowledge with the board of directors. I’m honored to be on the board. It’s great. And I hope that I’ve reached somebody that might have needed to hear this story.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I think you definitely have. Thank you so much.

Sarah Tieleman: You’re so welcome.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag, she is your neighbour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter, and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic pilots.

Experiencing Violence Amidst the Rwandan Genocide

Experiencing Violence Amidst the Rwandan Genocide with Alpha Nkuranga

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

This episode is called experiencing violence amidst the Rwandan genocide with Alpha Nkuranga. Alpha is a residential support worker at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Regional. She recently signed a publishing deal for a book she has written about her life journey, surviving gender based violence and the Rwandan genocide. This episode is part of our six episode Survivor series, which focuses on the experiences of survivors of domestic violence. In this episode, Alpha talks about experiencing domestic violence as a child and also about the violence she endured while living in a Tanzanian refugee camp during the Rwandan genocide. We talk about the journey to her new life in Canada and the different support services that women have access to here. It was incredible to hear Alpha’s story, and it was so inspiring to learn how she has overcome so much hardship. And then she has used this to motivate her in her career, where she supports women who are moving beyond violence. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence, abuse and sexual assault, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. I’d also like to thank Rogers for proudly sponsoring this survivor series.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Alpha. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Alpha Nkuranga: Hi, Jenna. Thanks for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, it’s great to have you here. So excited. This is our first time. We were just saying earlier having a staff member from women’s crisis on the podcast. So it’s so nice to talk with you.

Alpha Nkuranga: I’m so excited.

Jenna Mayne: Great. So can you just start by sharing a little bit about yourself?

Alpha Nkuranga: My name is Alpha. I’m a survivor during Tirwananda genocide in 1994. So, I went to Tanzania with my real brother, who was four years old without our parents. So I lived in Tanzania for one year. And after I was reconnected to my parents who were in Uganda through the Red Cross, I was the first girl in 2002 to finish primary school, and I got a scholarship to go to secondary school. So from there, I got another scholarship to go to the advanced level, which was for two years. After two years, I got another scholarship went to Makerre University, which is the best university in East Africa. I’m married, with three handsome boys working at women’s crisis services here in Waterloo Region. And I think that’s all about me.

Jenna Mayne: It’s great to have you here. And again, you work at women’s crisis. I know you work as a residential support worker, so you work directly with the women and kids in our emergency shelters, too. And then with your own story, you have such a unique perspective. So I’m really looking forward to our conversation today.

Alpha Nkuranga: So excited to share about what I’m doing with women’s crisis and ready to jump right in.

Jenna Mayne: Great. So maybe you could start. I know you mentioned you’re a, survivor yourself. I know you’ve been through a lot in your life, but I wondered if you could start by sharing a little bit about your experience with domestic violence.

Alpha Nkuranga: Okay. I grew up in a pregnant marriage. My dad had three wives. So, the only reason why he could get the second wife was because he suspected my mom was going to have girls. So in my culture, girls, they are nothing. The way they take girls. Like, if you’re having ornery girls, like, you’re not considered as a parent, as a mom. Yeah. Some of the women I remember, if you have ordinary girls, you’re not going to stay in your marriage. So I grew up in a previous marriage, and it, was not that easy because I remember my dad. Every time my dad could come home from the second wife, he could come to beat us, me and my mom, plus our siblings. So it was not that easy. I do remember, a situation, one of my half sister, she came to our house and took the biscuits. So when she took the biscuits, my dad came home and was asking for the biscuits. We told him, we don’t know, we kept them somewhere, but when we went to check them, they were not there. So because of, like, I was used with my dad beating me every time, I could count, maybe in a week, maybe five times. And he could use belts, bicycle chains, like shoes, everything he could get, but usually was like, belts. So I remember that day I was with my little brother. I told him, you know what? We’re gonna die today. So I was like, let’s run. So as we are running, my dad, because we are two, he didn’t really know if he’s gonna follow me or for my brother, we went and hide somewhere. And then someone went to, my dad and say, oh, I saw your kids. They’re hiding somewhere. What’s going on? Then my dad came and find us. What he did, he tied me and my brother on the bike and then started riding for, like, 20 minutes. I will never, never forget that, because I knew that I was going to die. I still remember the voices of people saying, kill them. They are your kids. Kill them. So, I went through a lot, I think. Another thing I can share. It’s about my mom. Like, every time, maybe my mom would be beaten maybe three times a week, me five times with my siblings. There is one time we knew that our mom was dead. He beat her to the point where she couldn’t breathe. People came and we’re like, I think she’s dead. No one touched my dad. No one said anything. Everyone was saying, oh, he’s killing his wife. You can’t say anything. So it was so much. Sometimes there’s a time when I don’t want to talk about my life, what I went through, what my mom went through. It was not like my home was happening everywhere. Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that. It’s really brave of you to tell your story, and I know it’s so hard to talk about, those really personal details, and it’s. It can be upsetting. So thank you for sharing that. about what you went through, but what you said, you’re just saying, you know, it wasn’t just your family. It was happening all around you. Could you maybe explain a little bit more kind of what the culture was like? And I know you said, girls weren’t always wanted, so I wonder if you could share a little bit more about, how those dynamics played into the situation.

Alpha Nkuranga: Ah. In my culture, it’s not like, by then, even at this time, like, women are useless. They’re just there to have kids, taking care of their husband, and that’s it. So growing up in that environment, me as a girl, I felt unwanted. Sometimes I could ask myself why I was born a girl, because everything that was happening was affecting girls, was affecting women. So it was easy and no one could talk about it. If you’re beating your wife, that’s okay. If you’re beating your kids, that’s okay. No one is gonna say anything. So many times my dad made me sleep outside that night. No one would say anything. No one would take me. No, I had to stay all night outside. Like, we don’t have electricity. We don’t have anything. Especially in Africa. It’s dark. It’s a punishment. I need to sleep outside. So no one said anything about whatever was going on in. I think we deserved it. That’s how they knew to suffer. We are not human. No one cared.

Jenna Mayne: So were there any supports in place? Was there anything like what we have here at, ah, women’s crisis services? Or were you more on your own?

Alpha Nkuranga: there were no supports. And, I also survived a lot of rape and from police officers, from teachers, from elders in the community. Those are the people whom we are supposed to go and say, I’m, having a problem. When you reach to them, you know, they will never help you. They’re not going to help you. They are asking you, if you want me to help you, I need to have sex with you. Which is sad. We didn’t have anywhere to turn. Like, I’m, talking about every. Most of the women in this society, they didn’t have a place to go.

Jenna Mayne: That’s horrible.

Alpha Nkuranga: So there was no help. Still now there’s no help. No one cares about women, girls. No one occurs.

Jenna Mayne: It’s horrible to hear that, especially when you say it’s someone you’re supposed to be able to go to for help and support, and you can’t rely on that. I can’t, even imagine how scary that would be. I know you ended up leaving home at one point, too, and I’m wondering if you could maybe share a little bit more, about your journey there.

Alpha Nkuranga: Yeah, that was during the, Rwandan genocide. when I was living with my grandparents, my parents were living in another area. So, I remember we are sitting home and people came to attack us. Ah. And I had run with my little brother, who was four years old. I think I was eight or nine. I don’t know really when I was born. I don’t celebrate birthdays like other people. So, I had to run with him and hide for days. And then from there, I knew, like, my grandparents were killed, so I knew strangers talking close to us. I was hiding in the swamp. So, those strangers, I remember I was hungry. I needed to eat, my brother needed to eat. And I was like, we’re gonna die here. So let’s ask those people. We are hearing voices. Let’s talk to them and see if they have foods for us. So I went and approached them, and we are asking, are you guys by yourself? I said, yes. Were your parents? I said, we don’t know. Maybe they killed them. So they are the ones who helped us. And, I remember they shared with us that they are going to Tanzania, which was another country, but they looked at us and said, you know what? You’re not gonna make it. You’re not gonna make it. You’re too young. It’s gonna be a journey. You’re not gonna make it. I remember telling them that I would try my best. I’ll try to see whatever I’m gonna end, but I knew I would try. They said they will help my brother, maybe carrying him on the back. There was one guy said, his family were killed. He doesn’t have anyone, so he’s the one who helped my brother, carrying him on the back. I can’t really remember the days, but it was like more than maybe a week. went through the forest. We didn’t have food. We could, drink from our thumbs, like, drink from the ponds. We, didn’t have food. Eating fruits from the forest. I remember seeing many people dying. And I could count myself the next person, to die. But I was lucky. My brother was lucky. We reached Tanzania and we stayed there for one year. And I remember when I was in the camp, because of what was going on. Like, girls were being raped every single second. So I had to change my identity. I had to make sure I put on trousers so I would look like a girl. From there, everyone who was seeing me was thinking, I’m a boy. But I did that because I didn’t want what is happening to other kids to happen to me. I try, like, every time I was praying with boys. I trained myself to do everything for boys so that everyone would know that, I was a boy. So after one year, that’s when we got reconnected with my parents. They were in Uganda through the Red Cross. In 2010, I was sponsored by the government of Canada to come here as a permanent resident. I went into New Brunswick in Moncton, lived there for five years and then moved here.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, wow. I don’t even know what to say. It’s such an incredible story. I just really do admire your bravery, Alpha. Being able to get through something like that and then to be able to share it, too, I really can’t even imagine. And, you know, you talked about growing up in a home that was violent. And then even worse, you ended up in this camp, which was violent as well. And do you. Do you feel that you were able to, like, build some resiliency during this? Because you really seem like a very strong woman to be able to get through it all. And I’m wondering kind of how you were able to. To get through it all.

Alpha Nkuranga: you know what? I was looking side by side. I was looking in front of me, on my left, on my right. There was no one who was there for me? No one. I knew I had to be there for myself. I knew I had to do everything possible to fight for myself. So that’s what I did. And, there is one thing I always tell myself that, no matter what is going on, there is a day to cry and there is a day to laugh. I knew whatever I was going through is not gonna be permanent. I knew something was gonna happen the way I tried. I knew that something was gonna come out from me standing for myself.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that makes sense. You kinda had to rely on yourself in those situations, it sounded like. So I’m sure you built a lot of strength through that. when you came to Canada, can you describe how your life is different now from how it was?

Alpha Nkuranga: My life is different in so many ways. So many ways because I, remember, I think I was about 14, and I was asking myself, even asking people, what we can do so that we can help women and girls. But there was no way, like me, myself, I couldn’t do something to help women. That is something that was in my mind. I need to help these innocent people. But I didn’t know how, I was going to do it. So when I come here, I found out that it’s a country of opportunities. If I survived in the forest, in the refugee camp, the beatings from my teachers at school, I’m gonna survive in this country. So that’s when I was like, oh, I need to do something. I have to make sure that I’m doing something to help women and girls who are going through domestic violence. I have to do something. I have to contribute. So, life was good, was good because there are so many things were new to me. Everything was new to me. Never had a fridge in my home. I didn’t know a microwave. I remember, this is the story. So funny. Someone got us a microwave. And I remember telling my husband, oh, we got a radio. So I thought, it’s a radio. So I have never cooked on stove, nothing. So everything was new to me. But I was glad that my tears, my hard work, we are paying off everything I dreamed. So I went here. I, remember, I think was in 2014, I believe. So I was like, I need to continue school. In order to help women, I have to go to school. So I went to eastern college and graduated with a distinction in criminology. I got an opportunity to travel to atlantic region to, I think I went in maybe seven prisons included, for women. So I went there and, I had a conversation with, one of them, like, every time I had like, 2 hours to talk to inmates, what they are going through, what life looks like, how they end up there, I was like, yeah, this is my dreamland. I need to do whatever I need to do to achieve my goals.

Jenna Mayne: Well, that’s so wonderful.

Jenna Mayne: And so then you eventually ended up working at women’s crisis. I’m curious, can you talk about how that ended up happening? I know you started in criminology and then what kind of led you on this path?

Alpha Nkuranga: So when I came to kitchen, I remember, I was searching. I’m, like, I need to help women. And so criminology, it’s about, there is mental health. I remember, the job posting was asking if you have any education or experience in mental health, addiction. And I was like, oh, I think that’s the good thing because, like, when we talk about addiction, like, when people go through a lot of things, they try to do things to help them, to calm down, to help them disconnect, disconnect from the world. That’s how the addiction comes in. Those are like things that come together. So I, was like, I need to apply for this job. I need to join other women fighting for their rights. It’s our rights as women to live in, free violence society. And I was like, I need to join those women. So I applied, I got a job. I’m like, this is something I wanted since I was little.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, wow.

Jenna Mayne: So then it came full circle for you. And can you tell us a bit about what you do in your role?

Alpha Nkuranga: I do crisis course. This is where, like, if, a woman is having issues in the relationship, maybe needs help, sometimes they need like, a shelter. They doesn’t have a place to go and they’re stuck there. So if they call, we need to do an assessment and see if they need a shelter stay. If it’s not, we have, like, outreach workers who go to homes m and, help those women. Sometimes they doesn’t have a place to go. They help them with housing applications. They teach them about domestic parents. If they need maybe information, about court, they help with that. So basically, those are the things, we do. But also with the women in shelter, we do help them in everyday life. We need to make sure if they come to shelter, let’s say they don’t have income, we need to help them to find income. Also, we do, like, we have a housing worker in our shelter. So, the housing worker will help apply for housing, looking for houses. Like, maybe if it’s a market rent, we do try our best to find a place for those women and their kids.

Jenna Mayne: That’s great. That’s wonderful. And I. Yeah. How does it feel to be able to work in this job after all you’ve gone through and this is what you’re really working towards, by the sounds.

Alpha Nkuranga: Of it, it feels like, I can’t say I’m stepping in my purpose. I’m already there. But sometimes it’s very emotional because I could. Sometimes when I see them where they are, especially when they are coming in shelter, I could see their pain. And sometimes I go back, and feel the pain as well. So sometimes it’s very challenging. I remember sometimes I, do cry when they are sharing the stories of themselves, because I had to go back to what I went through. I knew, I wish I had the place. I could go back home, but I didn’t have a place, but I’m like, oh, my God, I wish I had a place like that. Because every time. Every time someone comes to shelter, and, the most amazing part for me, when they leave shelter, smiling, knowing that they have a place where they’re going to, feeling that someone was there for them, and when they smile, and in my heart, I’m like, wow, this is what hopes looks like. That’s my amazing part, to see them going, because I could remember the picture when they came in to shelter, and, the picture they are, having now leaving the shelter, it’s different. And sometimes they leave the shelter, different people.

Jenna Mayne: Well, that’s amazing. I’m sure it’d be so rewarding. And even though it’s challenging, like you said, to hear the stories, and I’m sure it brings you back to your own experience, I’m sure it’s really wonderful for the women to be able to connect with someone who’s gone through something similar. and I’m sure they feel kind of the empathy from you to know that you’re someone who understands what they’re going through, and I think that would make a big difference. I also know that you have, a book coming out, which is so exciting. You shared this with our team a couple weeks ago, so it was really exciting to hear. So I wondered if you wanted to share a little bit about that.

Alpha Nkuranga: It has been a journey about my book. I remember when I started writing, my son was from school, and then I watched him coming and I asked him questions, how was the day? Things like that. And my son was eight years old, so when I was asking questions, when I was looking at him, like playing, I remember was like maybe a rainy day, praying in the mud. And I was like, oh my God, my son is eight. in, 1994, I was eight. I could see how innocent he is. I could see he’s still a baby. But to me at, ah, that age, that’s when I was in the forest, eating nothing, going to another country on my foot. And I was like, no, I need to grab a pen and a paper and put this story down. So I’m sharing about my life, what I went through in my book, and I’m so excited and happy that someone picked my book.

Jenna Mayne: I can’t wait to read it when it comes out. I know it will be so inspiring. So I’m so glad you’re able to do that. I’m also wondering if you could just share why this conversation is important to you.

Alpha Nkuranga: You know what, women have been going through a lot. It’s not today, a hundred years ago, I think, even more to that, they called them names. They are weaker sex. What they know is to have kids and take care of their husbands. But I’m so glad today I can see the progress. And to come to this, it’s, because of these conversations, we need to talk more. What’s going on? We need to stop sitting and watch these. Our mothers, they are our grandparents, they are our sisters. We need to talk more about this to end domestic violence.

Jenna Mayne: I totally agree with you. I think the more we talk about it, we can kind of remove some of the shame and stigma that can be associated with it. We can talk about the fact that it’s okay to talk about it’s happening. So let’s address it and try and get people the resources they need and prevent it from happening too. Yeah, I’m also wondering. So this podcast and this project, it’s called she is your neighbour. And the reason we’re doing it is because we want, to really think about how we can all be better neighbours to women and kids who are experiencing domestic violence. So I wanted to get your thoughts on what you think we can all do to be better neighbours to those experiencing domestic violence.

Alpha Nkuranga: When you see people sitting and watch women and kids going through whatever they are going through, and, they don’t care, to me, it is a sign that our society is sick. We need to find the medication for this. And the only way we’re gonna do this is to see our neighbours, women and kids, and feel their pain and see how we can help good people. They don’t hurt others. If someone is hurting another person. There is something going on and we need to find out what’s going on. We as a society, if we are sitting and say, okay, I don’t care, they deserve that there is something going on. We should be there for them. We should be there for each other. It is not something I may ask people to do, but it’s our obligation as human beings to take care of each other, to make sure that everyone is safe in this planet, especially women and kids. So I feel like people, neighbours, we should ask every time what’s going on. This is something that has been going through for a long time. We should do something. We should protect each other to stop domestic violence.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you, Alpha. I’m so grateful to have you here today. It was so great to talk with you. It was just really inspiring to hear your story. before we go, I just wondered, was there anything else that you wanted to add that we didn’t cover that you think was important that you wanted to mention?

Alpha Nkuranga: I would say add, to all the victims of domestic violence and those who are still going through. I would call it like a pandemic, another pandemic, right? To stay strong, to fight for themselves, to ask for help. Because people are, ah, willing to hear them and help them and to tell everyone that it’s not their fault. It’s not their fault. Thanks.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you, Alpha.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag sheisyourneighbour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook or Twitter and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

When Violence Escalates
During Pregnancy

When Violence Escalates During Pregnancy with Amy Kaufman

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

This episode is called when violence escalates during pregnancy with Amy Kaufman. Amy is a mom and an advocate for survivors of domestic violence. During her marriage to a famous sports broadcaster, Amy experienced domestic violence, which escalated during her pregnancy. Her experience also included a lengthy public court paddle for everyone to see and hear. Following this experience, Amy has become an advocate for survivors, using her network and her story to support others. This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence builds, leading to severe incidents and death.

It’s really hard to sum up this episode into words because Amy’s story is just. It truly is incredible. I don’t know how she’s done what she’s done, and how she has managed to move forward in the way that she has. She is just an incredible advocate for other survivors, and to me, she’s honestly an example of, a white woman who’s using her privilege in the right way. Amy acknowledges how she had support during her experience that a lot of people do not have, and she does not think this is acceptable. Amy explains in this episode her experience, and she also explains what she is doing now to try and create change, especially in the legal system, because it can be so challenging for survivors who are going through the court system, especially if they have children, to try and make any progress. The other thing that I was reminded of in this episode is the power in sharing your story. And, of course, this is obvious. This is a podcast that’s all about sharing your story, and we always have to make sure that our guests are in a safe place to be able to do so. But when you are and when you feel that you’re at a place that you can do that, there really is so, so much power in sharing your story. And Amy is just a prime example of this. I’m so grateful to her for all the work that she is doing to support other survivors and for being on this episode, to talk about something that is not talked about enough. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Amy. Thank you so much for being here today.

Amy Kaufman: Hi, Jenna. Thank you for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m really. Yeah, I’m so excited to talk with you. We wanted to have you on the podcast for so long, so it’s so nice to have you here and get the chance to speak.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you so much. It’s nice to be here.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, great. So today we’re going to be talking a little bit, about your story, about your experience with domestic violence. I was wondering if you could just start by sharing a little bit about yourself.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, sure. So I’m Amy. I’m a mom. I worked in non profit for the last few years, and I’ve now co founded a, ah, company to help other survivors and litigants in court to be able to get access, the same access to justice that I did, because it’s unfortunately rare and like one in three women, you know, I’m a survivor of intimate partner violence, and I had to go through a very difficult court process in order to prove my story and am lucky enough to have kept full custody of my child and had my abuser’s parental rights removed. So I have had a very successful experience, despite how difficult it was, and I now work to try to help other survivors to achieve the same results.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I’ve followed your story and it’s just been incredible to see. I can’t believe how you have gone through this all and now you’re working to support others now that you’re. You’re kind of on the other side of it. But, yeah, I’m really grateful to have you here and to hear a bit more about your story. I wondered if you would mind beginning by sharing a bit more about your story and your experience for those who don’t know as much about it.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, definitely. So, I met my ex husband a little bit after my mom had passed away. I was very vulnerable. Her and I had been very close, and I didn’t realize that I was very susceptible to ending up in a situation like that. This person came along who really seemed to see me, who stayed up with me on the phone all night, who thought I was the most amazing thing, and who I realize now was grooming me by love bombing me, by telling me how in love with me he was. He decided then that he was going to move to Montreal from Denver, where he was working as a sports journalist. He was quite well known, and he was moving in with me. This was a whirlwind. It all happened very quickly, and I wrote myself a note, actually, at the time saying, like, this seems too good to be true, and I hope I’m not making the biggest mistake of my life. And it turns out that I was making a very big mistake, and it was too good to be true. So he moved to Montreal, and very quickly, I became pregnant. And like so many other survivors, the abuse really escalated during the pregnancy. What went from being psychological and emotional abuse and control that I was not able to recognize, turned into physical abuse, which made it much easier for me to recognize, but also made it so that I was terrified of leaving. It was not just me experiencing it anymore. It was my baby as well. And I didn’t know how to get out of this situation and keep my child safe. And there was no world in which I was going to be leaving an infant with this person who was threatening my life and my unborn child’s life. So I stayed in the relationship, trying to figure out what to do, feeling a ton of shame, feeling completely isolated, having no access to resources. and the thing that I did that I believe saved me was that I educated myself about intimate partner violence as much as I could. I read everything I could. I read testimonials, I read about survivors who got out, and I started to keep notes for myself. it was just for myself, so I could try to understand what was going on. At first, it was done through a lens of, if I can figure this out and I can figure out what’s triggering him, I can stop doing it and he’ll stop abusing me. And that was definitely not the way it works, but in doing that, I started to sort of create, like, a code where I had different letters that I used for punch and different letters that I used for push, and different letters. You know, if it happened on a Wednesday, I always wrote that it was a Tuesday. If he had seen the notes, he would not have been able to know exactly what it was. And the most important thing that I did was to share with my best friend what was going on. And having someone who knew, who told me that she was not going to judge me. She understood this was not my fault, but she was afraid that he would kill me, and so she was going to speak to me every day, and if I did not answer the phone, she was going to come over, and if we did not answer the doorbell, she would call the police. And just having that person and someone who I could send these notes to about, this is what happened today, and make sure you keep it, because I was terrified that he was going to get into my phone and erase pictures and audio recordings and text messages that he sent me. And I eventually had my child and hoped, like many did, that things would get better, and they didn’t. The abuse happened the night before I delivered and started again five days later, which was unimaginable. And the level of despair and shame and hopelessness that I felt, is something I now realize is so common. But I felt completely alone. In my experience, I thought I had never met any other survivors of domestic violence. And I stayed as long as I could because I knew that if I left, I was likely to have to share custody. And I just didn’t. I didn’t know what to do, and I was. My reaction to this trauma was to freeze. And on July 17 of 2019, I had gone out for dinner with a friend who was a single mom, and that seemed to be very threatening to my abuser. I got home and did what I always did, which was to avoid him, and go upstairs and say, I’m taking a bath. And I got a text message saying, you didn’t give me a hug when you came in. And that really hurt my feelings. Please come downstairs and give me a hug. And I was on the phone with my best friend, and I said, I’m just going to do it because I can’t deal with another four days of, fighting. I just can’t do it anymore. And she very smartly said, you know, it’s not fighting, it’s abuse. And if you go, what if. What if you go downstairs and he kills you? And I said, he’s. He wouldn’t. That won’t. That’s not gonna happen. And I went downstairs and was strangled, which was the scariest moment of my life. And I was extremely lucky to have a really good shelter rescue dog who attacked my abuser, who was my husband at the time, and allowed me to get away. I went upstairs and did what I had always done, which was to google what had just happened. So every incident of abuse, I would google it. I would write a note. And when I googled strangulation and found out that I was 700 times more likely to be murdered by him now, I called my best friend, and in doing that, knew that this was over and that there was not going to be a way for me to stay or take this back. And so I called her, and I said, you need to call my brother. And father in the morning and tell them what happened, and then we’ll call the police. I knew in that moment that in order to keep myself and my child safe, calling the police immediately was probably not the best idea with him in the house. So I convinced him that it was okay and I was okay with it and that I just needed some space. So in the morning, I needed him to go to his mom so that I could just have some time alone because I was terrified. He agreed, and I called the police, and I have never had to see him again, and neither has my child. Wow.

Jenna Mayne: That’s just an incredible story. I can’t believe you had to go through that. Amy. I just think you’re so brave for sharing your story now and for everything you’ve been through. So thank you for sharing it with us so that others can learn from it and they can be safe and just all the work that you’re doing, it really is so incredible.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you. Yeah. when I was in the relationship, I did a lot of trying to find other people who had been through this and, like, to the point of looking up celebrities, and all I could find was Pamela Anderson, who’s wonderful and an incredible survivor and all of these things. But it was only once I left. And because of my ex’s position, this went viral on Twitter. This was all over the news in the US and in Canada. And what started as horror and shame, like, I took to bed, that everybody I’ve ever met now knows the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, and everyone’s going to think I’m stupid, and everyone’s going to judge me, and they’re going to think I’m a terrible mother. And instead, I was flooded with messages of support and flooded with messages from people being like, I’ve been through this. My ex husband was abusive, or my mother was abused, or my wife was in an abusive relationship before this. And the amount of support and help that people gave me, lawyers offering their time for free to help me strategize, and people from Twitter asking for my contact information so they could send me uber eats so that I wouldn’t have to cook for my kid, it was so incredibly heartening. And unfortunately, it’s so incredibly rare because most people don’t have that kind of support. And it left me in a position of realizing that if I was able to, and I’m able to because the outcome of my trials were positive, I’m able to speak about my experience and feel safe enough to do so. And I know how much that would have meant to me at the time.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah. I mean, m that’s just amazing to hear the messages of support that you received afterwards, after sharing your story, because, like you said, this doesn’t happen for everybody. And I think, especially when you were in the relationship, you didn’t have a ton of support. Thankfully, you had your best friend who you could lean on. But, you know, I’ve heard your story before, and you did not have a lot of support, even professional support, which I think is so upsetting. And I hate to hear that because there are support services out there, and I hate that you felt so alone, and had to navigate this by yourself. It’s dangerous and it’s scary. So I at least feel a little bit comforted knowing that after you kind of came out of it, that there was this flooding of support, because you really deserve that.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you. Every survivor really does. and when I was first told that this had leaked to the press, that his arrest had leaked to the press, and someone called me and said, don’t look on social media. And I thought to myself, like, my God, everyone’s going to believe him. People know him. He’s an outspoken advocate for women. He’s an outspoken advocate for women in sports. He goes on television and talks about how baseball players who abuse their wives should never be allowed to play the game again. And nobody is going to believe this. And instead, when I didn’t listen and ended up looking on social media, and saw all of these messages and then saw that the media that he was working for had fired him immediately because of public pressure. And really a lot of his power went away in that moment. His power over me, of everybody thinks he’s so charismatic and so great, I started to hear other stories from other people about things that had gone on between them and him, and it was really extremely empowering. And despite how exhausted I was from being in this two year abusive relationship and having a baby and having gone through this awful pregnancy, I at least had this leg up of people are believing me and people who and people are supporting me. And I was extremely lucky to have access to resources because when I called the police and they came, I said, you know, I have evidence of two years worth of abuse. I’ve kept evidence. I’ve kept logs. There are recordings. There are photos, there are text messages. The police said, well, we can only press two charges for the strangulation because we don’t have the manpower to go through your phone and go through your evidence and do this for you. So if you want, you could print out all of your text messages, find the metadata to authenticate them, figure out what crimes have been committed, and bring them back to us in a timeline, and then we’ll press more charges. As anyone who works with survivors or is one knows, after being abused for two years, you’re not exactly in the mood to spend six months going through evidence and educate yourself on the law and, you know, get sort of a master’s degree and in litigation. So I was very lucky that I was able to hire a, digital forensic expert who spent a ton of time going through all of my evidence and then said to me, okay, well, I’ve narrowed it down to 300,000 messages. You can take a highlighter and go through them and find, you know, anything that breaks the criminal code or anything applicable to civil code for your custody case. And when he saw my face, he said, you know, maybe you could hire a criminal lawyer. And I hired a criminal lawyer and sat with a criminal lawyer for 7 hours a day for close to six months, going through the entire relationship text message by text message, which was so incredibly traumatizing, and writing a timeline. And when I went back to the police and gave it to them, they said, okay, well, now it’s 21 charges. And that was really what changed the trajectory of this story. And until other survivors have access to that same. To the same ability to tell their stories in court and have a judge understand and have prosecutors who understand, nobody is really able to access justice.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think it’s incredible the amount of effort you had to personally put into this. You know, being able to hire somebody and spending hours and hours every day combing through this, that’s not something everyone can do. Like you said, the trauma that you’ve experienced afterwards, most people are not in the frame of m mind that they’re even capable of doing that. So it’s just kind of incredible that you were even able to get to this point that you were.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, I mean, it was awful and traumatic, and it was a massive privilege that I was able to do this. And even while doing it and being traumatized and not being sure if it was going to work, I was still aware that I was, you know, benefiting from tremendous privilege that most in the system don’t have access to and have gone on to try to work on advocating for other people to have that same situation, because my situation changed greatly. And it’s very topical to this podcast, but by my ability to keep my child safe, you know, I’ve often sort of compared it to, like, leaving a burning building and leaving your child behind. I don’t know too many parents who would leave their child in a burning building. Most would stay. And, when I felt like I was making a choice between my safety and my child’s, it wasn’t much of a question for me.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s something I was hoping we could talk a bit more about. Because your situation is, I don’t want to say unique, but unique to some situations in that you were pregnant and had the baby during this two year span of your abusive relationship. And, you know, I know it’s not uncommon for abuse to escalate when a woman’s pregnant, but I don’t think this is someone, something that everyone knows about. So I’m wondering if you could share a little bit more about this.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not something that most people know about, but it is pretty common. One in six abused women is first abused during her pregnancy, and one in ten pregnant women who go to the hospital are there for a domestic violence related injury. And these are like, staggering, staggering number, women in the US who are pregnant or have recently given birth are more likely to be murdered than die from any obstetric cause. So this is a massive issue in our society. And in my situation, he really, really, really wanted me to get pregnant. That was something he really wanted. I’ve always wanted a child. And I realized I was pregnant and knew that this was not an ideal situation and that there was a problem here. And when I went to him about it, he was so happy. And I said, you know, but the mood swings. And at the time, what I thought was a mental health issue that he was dealing with, that I was trying very hard to help him with and get, to therapists and do all of these things to focus on his emotional state and not mine. and that was enough for me to say, you know, this might not be a very good time, but he was very, very happy, which I now understand was because I was now under his thumb. The level of control that someone has when you’re about to make a life together, it’s a life sentence. You continue to have to deal with this person for the rest of your life. You can’t just leave. It’s not, it’s not over. And exposing your child to that, is, for me, was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. So the physical abuse started, really escalated during the pregnancy, which is extremely common. And I just couldn’t understand and couldn’t believe that this person that I fell in love with, who I trusted, who was, you know, everything I had ever wanted, was using this situation against me and didn’t seem to have any sense of, like, there’s a person living inside of me who you’re endangering, who, like, I don’t deserve this. But if in some world you think I do, how could you think that this child had anything, like, deserves this? and it didn’t matter. It was just a form of control. and I didn’t know what to do. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t tell anybody I was pregnant for a very long time. I was extremely uncomfortable. and I didn’t really know how I was going to survive this pregnancy. I was told many times by him that I would not survive this pregnancy. and I. It was the hardest, absolutely the hardest time in my life. And it was at that point that I started to reach out for help. I left him at one point, I made him leave, hoping that he would get help, that things would improve and realize that it had just gotten worse. I was getting 300 text messages a day, threatening me, abusing me. And it, became that my rejecting him and not letting him live with me was causing him to suffer more. And that was making things worse, that he would try to get custody of the baby, that I would not be able to keep the baby safe. And I was so worn down and afraid and isolated that I just at one point was like, okay, so come home. And there was an incident where, he was physically abusive to me in the elevator of my condo building. My reaction, which was so amazing to me still in watching the video, is that I just froze. He got out of the elevator after assaulting me, and I just stood there and I was holding my phone. And I never thought to call the police and all, my initial thought at the time was, oh, God, the doorman saw that. I’m so embarrassed. They must think I’m such an idiot. And I never thought to myself, what must they think of him? And I had my building manager call me and say, we don’t want him to be allowed in the building. I watched what happened on tape, and you’re having a child, and this is incredibly dangerous. And I feel like I need to call the police. And I explained to her that I thought I would be in more danger if that happened, that I was afraid that I would have to share custody. And I then did what so many do, which was, he’s going to change, and he doesn’t mean to do it, and there’s something wrong with him, and he’s lost control. Her face while I was saying this, I was just so, so humiliated and so scared that this video existed. And that video ended up really helping me to get away from him and to get him convicted. But giving birth was something that was like the level of fear that I felt in advance of giving birth and wondering if I was going to be abused while giving birth, if I was going to have somebody whispering threats in my ear. I begged my best friend to please be there when I gave birth. Our sons ended up being born. Her child is four years older than mine, but my son was born on her son’s birthday, so she missed her son’s birthday that year to be at my delivery, but did not leave my side, and the support of having a person who will do that for you. Her and her husband came to my wedding, and her husband handed me a check at the wedding, and I said, oh, there’s no card, and you just put my name on it. And he said, yes, it’s for your first hour with a lawyer. And people knowing that there were people like that that had my back, that were going to help me out of this situation when I was ready, but that weren’t threatening to stop being my friend if I didn’t leave now and weren’t mad at me and didn’t think I was stupid, but really understood that I was stuck and that I knew better about my situation than other people is something that I’ve come to realize the value of that, because there were other people in my life that were aware or had suspicions who said things like, unless you leave, I can’t speak to you anymore. I can’t handle this. And I understood their boundaries and why it was too much for them to deal with. But that did not make me feel supported in leaving. It made me feel more isolated and trauma bonded to my ex because he became the only person I could talk to about the abuse. He was the only person I could really talk about what was happening openly with, and that creates a very unhealthy bond as well. once my son was born, this sort of shape of things changed in that his behavior was no longer just affecting me, and I no longer had an urge to want to help him. I now had someone helpless who did need my care, and I did not want to be taking care of an adult that was abusing me. And I came to realize that this was not a lack of control, but actually an assertion of control over me. I realized that he was able to be abusive and violent and seemingly out of control, and then say, oh, I have to go to record a podcast now. I’ll be right back and hear him walk into the other room and be perfectly fine. And I didn’t have the ability to get over it and be perfectly fine immediately, so that changed a lot. And once my son was born, I realized that, this was not going to be tenable forever. And I thought my best shot was to try to document everything and be able to tell my story so that when I could leave, I would have a shot at keeping us safe.

Jenna Mayne: Wow. It’s just, it is amazing that you had the support of your friend. I’m so glad you did have that. But I can understand just the shame that you must have felt. I’ve heard this from so, so many women who go through this. You know, you can’t even see why someone might think what he’s done is wrong, because you’re, you know, the course of control. You’re just trained to think you’re in the wrong at all times. Right? So the embarrassment you must have felt and, the fact that that prevented you from getting help, it’s unfortunate. But also, like you said, you knew your situation best. You kind of knew how to keep yourself safe and when would be the right time to reach out, and you were able to do that. So I’m glad about that. And I think the other part of the story that’s so interesting is, you know, his career and what he did and how he would just flip like a switch. And I find that so chilling, that part, of your story, just how he was able to go into another room and welcome to the show. You know, it’s just, it’s, it’s really sickening, really.

Amy Kaufman: It was chilling. And at the time, I used to stand at the door and, like, try to psych myself up to, I should just walk in. I should just walk in in the middle of this live television appearance and explain what just happened and what he has just done to me. I don’t think I would have been safe. And it’s also worth, saying that I did know my situation best, and I was able to keep myself safe, but I was very lucky that I was because I didn’t have a magic ball, and I didn’t know what would happen. I did not think that he would. That I would be strangled. I did not think it would ever get to that point. and so I’m really lucky that I didn’t become a femicide. Statistic that day or in any of the days leading up to it. So it’s a very difficult thing to tell this story. And to be clear that, you know, I. I’m very lucky that I was able to survive this situation. It helped a lot that I was able to have all of this evidence. It ended up helping a lot that I had stayed until the point of strangulation, but I took a massive risk with my life and my child’s life, by doing so. So I certainly don’t advise that other survivors wait.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, this is true. And I do want to point out, for anybody listening, if you are in a situation like this, it’s so incredibly important to make a safety plan. and I do want you to know that there are support services out there. You can call us women’s crisis services. You can call our support lines, visit our website, our online chat, and get support, confidential, anonymous support that you need. Those support services are available. And it is really important, like Amy saying, to seek this support if you are able to.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah. The thing that I really tell other survivors, because I hear from a lot of them, to tell somebody, just tell. If you can tell one person, and that person can be anyone, it can be a stranger, it can be someone like me who speaks about being a survivor that you reach out to. It can be your friend, it can be a professional. but reaching out for support is extremely helpful. You will find other people who’ve been through it who want to help you out of it, who will remove the shame. And like I often say, when people reach out to me to tell me that they’ve been in this situation, I’m like, it’s. It’s a horrible club that nobody should have to join, but we’re in really good company in it. And it’s really inspiring to meet all of these other women who’ve been through it and see how cool and smart and formidable and powerful they are. And I’ve had so many different survivors and speaking to me have said, you know, you’re so strong and smart and. And you didn’t deserve it. And I realized that I always thought that it would be all these women who were so soft and weak. And he made me feel like it was because I have a strong personality or because I would speak out or I would fight back, that he was abusing me. And now I realize that this isn’t just happening to a certain type of person, but it’s happening to everyone.

Jenna Mayne: Exactly. And I think that’s the important part. And that’s something we try and get across here with the podcast is she is your neighbour. It happens to people in every neighbourhood of every background matter who you are. This can happen to you, and it does. And it’s kind of cool to hear you talk about the inspiring women you’ve connected with, because I know you’re close with Jennifer Kagan Viater and Anna Maria Tremonti, and we’ve had them both on the podcast, and they’re both so inspiring, and amazing as well. So it is kind of cool to hear the connections you’ve made through this, despite how horrible it was. And that that should have never happened.

Amy Kaufman: It should. It should absolutely never have happened. and it’s weird for me to reel it to say that, like, I’m lucky, but in such an unlucky situation, I got extremely lucky. And that was in part because I had access to these resources to really prove my story and be able to tell it. The media surrounding the case, I’ve often said that, like, if every domestic abuser was turned into a pariah by the media and had, you know, tens of thousands of people on social media ripping them apart and telling their employers that they had to fire them and that this is not acceptable in society, and that we don’t want people like this at our dinner tables or on our televisions or doing our root canals or representing us in court, this would change. Men have gotten, people have gotten away with this for far too long, and they continue to do it. My abuser did. He believed that he would get away with it. He did not think that he would go to jail. He did not think his career was ruinable. He did not think anyone would believe me, and he didn’t think I would leave.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And the other person in all of this that I think is, interesting to mention is the judge that you had on your case, too, who. Who really, when we’re talking about being, you know, lucky in an unlucky situation, I think that judge, is also someone who. Just an incredible example, really, of what other. Other judges could be like. I wonder if you want to share a bit about this.

Amy Kaufman: Yeah. So the judge in the, criminal trial, which my ex ended up pleading guilty, to all of the charges, because there was so much evidence that there was not much else he could do, and on my 13th prosecutor, because that is how many prosecutors that I went through from beginning of calling the police until the trial was completed, the court process was also significantly longer than the relationship itself, which is also very common. But I kept getting passed around to different prosecutors, as many do. I ran the gamut of prosecutors from people who were wondering why I didn’t want my child to have a dad to other prosecutors who understood course of control and intimate partner violence, who were great, and finally landed on a prosecutor who was a, ah, unicorn. And I truly believe that all of this happened because of his hard work and diligence and because he was the first lawyer that I worked with who said, what do you want and what do you think should happen, and what do you think is the most important thing? You know more about your story than I do. At that time, I was already working in nonprofit with other survivors, and he. We had a meeting, and he was like, can you explain course of control to me? Can you explain how this happened? Can you explain what I need to know? Because I’m working with a lot of survivors, and I don’t feel like I have a full understanding of that. And I thought to myself in that moment, like, okay, we’re going to get somewhere now. And we decided that even though it went out of bounds, that my victim’s impact statement should probably be more than what they were asking for, which is a big risk, because the whole thing could have gotten thrown out. But I explained coercive control in my victim’s impact statement, and I talked about the experiences of the survivor, other survivors I was speaking to, and that this is the 13th prosecutor I’ve worked with and how difficult this system was, how traumatizing the system was, and just what my ex had tried to do. And I explained about, like, you may think this is. This is a lack of control. This is a person who can control himself. This is a person who was able to do media, who was able to do these things. In explaining all of that, the judge, first of all, listened and cried and showed empathy and understood that this was something that was happening all the time. He acknowledged that he would not have believed me if I had not had all of this evidence and what a huge issue that was and that the burden proof had basically been on me, both financially and emotionally. Instead of the crown, he had received 14 letters of support from my ex’s friends and family. And a, lot of people asked this question, so I will address it. They’re like, were there any baseball writers? There were not any baseball writers. nobody from his professional career supported him. But his friends and family wrote letters about how shocked they were, how much he had been through, and how impressed they were about how well he handled this and how well he was able to rebuild himself and rebuild a career and find a new girlfriend that works often, that works in. In other courtrooms. And the judge said, like, this just shows how insidious this problem is and how no one would have believed the victim if she hadn’t said anything. And this just shows that the abuser is able to show us one version of himself while behaving like a totally different person in his intimate relationships. The prosecutor had asked for twelve months. The judge sentenced him to 21 months. For the first time in three years or so, I could breathe. This feeling of safety that I had, that he was in jail was like. It was like a high, of being able to function and walk down the street and not look over my shoulder and not be afraid that when my child went to the park with his daycare, that my ex could show up. so that was great. I was really lucky again that, you know, there had been so much public interest. And I was able to send Anna Maria Tremonti a message saying, I think I’m ready to talk about my story. And I know you’re retired, but you’re kind of the only person I feel comfortable talking about it with. And she was like, okay, let’s do it. Doing that interview led to so many people reaching out, both who wanted to be able to do what I did, which was a very difficult conversation to have over and over and over, which ended in, if you don’t have the resources, there’s not much of a solution for you. the poor digital forensic specialist who worked for my case suddenly started getting multiple calls from me a day, being like, you have to do it for free. You have to do it for free for her. and he does, but he doesn’t have enough time to deal with all the survivors out there. And also from that interview, people started to reach out to me. People who were in sort of the tech sphere, who were like, this can’t really be. This can’t really be the way that this works. Am, I misunderstanding that you had to spend all of this money and read every text message, that there is no software that could do this. There’s software for corporations that need to call through hundreds of thousands of pages in explaining to them just how vast the problem was and how many people are experiencing this. We’ve got to a place of, okay, let’s try to build something that makes it so that other people can replicate what you did and make it so that their cases are taken seriously, so that police are pressing the right amount of charges. so that was a really wonderful thing. And where my career has sort of gone, and it also led to a lot of people watch these stories, and I didn’t realize the power of it until it was time for him, until his parole hearings, where I would. The parole board just kept rejecting his applications for parole. He only got out, when he was. When he had really completed his sentence. And it’s very rare, especially in Canada, that somebody is denied parole when they haven’t gotten into any trouble while in jail. But they were aware of just how insidious this was, how dangerous this was, and of just how well he hit it. And so in talking with them, and they called me and said, you know, we read your victim’s impact statement, and it really caused us to understand just what was happening and that him telling us that he was a changed person, we didn’t really believe that after seeing all of those clips and the support of the public comes into that, because a baseball writer who I won’t name, a male baseball writer who was so incredibly supportive and helpful and who I had never met, they had just worked together, and he was just an ally and a helper. And I got a call and he was like, I see the statement of facts and I see the dates, and they coincide with the dates of him doing live television. Would you like me to go sift through the archives and find all of the videos of the live television? And he went and spent days and days doing this for someone he had never met, for a child that he probably never going to meet my child. And he just thought this was the right thing to do. And the positive experience I had in coming forward was that I found helpers. And I realized that there are all these people who want to help. right now I’m sitting in a strategist’s boardroom, who offered to let me use his space in Toronto to record this, who’s helping me with this startup, because he sees the benefit of victims having access to a way to tell their stories and to be believed, and sees how important this issue is. I was very ignorant prior to being in an abusive relationship. I used to hear this subject and think, why didn’t she? What’s wrong with her? Why didn’t she leave? And I used to say things like, if my partner ever hit me, he would wake up at a funeral home. I would leave. I would be gone so fast. And it’s really easy to think that until you’re in the situation and not enough people understand that the same way that people join gangs or people join cults, people end up in abusive relationships, and there is a grooming process at the beginning that I wish that I had understood and maybe recognize that. That gut feeling I had that this seems too good to be true and something is off was completely accurate.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And it’s interesting, you know, just talking about the people who supported you and thinking about how we can support others. I know you’re doing so much work now to support other women who are going through this. and something we always like to ask as a part of this podcast is, you know, how do you think we can be better neighbours to people who are experiencing domestic violence? And I’m wondering what your thoughts are and if you could share some of the work you’ve been doing.

Amy Kaufman: yeah, definitely. So, I mean, I had really, really, really great neighbours. and when this all happened and my ex was arrested, my best friend and my brother went down the street and rang doorbells and told people what had happened. And I suddenly had like, a squad of teenage boys walking my dog and people dropping off food and neighbours who were so kind that they were like, we’re going to put in security cameras at our house just to make sure they’re actually going to face your house. Is that okay? But we just want to make sure you’re okay. And here’s our phone number. And I had neighbours checking on me and the support and people who were really clear that this was not something I should be ashamed about. And those who were generous enough to share their stories were really the ones that made the difference. So not every survivor is comfortable speaking about their story. And the onus should not be on survivors to have to tell their stories. But for those of us that are comfortable and feel safe telling our stories, there really is tremendous power in that. I’ve been in so many situations in the back of taxis, at hairdressers, at dentists, and just all sorts of situations where I will explain the work I do and they will say, oh, what made you do that work? And I’m like, well, I’m a survivor of domestic violence. And how quickly that leads the other person to being like, oh, I’m also one. Or my partner has a really bad temper, and I don’t really know if it’s abuse. And just these conversations need to happen. They need to happen more often. They need to happen with our children. This shouldn’t be a secret. Victims shouldn’t have to be hiding. Everything for me was so scary in the dark. And the moment that I turned the lights on and said, this is what’s happening, and I need help. So many people met me where I was and helped me, and I know that that’s not everyone’s situation, but there really are a lot of us who’ve been through this and who are working really hard to try to help other people out of it. So reach out to an organization, find a support group. Read, why does he do that? By Lindy Bancroft. Educate yourself, because the more that you learn about this, the more empowered you’ll feel and the more you will realize where the shame belongs. And that’s with the person who’s choosing to abuse.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that, Amy. I know you’ve been doing a lot of incredible work as well. Did you want to touch on some of that as well before we go here?

Amy Kaufman: Yeah. So, I mean, a few of the things that we’ve been working on, they’re different wiis. myself and a group of survivors do a lot of advocacy. One of them, whose name is Julie Ryu, is really inspirational. She’s a survivor as well. And she, initiated petition e 4517 after discussion with many other survivors about the parental alienation trend that’s taken over our courts. And I don’t think that people are as aware that this parental alienation has been deemed by the UN as a pseudoscience. And they have said that it needs to be banned absolutely everywhere. It’s being used in our court systems as a rebuttal to admissions of domestic violence. And when a mom leaves and says that she’s been abused, often dad’s lawyer will turn around and say, mom is alienating dad. Mom is making this up to torture him. it is often a very sexist stereotype that plays into the fact that women aren’t trustworthy and that they make up stories of domestic violence to get revenge on their exes. This is not based in any science. It’s not a part of the DSM, and it’s being used in court, by experts with no credentials. And the end result, and I’m sure you see this in your shelter, is that some moms are having their children taken away from them, and they’re being placed with abusers and their moms in Canada who don’t have any access to their children for reporting domestic violence. So it’s. This needs to be banned. the petition has gone through to the next round. We are hoping that, Minister Varani will get back to us soon and have a meeting about this, but it’s really great to have all of these safeguards for survivors, and it’s really great to change the system. But if we are being told that it may. That we may lose our children if we speak about domestic violence, then it doesn’t really matter what’s out there to protect survivors. If we can’t say that we are survivors. And far too many women are staying in relationships that are abusive because they’re afraid that this will be used against them in court. So that’s an important thing that we’re doing. And then the other thing that I’m doing full time, was I co founded exhibit. And we’re working very hard to build a platform that will allow litigants, and especially survivors of domestic violence, to do what I did in a much more palatable and affordable way that’s accessible to anyone who needs it. Where you can plug your phone in and using modern technology, which is so rarely offered to survivors of domestic violence, you can find the text messages that admit to abuse. You can find your notes. You can find photos and your video recordings. And the average couple is exchanging 60 to 70 texts a day. And in abusive relationships, it’s often much more. And the survivors that I work with all have evidence. They just don’t have a way to authenticate it and get it in front of a judge or get the police to look at it. And far too many survivors are having peace bonds for relationships that involve years of assault and abuse. And coercive control plays a huge part in this, and many of us struggle to explain exactly what it is, and it’s a pattern of behaviors. And we are working on using technology to identify this pattern so that you can then go to court and say, this was the pattern. It happened 48 times in the last year and show the full spectrum of what a, survivor is going through, so that judges who aren’t like the judge that I was in front of, who did understand course of control, have a chance at being believed and at getting proper outcomes and at going to family court and protecting their children. If I hadn’t been able to use my evidence, I would be sharing custody. I don’t know what that would mean. I don’t like to think about what that would mean for my child. but I have the happiest five year old who has never had to know this person, who understands some level of the story, but knows that we’re safe and knows that I fought really hard, and every survivor and their children should be able to say the same thing.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that, Amy. And thank you for all the work that you’re doing and just for being here for today. It’s just so incredible. And I’m just so grateful that you here and shared your story with us. So thank you so much.

Amy Kaufman: Thank you. And thank you for the really important work that you’re all doing to support survivors. It makes a massive difference.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation is far from over. We want to hear what you think. Use the hashtag she is your neighbour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Twitter and join in the conversation. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

The Consequences of
Using Violence

The Consequences of Using Violence with Pamela Cross

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

This episode is called the consequences of violence with Pamela Cross. Pamela Cross is a feminist lawyer, an advocate, and an expert on violence against women. Pam has been an expert witness on inquests and inquiries across Canada which make recommendations to prevent future violence and femicides from occurring. In this episode, we talk to Pam about the difference between an inquest and an inquiry, the consequences of criminalizing course of control, and what needs to change in our systems. This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence builds, leading to severe incidents and death.

I really enjoyed speaking with Pam for this episode. She has so much knowledge and expertise and really is a leader in the violence against women space. I’m so grateful that she took the time to speak with us for this episode. We follow the advocacy work that she does at Lukes Place, and we regularly look to her and to Lukes place for direction when it comes to major events like inquests, inquiries, or proposed law changes that are happening in the VaW space. Before we get started, id like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and dont hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Before we get into the episode, I want to share more background about the particular inquest and inquiry that we the Renfrew inquest and the Nova Scotia inquiry. Both the Renfrew inquest and the Nova Scotia inquiry happened in the summer of 2022 in response to tragic acts of violence that took place in Canada years before the Renfrew tragedy happened. In the summer of 2015, Carol Culleton, Natalie Wormadam, and Anastasia Cusack were killed by a mutual ex partner who went on a shooting rampage across the Ottawa Valley, targeting and killing all three women. The other incident happened five years later in Nova Scotia in the summer of 2020. During a violent attack, 22 people were killed by a man who had used violence against his partner for years. His partner was the first person attacked during the rampage, and even though she didn’t lose her life, she experienced many severe physical injuries. Both tragedies happened in different places at different times. But there is one common factor. The perpetrator was a man who used violence against women. There’s so much we can learn from these unfortunate events, and that’s why inquests and inquiries are called. Now onto the episode.

Jenna Mayne: Hi, Pam.

Pamela Cross: Hi, Jenna.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for being here today. I’m so excited to talk with you.

Pamela Cross: I’m looking forward to it.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah, I’m just really excited. I’ve been following you for a while, and, you know, everyone at our organization really looks up to you, so just really excited to get talking today.

Pamela Cross: Thanks.

Jenna Mayne: So when we start here, we always like to start by asking you to share a little bit about yourself. Of course I know a bit about you, but we just thought maybe you could share more about yourself. For all those listening, I work as.

Pamela Cross: A lawyer, as a feminist lawyer on the issue of violence against women. I’ve been doing that for 30 years. I didn’t actually go to law school until I was in my mid thirties. So I got started at the legal life a little bit later than lots of people do. I went into law school because I wanted to see ways we could use law as a tool for social justice. And really quickly, once I got to law school, I saw the many ways in which women were still discriminated against by the law, under the law. And I knew that was going to become the focus of the work I was doing. The way I ended up doing violence against women work was really. I, opened my practice, and women started coming through the door who had abusive husbands, who’d been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed. And I saw just this enormous need for them to have access to good feminist legal representation. And then my work kind of took off from there. For the last 20 years, it’s all been focused on system, work, rather than acting and working as a practicing lawyer. So I’ve been working with organizations across Canada doing research, training, resource development, and, lots of work advocating for law reform and that kind of thing.

Jenna Mayne: Well, that’s great. Thank you for sharing about that. And interesting to hear you about how you got into it and the age that you got into it, too. I didn’t know that about you, so it’s cool to learn. I was also wondering if you could talk a little bit about your role at Luke’s place and tell us what your role is, what Luke’s place does.

Pamela Cross: Luke’s place is an amazing organization, and it’s an example of how even out of a terrible tragedy, good can come. Luke’s place is named after a little boy, Luke, who, when he was three and a half years old, was killed by his father on an unsupervised visit. Luke’s mom had left the marriage because of her husband’s abuse, had gone into a shelter, and had gone to family court to ensure that Luke was going to be safe. She wanted custody, and she was successful with that, and she wanted his visits with his dad to be supervised. At the beginning, because she was concerned about her ex partner’s stability, she was not successful with that, and as a result, Luke died. After that death, the community came together. This is in Durham region, to say, what can we do? And by community, I mean regular folks, lawyers, vaw workers, counselors, cas, all kinds of people. And after a few years of hard work, Luke’s place was one of the outcomes of those consultations and conversations. So the organization came into being to provide a safe space and to provide support for women leaving relationships where they had been abused as they engaged with the family law system. My role there has changed over the years. I started out doing very small bits and pieces of work, and then I began to do more and more work. I was the founding legal director and really enjoyed that role. But for the last year and a half, I’ve been the advocacy director. So I’m not as involved as I used to be in the daily activities of the organization. My work is much more focused on law and policy reform.

Jenna Mayne: Great. Thank you for sharing about that. And I know it is quite a tragedy what happened to Luke, and it reminds me of Kira, too, and Jennifer Kegg, and it makes me think of them. we had Jennifer on the podcast a while ago, and it was really good to talk with her, despite the circumstance, to see what good can come out of dark situations like that. I’ve followed your work, and I know you’ve talked a lot about hope, too. And to keep moving in this work, you really do have to have hope.

Pamela Cross: I think, in terms of the long run, if we don’t have hope, we just become overwhelmed by our despair or even by our rage, such that we have no reason to think things will get better. And then once you’re feeling like that, why bother trying, right? So it’s hard to find hope a lot of the time, but I work very hard to come back to it as often as I can.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think that’s so important. I think for anyone working in this work, like you say, there’s just. There’s a lot of difficult, things that you hear and see. and it can be discouraging at times when you feel like you’re trying so hard, but I think you got to hold on to the hope. And that’s why I really love doing this podcast and getting to speak with different people, because I always hear stories of hope, and it makes me hopeful that things are going in a good direction, albeit slow. But I think we are on the right track. So I do think it’s hopefully. So, today we’re going to be talking about the legal system and if and how it can be used to prevent violence from escalating, and leading to tragic outcomes. So, I know you have been consulted as a witness and an expert in various inquests and public inquiries following tragedies related to gender based violence. I want to talk about those a bit today, but first, I’m wondering if you could tell us a bit about what a coroner’s inquest is, what a public inquiry is, and what the differences and similarities are between the two. So maybe we can start with a coroner’s inquest.

Pamela Cross: They’re really similar, so I’m actually going to talk about the two of them together. They’re very similar, but there are a couple of important differences. Inquests and inquiries are both called to look at terrible things that have happened with an eye to looking to the future. So neither one of them can find criminals liability. In other words, at the end of an inquest or an inquiry, nobody can be charged with a criminal offense because of what the inquest or inquiry found. But what that process can do is lead to recommendations for changes in the future so that the same bad thing doesn’t happen again. Inquests are provincial jurisdiction, so they’re slightly different in every part of the country in terms of how many jurors there are, and some of those kind of procedural matters, but in many ways, they’re the same. So they’re called by the provincial or territorial coroner. There has to have been a death. You can’t have an inquest if nobody has died, so there has to have been a death. Or as is the case in the inquest. Last year in Ontario, there were three deaths that took place, same perpetrator deaths, all happened on the same day. And then the inquest can call. It, has a jury, and the inquest can call witnesses and can request written evidence as well. The jury considers all of that, and then it makes recommendations. Those recommendations are not legally binding, and I think that’s really important for people to remember, even though we were just talking about hope. The fact that those recommendations are not legally binding on anybody. is not a very hopeful thing. Now, inquiries, by comparison, and they used to be called royal commissions. Now they’re called inquiries. So if you think about, the royal commission on this or the royal commission on that, it’s basically the same thing. They’re often federal. They can be provincial, and they can even be municipal, or they can be a combination of all of those things. The mass casualty commission, for example, that was an inquiry or a royal commission. It was a joint federal Nova Scotia inquiry. While there were 22 deaths, obviously, that led to that inquiry being called. There does not have to have been a death for an inquiry to be called. So that’s in some ways the biggest difference between inquests and inquiries. Inquiries are more formal. there isn’t a jury. There are commissioners who are appointed by whoever has called the inquiry. and the process is more formal. It’s more like a courtroom, it’s more like a trial, although it’s still definitely, less structured than that. But compared to an inquest, which can be quite casual, actually, but the same thing at the end, the commissioners can make recommendations. They are also not legally binding. And so if we look at the two that are sort of relevant, most relevant and most recent with respect to violence against women, the inquest in Renfrew county led to 86 recommendations directed at different levels of government and different bodies that have the authority to implement them. We’ve seen very little pickup, but there wasn’t a report. It’s like a verdict. The jury says, here’s our verdict, here’s our recommendations. The inquiry led to a very formal report that is thousands of pages long and many recommendations. Again, the commissioners of that commission don’t have any authority to force anybody to implement their recommendations, but, they sit there and hopefully at least some m of them will be, so I hope that’s helpful. If any of that’s confusing, just ask me a follow up question and I’ll try to clarify it.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, no, that’s great. Thank you for explaining that. I did have some idea of the difference between the two, but I knew they were so similar, and I find it a little bit confusing to follow, quite honestly. even though I’ve been really interested in following all the cases. So something you said there was interesting to me about how the recommendations are not legally binding. Would you, in an ideal world, think that they should be?

Pamela Cross: I don’t know. That’s a really interesting question to think about. I think that there needs to be some kind of accountability process. So that the government can’t just ignore them or can’t just say we reject them without having to account for why they’re saying that. The thing about an inquest or an inquiry and the recommendations it makes is that they’re made by laypeople. And so they may not all be practically useful or implementable. I don’t know if that’s a word, but anyway, right? So it’s almost like that, here’s what the jury thinks. Now we need a second round of. Let’s take a look at that so we can think about the pros and cons of it. But what’s troubling about the system the way it is now is there’s no requirement that there be a public process to do that. And it’s interesting that both of these proceedings, the Ontario one and the Nova Scotia one, led to recommendations that call for that kind of accountability. So, for instance, coming out of the inquest here in Ontario, one of the recommendations is to establish an implementation committee that would be made up of people from community based experts and government people to go through all of the recommendations and track what’s happening with them. That’s a really helpful idea because it doesn’t just leave it in the hands of the government, which has all of the politics and everything else that goes along with being the government. Right. And we don’t get to know why they’ve rejected a recommendation, unless they decide to tell us. But if we had an implementation committee that had some authority, we’d be able to hold their feet to the fire a little bit better. Doesn’t mean you’d implement every single recommendation, but you at least would know they each had careful consideration.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think that would be so helpful. And especially when there’s so many recommendations. Right? Like 86 is a lot of recommendations. So how do you weed through them? And they’re ordered by importance. But I think, it’s just a lot to get through. So that makes a lot of sense to me. And it’s just been. It’s really been interesting to see. And this is what your, Globe article was about, was to see what’s happened in, the province of Ontario since the Renfrew inquest. I know so many individuals and organizations have been delegating. That’s something we’ve delegated, you know, three or four times this year, to all the different townships and cities around our area in Waterloo region. And it’s been something that we feel is really important. But I wanted to ask you about your thoughts on it, too. Maybe we should just step back a little bit for, everybody who’s listening. I wonder if you could give some context to this and just talk about what’s been happening in Ontario since this inquest and how you’ve seen it unfold.

Pamela Cross: the first recommendation of the 86 was to declare intimate partner violence to be an epidemic. And that recommendation came directly from the jury. What happens over the course of an inquest or an inquiry is that the witnesses often make suggestions. You know, based on my expertise as da da da da da. Ah. I think the jury should recommend that the government do such and such or so and so. and obviously, that’s very helpful to the jury because they’re not experts in the field. They’re people picked at random from the community. So it’s always interesting when the jury also makes up some recommendations of its own, because then, you know, they were really listening and something really bothered them. Right. And so this one is a very grassroots recommendation, and it. It comes about because those five jurors were struck again and again and again over the three weeks of the inquest by how much intimate partner violence there is, how often it seems to go unacknowledged and unchecked. So since the, inquest, the government has said, no, the provincial government, no, we’re not going to make that declaration. But municipalities, often, because of advocacy by women’s organizations, violence against women organizations, municipalities across the province have said, well, we’re going to declare it to be an epidemic, because it is. We’re just looking at the numbers. You know, whether we’re in Toronto or whether we’re in a little tiny town in northern Ontario, the numbers are high. This is an epidemic. And I think that is something that the provincial government should be paying attention to in terms of what the people of its province want. But I think, more importantly, those conversations that are happening, municipality by municipality, that are being picked up by the media because there’s been incredibly good media coverage, they’re achieving the goal of that first recommendation. They’re bringing intimate partner violence out of the shadows. They’re putting it in the public. They’re saying it’s a public health issue. Those declarations, every one of them, is validating for survivors of intimate partner violence, who often feel like they’re the only one this is happening to. They feel isolated. They think it’s their fault. They feel a sense of. Of shame. Well, wait a minute. No, it’s an epidemic. This isn’t my fault. This isn’t about me. So on every level, those declarations are so powerful and important. And, I mean, I could be wrong by today because it seems like the numbers go up on a daily basis. But on Friday, there were 72 municipalities that had made the declaration, which I think is just incredible.

Jenna Mayne: It is incredible. I just thought it’s been amazing to see and to watch, unfold as well. And we can’t keep up. You know, we get called on by the media often. Our CEO, will talk and comment on what’s been happening, and we’ll have to keep looking it up ourselves to see how many have done it now, because every time you google it, it’s another one. And I was getting chills when you were talking, because I just think it’s a really cool thing that we’re seeing happen, and it’s really just amazing to watch.

Pamela Cross: Well, it takes us back to what we were saying a few minutes ago about hope. I think.

Jenna Mayne: I agree. I do. It makes you feel so hopeful because something that has been so covered up and so in the shadows for so long, it’s not just being brought to light once it’s over and over and over again. So I just think that that kind of ripple effect, it’s making waves and it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes. It is.

Pamela Cross: And obviously, at the end of the day, what we want to see are fewer women being abused by their partners. We want to see fewer domestic violence homicides. and we haven’t seen either of those things yet, but I think we’re laying the groundwork with these declarations happening across the province.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think so, too. What exactly would you like to see? Is there anything concrete, ah, that you would like to see come out of this that we haven’t really covered yet?

Pamela Cross: Or do you think in terms of the inquest? I think there are some systems that really need to improve. I don’t think the probation system is working well in Ontario. This case was a particularly dramatic example of that. but it’s not a unique situation where perpetrators of intimate partner violence are released on probation. They fail to meet the terms of their probation order, but nobody really follows up. I think that’s something that has to be looked at very closely. One of the other things we learned in the inquest is that the par programs, the partner assault response programs, don’t work particularly well, because there’s just one program, and whether you’re an 18 year old and you’ve had one situation where you were abusive to your partner, or you’re like the perpetrator in Renfrew county, older person with 40 years of abusing women, you get the same program. So we need to look at those programs. What do they need to offer so that they can be meaningful and helpful to anybody who enters them? They need to be more broadly available and on the survivor side. You know, I hate to always talk about money, but we need to continue to. We, meaning the government, needs to continue to better fund programming for survivors. We need to make sure that women and children can be safe, whether they live in downtown Toronto or in a remote part of the province in the north, whether they can have a police officer at their door in five minutes, or there’s no police officer who’s going to come to the door. We, need our family laws to be more responsive and better understanding of intimate partner violence when courts make orders about who the children spend time with and how parents make decisions. So there’s a lot of system change that we need to see. And really, I. I think of the recommendations coming out of that inquest as a roadmap for those changes. It’s all there. We just have to, as a society, have the commitment and the passion to insist that those changes happen.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that. And I agree, it’s interesting to hear you talk about the par programs and their effectiveness, because that’s something we’ve been talking a lot about at our organization, and we just started a new program, working with three men, and it’s an engaging men program. Jude, who runs the program, he feels really passionately about the subject, and he’s actually, a guest on this season of the podcast as well. So it’ll be interesting to hear him talk about it. But he likes to talk a lot about accountability of men, and I know that’s something I’ve read about. You have talked about a lot as well, and I think that’s a key piece of it. You know, I think when we’re talking about engaging men programs and par programs and what we can do better, something I’ve heard our facilitators say, is, you know, you have these brief windows of our opportunity with men, and how can you turn the windows into a doorway? How can you, you know, open up the discussion, and how can you get them to take accountability? Because I think that’s a really big piece of it. I don’t know if you had any thoughts about that, that you wanted to share.

Pamela Cross: Well, I think of two things in response to what you just said. The first is that many of the men who cause harm in their intimate relationships, have been harmed themselves, and they need opportunities to heal from the harm that has been done to them. To be accountable, absolutely. For the harm they have caused, and then to learn new ways of being in the world and being in an intimate relationship. We don’t give men enough opportunities for that. You know, you charge a guy criminally, that doesn’t create any meaningful opportunity for accountability or healing or learning. It’s all about, okay, how can I get out of this charge? How can I get it reduced or have it, you know, thrown out? Oh, I don’t want to have to go to jail. It’s really not about the growth that that person needs to go through. So I think that’s one of the things we have to be thinking about as we consider our response. And that’s not to say that we’re letting them off the hook. You know, real accountability is. Is a very painful process for somebody to go through. But the other thing that. That your comments, made me think about is that. And we heard this from, Malcolm Warmidam, the son of one of the murdered women, on the very first day of the inquest. He said, you know, by the time any of this started to, unroll, even months before the murders, it was too late. The intervention that was needed, needed to come 40 years before. So we need to go back earlier and earlier and earlier. We need to look at children who are in families where they’re being exposed to abuse, whether they’re the direct victim or not. Prevention education has to start early. There’s no age when it’s too young, really, to talk to children about how hard it is to be in an intimate relationship and how they need to work hard to develop the skills, to be able to be a healthy partner, that kind of thing. So the prevention piece, and there’s a lot of recommendations coming from the inquest about that. But also, let’s build programming for men who have already been abusive. That really gives them the opportunity to heal and become different and better men as a result of it.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think that’s so important. I think, again, we’re starting to scratch at the surface and chip at the iceberg and go in the right direction, but I think they’re still so far to go. But it does make me hopeful. Having these conversations and knowing so many people are working on it in different areas. I think it is moving forward. It’s just, a slower place than we might like.

Pamela Cross: well, it’s not surprising, right? Patriarchy has existed since the beginning of time. Violence against women has existed since the beginning of time. It exists across all cultures, all races, all religions, all economic, socioeconomic, groupings of people. So it’s not like there’s a magic wand where we can just quickly go like this and it’s all fixed. We have to, as a society, unlearn centuries and centuries and centuries of, attitudes and behaviors.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, exactly. And it’s going to take time. That’s not going to happen overnight. That’s a big job. So it’s definitely going to take a while. I know we were talking about the Renfrew inquest, but I’m also aware that you participated in the Nova Scotia mass casualty inquiry as an expert witness on intimate partner violence, and I did want to ask you a bit about what that experience was like.

Pamela Cross: Oh, it was very interesting, for sure. I went almost immediately from the inquest to the inquiry, and it was a bit, I don’t mean to sound flippant when I say this, but it was a bit like going from an off Broadway play to a Broadway play, you know, in Renfrew county. The inquest was very serious matter, but it was small, it was quiet, it was quite informal, and there was a lot of, conviviality among all of the people who were involved. So it wasn’t really rigid, like, you’re representing this person and you’re representing that person. The inquiry was a massive event. It had been going on for a long time before the hearings started in the summer of 2022. The families of the murder victims, many of them, were present. and that added a whole other tone to the proceedings, and it was a much more formal process with the commissioners sitting across the front of the room on a raised stage. there were multiple lawyers, like so many lawyers, representing many different parties, the family members, but also community organizations, different governments, the police, and so on. So it was a much more formal process, but I felt like it was a very effective, way for the commissioners to hear a wide range of information about, like, the part I was there for was the part that was looking at the relationship between, intimate partner violence and mass killings. And so it was very focused for those couple, two to three weeks, and I felt like the process that they used was a very effective one to allow the commissioners to become better informed and better educated about that connection. You know, Canada thankfully hasn’t had a lot of mass killings, and so this is really the first time we’ve had an opportunity to look at that question in this country. The United States, they’ve done a lot of work in this area, but this is relatively new for Canada.

Jenna Mayne: That’s so interesting to hear. And, yeah, it is so cool. I think, obviously, it was a tragedy, but I think it’s also such a unique opportunity we have to shed light on that. So it’s so cool that you were able to be a part of that and talk about that. What did you find? The reaction was from people when you were speaking at that?

Pamela Cross: I don’t know if I can answer that question because it was a very formal process. We were, those of us who were on this panel, I was on a panel, were put in a room away from other people. We were then led into the room, sort of, you know, in a way that kept us separate from the people who were observing. And also, as with the inquest, many people were watching online who, you know, I never had any contact with. I’m sure some of the things that some of us said were not pleasing to the families of the victims. But certainly I did talk with some of my colleagues in Nova Scotia at the end of that day, and I think they found what we had said to be very hopeful, very challenging. And it’s really good to read the report. And you can see how much of what the witnesses said over the course of that period of time has found its way into their report. And I just want to say, I really recommend nobody’s going to read the whole report, probably because it’s extremely long, but people really should read chapter three. It’s long, too. It’s several hundred pages long. But I think it’s the best thing I’ve read, written in this country about intimate partner violence. It’s really, really good reading.

Jenna Mayne: Thanks for sharing that. I’m glad you pointed that out. That could be a good resource for people listening. I do want to go back, and ask you one follow up question to that. You said you thought some of what you said might have been displeasing to the families. I just wondered if you could explain. Explain why.

Pamela Cross: Well, a whole issue arose shortly before the commission, began its hearings with respect to the perpetrator’s common law partner and whether she had any responsibility for his actions that night. And obviously, those of us who work with survivors say she did not whatsoever. She was a victim. She did the best she could to keep herself safe. she didn’t have any idea what he was planning to do that night, and she herself had been severely assaulted by him at the beginning of his, shooting rampage. But I think that hearing that was probably painful for some family members, who I understand they need somebody to blame, and the real perpetrator is dead, but his partner remains. So I think that may have been hard for some of them.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s understandable. Thank you for sharing that. While we’re talking about this, it’s also just getting me thinking of all the different types of domestic violence and intimate partner violence that there are. And I know we’re talking about physical, violence when we’re talking about cases of femicide, and we’re talking about people who have been physically injured. but there is another type, and it’s course of control that we’ve heard a lot about recently, and there’s been a lot of conversations about whether we should include course of control in the criminal code. And I know you have thoughts on this, and I wanted to ask you, today what those thoughts are.

Pamela Cross: I’m not in favor of criminalizing coercive control. It exists, obviously, it’s a serious kind of abuse. When I was practicing law, it wasn’t the term we used. We tended to think of it as emotional or psychological abuse. But coercive control is a way better term for it because it really names it for what it is. And I had many clients who would say to me, I, wish he would just hit me, because then people would believe that I’m in a bad relationship and I could call the police and he could be charged with assault. So for them, the fact that this kind of abuse wasn’t really understood was very problematic and challenging. So, we absolutely have to deal with it. The family law now has coercive control as part of its definition of family violence. And I think that’s great, because in family court, unlike in criminal court, you can look at the whole history of a relationship. You’re not trying to decide, is this person guilty of having done this specific event on this specific date? You’re looking at, well, what’s the history of this family, and how should that affect where the children live? How much spousal support gets paid? You know, how the property is divided up, all that kind of stuff. Right. And so I was really happy when coercive control made it into the divorce act and Ontario’s children’s law reform act a couple of years ago. But to criminalize it is a really different matter. It isn’t a single episode. You don’t have a coercive control. You have a pattern of coercive control. And that’s not really what the criminal law is designed to respond to. So what makes the pattern? Does it have to happen two times, seven times, 20 times? there’s nothing visible. Often it’s something that only the two people understand. It’s a look that he gives her that she knows. oh. If I don’t toe the line here, there’s going to be a physical consequence, because that’s what’s happened in the past. So how do you explain that to a police officer? Well, when he looks at me a certain way, I’m, frightened. Because in the past, when he looked at me like that, he hit me or smacked me around. So I just think it’s going to be a very difficult offense to make real enough that meaningful charges can be laid. I mean, I also. And we definitely don’t have time to talk about this today, but I have questions about why we’re criminalizing a lot of things related to domestic violence when we should be looking at healing and more restorative or transformative justice models. But I think to, criminalize coercive control is setting women up for disappointment, is creating a context in which those charges could be used against them by a clever abuser who can make it look like, well, she controls me, too. She tells me I have to be home at 10:00 at night. She tells me I have to take out the garbage. And, we’ve seen that happen before, of course, when mandatory charging policies were introduced, where they were intended to protect women, but, in fact, women found themselves being charged. So I just think we need to approach it with a great deal of caution. We should do public education. We should do education of all the players in the criminal system before we make it a law.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think public education and prevention are so important, for people’s understanding of what domestic violence and intimate partner violence is and what it even looks like. Because, same as you, I’ve heard women say many times that they. They wish there was physical violence, which is heartbreaking to hear, but you understand it the more you work in it, because the physical violence, it kind of starts and it ends. And that’s what I’ve heard from women, exactly where the course of control, it goes on and on, and it’s. It’s everything about who you are and how you. You act and behave and are able to live your life. So, I’ve heard women say, you know, that was worse for me than the physical violence.

Pamela Cross: Yeah, I’ve talked to a lot of women who say that, and like you, I completely understand it. If somebody can get inside your head and make you feel like you’re a worthless human being, you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re crazy. Nobody’s ever going to believe you. Nobody except me would ever want you. How do you recover from that? I don’t think making a criminal charge is what’s going to, ah, switch the light and make everything turn around for her. We need a very different kind of response to it than that.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, ah, exactly. And I know we’ve talked a bit about prevention and public education, but I also wanted to ask you something. We always ask podcast guests is, how you think we can all be better neighbours to women, children experiencing domestic violence? I’m curious your thoughts.

Pamela Cross: It’s really important, and it’s also really hard. I want to say that right up front. This is the work I do. It’s the only thing I do. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I still struggle with that. How can I be an intervener rather than a bystander? What if by doing something, I make it worse for her later? Right? Once the front door gets closed and I’m on the other side of it. but I think we have tools. we have a duty to watch out for our neighbour, whether that’s our actual next door neighbour or a work colleague, somebody we go to school with, someone at our religious institution, a cousin, an aunt. We do. We’re citizens of the world, and we should be looking out for one another. The first thing is to make sure that you know a little bit about what services and supports are available in your community so that if that person opens up to you, you’re not sitting there going, oh, gosh, gee, I wish I knew what I could suggest to her. Like, make sure you know that always follow the woman’s lead. You know, say you reach out because you’ve seen or heard something that makes you really uncomfortable, and she says, I don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, but you know I’m here when you do, right? You don’t push it. You don’t obviously start the conversation when it’s not a safe place to do that. Learn some of the red flags and warning signs, because they’re not all obvious. It’s not just the woman with the black eye or the broken arm that she can’t explain. Neighbours, friends, and families, which I’m sure many of your listeners are familiar with, is a really, really helpful tool. And I do encourage people to have a look at that. we’ve been working with neighbours, friends, and families over the past few months to develop a specific brochure for rural communities because, intimate partner abuse can look quite different. There are different barriers and so on. So that’ll be an added resource to neighbours, friends, and families shortly. Be ready to hear and help. Take your lead from the woman and always be nonjudgmental.

Jenna Mayne: Great. Thank you so much, Pam. It was so great to have you here today and learn from you. I feel like I could talk to you all day, but I know we sadly can’t do that. But thank you so much for being here.

Pamela Cross: Well, thank you for the invitation. Really enjoyed the conversation.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you. Me too.

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

We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

Compounding Violence in
Queer Relationships

Compounding Violence in Queer Relationships with Iona Sky

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

This episode is called compounding violence in queer relationships with Iona Sky. Iona is a social worker, an educator, and an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant. After experiencing domestic violence in a past relationship, Iona recognized a gap in messaging and support for queer people. In this episode, Iona talks about some of the unique struggles that are faced by people with intersecting identities. We also talk about the importance of highlighting intersectionality when talking about complex social issues. This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence builds, leading to severe incidents and death.

I really enjoyed this conversation with Iona. There were so many different parts of her story that stood out to me. She identifies as queer, as an immigrant, as a parent, as a person with invisible disabilities, and she’s also a survivor of domestic violence. We talked a lot about layered trauma, about not having a one size fits all approach when we’re supporting individuals experiencing domestic violence. We talked about microaggressions and knowing and understanding that domestic violence happens to people of all backgrounds, and we need to be able to provide support for them and meet them where they’re at. Before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


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

Iona Sky: Hi, Jenna. It’s lovely to see you, and I’m thrilled to be here today.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m so excited to chat with you. We’ve been looking forward to this. I know we’re going to have a great conversation today, so I just really, really appreciate you being here.

Iona Sky: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jenna Mayne: So, can we just start by you sharing a little bit about yourself for everyone to get to know you a little better?

Iona Sky: So, my name is Iona sky. My pronouns are they, them, she, and her. And I am just thrilled to be on this podcast for myself. A little bit about me. I’m a social worker by background. Majority of my career was in child welfare. I’ve also been doing, consulting on the side in equity diversity and inclusion. And I teach at the university in the social work program. other bits about me. I am an immigrant to Canada. I wasn’t born here. I’m from India, and I grew up in the Middle east. And I moved to Canada, when I was a teenager. I am queer. I live with invisible disabilities. I’m a mother. I’m a partner. and I’m a member of, this, community here in Kitchener Waterloo in beautiful province of Ontario. And I’m really proud to be a part of this project and get to talk about how domestic violence impacts on different communities.

Jenna Mayne: Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself. We’re so excited to have you here today, and I’m just really excited for our conversation to get talking and learning from you. So I’m just really grateful. So today we’re going to be talking about how violence can escalate, especially in the 2SLGBTQ community. And we’re also going to be talking about why intersectionality is such an important part of this conversation. So I was wondering if you would be able to start by maybe just sharing a little bit about your own story with us.

Iona Sky: Yeah, absolutely. so, for me, Jenna, as I was preparing for this interview, I really reflected on my journey, both in Canada and as well as. As a child and for myself. I’ve experienced different versions of domestic violence and violence, whether it was being a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and as a teen, to witnessing domestic violence in. In friends homes and as well as also experiencing it as an adult, as somebody who is queer. As I shared, I live with my own, identities and intersectionalities. And so, for me, all of the different parts of not only who I am, but my, journey, so far, through different countries and now in Ontario and in Canada, have really impacted how I have come to understand how domestic violence can manifest in different spaces and places and communities. And so I think it’s really important to think about how do we support one another? How do we support, people who are experiencing intimate partner violence? Because as somebody who has lived through it, and I’ve just turned 50, I finally feel like I am free from, that violence and in a safe place that I want to share and bring visibility to how intersectionalities can impact on how communities experience violence, and particularly when we think about domestic violence and intimate partner violence.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that with us. I really appreciate you sharing that. It really means a lot. And you talked about a few interesting things there. Just talking about how the intersectionalities, of who we are can impact our experiences. I was wondering if maybe you would share a little bit more about that.

Iona Sky: So, for myself, growing up, I never heard about domestic violence. There was no language around it. I saw it and I witnessed it in different spaces, but did not know. I didn’t know that that was not okay. And moving to Canada and Ontario and being in this, country for now, almost 30 years, you know, it took me a while to understand, what does domestic violence look like? Because there is a lack of visibility. We don’t talk about domestic violence, as much as we should, just for everyday conversations, let alone how it manifests in, marginalized communities, whether you are racialized, whether you live with disabilities, whether, you are part of the two s. LGBTQIA communities, whether you are, experiencing poverty. Classism is a huge intersectionality that we don’t talk about how that impacts on people and impacts on also not only how to get support, but also what do we do after that, and how do we not only recognize what is happening and seek and get the right supports, but also how do we move forward and heal, and live our best lives? Because for myself, I never saw myself represented in any of the communications, in any of the flyers, the websites, as not only a racialized person, but somebody who’s queer. There’s a lot of invisibility, as I shared, about, domestic violence as it is. And then when we add on the layers of, for example, being queer, I had somebody say to me, and this is a senior leader, say to me, what? That domestic violence exists with lesbians, with queer folks. I thought with two women, it would be perfect. So thinking about, you know, what are the stereotypes that are out there? Because, you know, as it is, we have to fight for our rights every day, especially as we see the cyclical nature of, societal homophobia and transphobia and racism. And we only need to see what’s happening in our communities to see that right. As it is, we fight for acknowledgement of our basic human rights and then to have to also say, no, you know, we are also a microcosm of the larger society, and domestic violence occurs across all cultures, all identities, all races. And when you don’t see yourself not only represented, but also people talking about how dysfunction can occur in relationships, you know, there’s always this pretty picture of healthy and what relationships should look like that. I never had any visual representation of how struggles might occur in relationships. And there’s that difference between regular couple struggles that happen where different people in relationships, of course we’re going to disagree. I say to my partner, if we don’t disagree, then something’s not happening right here. Right? So there’s that. Those regular differences of opinion, and then there’s abusive behaviors. And when we don’t talk about or bring visibility to what those harmful behaviors can look like, it’s very hard to seek help, because it’s very hard to also recognize it, because as somebody who lives in my body, during the time when I experienced abuse in previous relationships, I did not. I was under so much. I say it was a haze, because it was a haze of control, and I lost who I was. And so I not only lost who I was, I also couldn’t recognize what’s healthy or what’s not healthy, because I also didn’t have any representations of that. And so when I think about the future and how do we support people? How do we support and make changes? Like, you know, I start that, and I’ve always started that, even in my own home. And how we raise our son, the conversations that we have with him, because it’s also bringing visibility, not, only as an adult, but also for what young people hear and what they see. Because I truly believe that if you don’t have safety and peace and well being as a child, it’s very hard to find that as an adult. And for me, you know, this is why I do the work that I do with bringing visibility to issues of diversity, of inclusion, of belonging, of equitable outcomes. How do we make changes so that everybody receives the best level of service and supports from organizations such as yours, Jenna, and the good work that you all do. Right. How do you provide, that service for everybody who steps through that door? Because my experience has been, is that systems and organizations have been structured through the lens of a one size fits all. We are unique human beings, each and every one of us. So how can we provide supports, services, and engagement and conversations, right? And I think, all of those intersectionalities and all of those parts of my identity and the oppressions that I face through the intersectionality, the mixing of, you know, racism, homophobia, classism, all of those things, they have impacted, you know, my ability to not only seek out support, but to, Because I didn’t know what was out there, but to also get to a place where picking up that phone call or opening those doors, that’s where, you know, it is creating that sense of community. And I love the name of this podcast and this awareness campaign of she’s your neighbour, because we are all neighbours in this together. And so that’s why also, it breeds my passion, my intersectionality, my experience of intersecting systems of oppression in my life have impacted what I do and my passion for this work, and which is why I’m on this podcast, to bring visibility for the people who might not have seen themselves in the past, and that violence happens in all relationships, and it’s not okay that that happens and that, together, you know, we can make a change together to not only, you know, proverbially help people, who are in the river, help pull them out of the river, but also find out how are they being pushed in on the top. Right? Who’s push. How are they being pushed in the river? Through systems of patriarchy, of sexism, of oppression, of classism? How does that manifest and have barriers and. Yeah, yeah. So those are all different ways that, when I think about my identity identities and the, the things that I have faced in my life have really contributed to not only the barriers that I experienced in seeking help, but also the ways in which those barriers have been removed to help me towards healing for my future.

Jenna Mayne: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s really just amazing to hear about your journey and kind of what you’ve gone through and how it’s led you to become a social worker, to become a consultant working in equity, diversity, and inclusion. It’s really cool to hear your story and why you’re doing this, to kind of break down those barriers. So I really, really appreciate you sharing all this, Iona. I think it’s really impactful. You said some really interesting things there, too. You mentioned that you yourself identify as a racialized person, you’re a queer person, and you explained that because of that, there are different barriers that you face. And, you shared that one story of someone who you worked with who didn’t quite understand your scenario. I’m wondering if you could explain, are there other kinds of unique struggles that queer people experience when it comes to domestic violence? I’m wondering if you are able to elaborate on this a bit more and why a queer person might not come forward if they’re experiencing domestic violence.

Iona Sky: Yeah, absolutely. I think that there are many reasons. I think there is still the shroud of shame, when it comes to talking about domestic violence, when it comes to it existing, in families, and when you layer that on with the, homophobia, the transphobia that exists, and also the heterosexism and cissexism that exists, and what that means is the assumption of relationships being a male or female and female that dichotomy and the assumption that everybody is born into the body that aligns with who they are. And so some of the barriers and why I say this is that, because I experience some additional barriers, like when seeking help, count made the assumption that, you know, because I present in a certain way that is more non binary than perhaps, say, some of my ex partners who presented in a more stereotypically female looking presentation, people made assumptions about where the problems of domestic violence were. So talk about layering of violence that you experience when you’re trying to get help, being assumed that you are the person who is harming the other person when you are in fact, being harmed. Other things that, queer folks in particular might not want to come forward is not knowing whether they will be safe in a shelter. Will they experience people who understand the unique struggles that they may have? Because as, as I shared, you know, there’s already a lot of stigma and shame and silence around domestic violence in heterosexual relationships, let alone queer relationships, right. I have been involved in a lot of advocacy work for queer rights, throughout my time here in Canada, right, from the rights to same, sex marriage, to spousal rights to having children, to all sorts of things. And so when you sometimes when you fight for those rights, right, there’s this additional pressure to also appear like everything is fine and because you feel that extra pressure, whether it’s perceived or real, right. that you have to represent your community well. And so to then seek out supports and say, no, you know, we are our microcosm of largest society. And that just like racism exists in the queer community, that. That was a shock to me when I came out. I didn’t expect to experience that. also I’ve experienced that lack of understanding in the helping professions and experience homophobia, heterosexism from, people, not only who don’t understand how those things can manifest, because I think when people think about homophobia and transphobia, their mind always goes to the violent acts, the physical acts, the things that show up in the media. And absolutely those are forms of violence. There are those everyday acts of aggression. Some people call them microaggressions. And the micro is not because it’s small, it’s because it happens every day on an individual basis, right? And it’s those microaggressions that people may experience by making assumptions about what relationships, what queer relationships can look like on where and on how the violence can manifest for me, you know, other things that would have been really helpful, living in my identity, would be being able to see, getting the information on how domestic violence can exist in its various forms and having that information accessible. Right. to me, to be able to understand it at that time on where I was. And so when I think about how can organizations do better and do differently, it’s about also thinking about how do you communicate, not only on your website sites, your written material, but also within your organizations, with the people who you support, both in the shelters, with your outreach, understanding the unique struggles that they experience. And so I want to expand the conversation, if I could, Jenna, to not only about career communities, but also other marginalized communities and how intersectionalities can. Can contribute to their experience. One thing that I’ve also seen as areas of growth for organizations, and this is not only the organization supporting survivors, but also all organizations, whether it be healthcare, child welfare, mental health, is an understanding of intergenerational trauma, understanding of war, understanding of embodied trauma, how we embody the, what has happened to us. Thinking about also the lack of services that marginalized communities face on. On an everyday basis, whether you think about access to employment, to food, to childcare, to transportation, all of these things exacerbate and add to the safety or lack of safety that people might experience. Because when you think about also class, and we know that racialized women make the, least amount of money, when we think about income earners and people and racialized people who live with disabilities, who are queer talk, then it goes even more. And so those are some of the barriers that might keep people in relationships where it’s unsafe for them. Because, you know, I’ve had to think about in my lifetime, where will it be safer for me, where I am or going somewhere where I might experience all sorts of other things? Because. Because people do not understand not only me, but what I experience in the world. Because when you compound, once again the oppressions of racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, sizeism, all of these things, right? Those are. It’s like it adds one on top of the other, and those are heavy loads for people to carry on their backs. And so I think about, how can we as people in the helping professions, and also not only in the helping professions, we are on this earth together and together, you know, I do believe that we can make change. And this is why I do the work that I do. Because, you know, as especially now in these times, budgets are getting crunched, and so, you know, organizations are struggling to just meet their mandate. And so when you think about then going deeper into their mandate, moving from a one size fits all to a serving everybody in the best way that meets their cultural and identity needs. We need a team approach and a community approach, from the governments to the funders to the organizations to you and me as members of this community, Jennifer, because, you know, some of us have, heavier knapsacks to carry. And so I believe, especially as social workers, you know, we have taken it upon ourselves to help alleviate some of those burdens through podcasts such as this, through advocacy, through moving through advocacy, from education to action to implementation. When you think about how can places change, right, first you start with educating yourselves, educating yourselves on what are people experiencing, and also how do systems, continue, right. How do we change? How do we change how we’re doing? And then to move to how do we create organizations through policies and procedures, through communication, through how do we represent, people in our walls, in organizations, on our websites, on our, how we communicate out to the world, who do we engage with? How do we bring visibility to all communities, right? And recognizing that violence can also disproportionately impact certain communities. And I’m sure that for yourself and the other staff who do the work that you do every day, you see those disproportionalities by the women and children who walk through your and the identities and their lived stories, right? And also, I think another thing that’s really important, when we think about intersecting identities and intersectionalities and how they can contribute to, domestic violence, there are a lot of myths and stereotypes that are out there about different cultures, different religions, different identities. And as I said before, we know, we know through research, through data, through lived experience, that domestic violence impacts everybody. And so what I always say to folks is, you know, we are trained through what we see, through what we experience, to, get a certain picture in our brain when we think about domestic violence, when we think about anything, those are our biases and how we are we, how our brains work, right? And so I always say to folks, challenge yourself. Because when I, when something comes to my brain, I always say, oh, no, why did you think of it in that way? Right? Why did you cross the street? Why did you go, oh, I’m a little bit worried about that person? Why? Right. And ask yourself that. Challenge your assumptions. Because when we look at violence, and particularly domestic violence, through the lenses of myths and stereotypes, we’re rendering certain people invisible. And not only invisible, by rendering them invisible, then they’re not only represented, but they have no voice at all. And so then we’re further harming them.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that. I think it’s so important, and it makes me think of something you said earlier in the conversation, about when you were experiencing domestic violence, that you lost who you were and that you were in this hate. And I think thinking about that, that just shows why it’s so important that organizations show that they are accepting and supportive and putting the messaging out there to marginalized communities that we are here to support you. Because when someone is in a haze or a fog like that, how are we going to get through to them? It’s even harder, right? Especially when there’s all these layers that you’re talking about that will already prevent them from seeking support or coming forward in the first place. So I just really appreciate you sharing that, and I think it makes so much sense.

Iona Sky: Thank you, Jenna. Yes, absolutely. It really. I did feel like. Like I was in a haze, and that’s the impact of what violence can do to you physiologically. and so you hit a really key piece about. About the importance of having visibility and representation, because, you know, for myself, as a queer person, my eyes are trained to look for that rainbow. Look at spaces for a rainbow sticker to show whether people identify themselves as a queer friendly space. Because I always say to folks when I do this work through my, through my consulting as well as through my university, teaching, is that please do not put a sticker up unless you’ve done the work to educate yourselves. Because once you put that sticker up, you are indicating to people from the US LGBTQ community, from whatever community, whatever sticker you’re putting up that anybody in that organization is a safe person for them to speak to, to come out to. To share their worries to. And the worst thing is that you have somebody come out to somebody who’s not safe, and they feel further silence. And so I always say to people, please do the work of educating yourselves. You know, really thinking about, what does this mean for your everyday practice? What does this mean when you’re sitting across from somebody who, you know, has taken that step to make that phone call, to enter that form online, to say, I need help, what. What do you need to do? How can you approach them in a way that further supports them and doesn’t shut them down? And so. So, yes, representation, visibility are key, and then do that after you’ve done the work behind it. Awesome.

Jenna Mayne: thank you. So much. I also want to ask you, we always ask podcast guests how we can all be better neighbours to those experiencing domestic violence. And I know you have touched on this a bit already, but I was wondering if you had any final thoughts on this.

Iona Sky: Yes, absolutely. Because I believe that we can all be good neighbours in supporting one another. And when you see something, say something, do something, and it doesn’t have to be a big thing. I’ll share one final story of something that, happened to me and my son when I was at a local mall here. And this is when he was about ten years old. He and I were shopping, and, I noticed that there was a young couple who were walking into the store, and they were arguing. And I noticed that the, male partner, I kept, like, pushing her, and she was crying. And I said to my son, I told him, okay, please just stand here. Just watch what’s happening, but don’t come with me. And I went and I talked to the couple, and I went, well, I didn’t talk to the couple. I talked to the woman, and I said, hey, are you okay? Is he bothering you? Do you need any help? And she was like, no, it’s fine. And, they were okay. We talked it through, and she thanked me, for coming and checking on her. It didn’t. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. All it is just saying, are you okay? Do you need help? You know? And what was also important there is that my son saw that when you see something like that happening, because I talked to him after about what happened so that he could understand what he witnessed. Right. And because I want him m to grow up to be a good man for whatever his family might look like. And also, when he sees something, to do something, I think it’s really important also, as neighbours, to educate yourself and your children. Just like how I talked with my son, you know, as I said, there’s a lot of, shading and silence that occurs. We all know somebody if we really think about it, and if we really listen to what people are saying and also really think about what we see and how we see people and people changing. My family said to me, after I left a harmful relationship. they said to me, we saw that you had changed. You were no longer the Iona that you were, but they didn’t know what to do. Right. If you see somebody changing like that, say something, because that person might not share at that immediate time, but they’ll think about it. Maybe they might reach out to somebody and get the help that they need. And so all it takes is for us to care for one another, because I do believe that together, we can make a change to the present so that the future looks different for our children. So that’s why I do what I do.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for being here today, Iona. I really appreciate it, and I love what you had to say there. And I love that story as well there at the end, because I think when people know that we see them and we acknowledge something is happening to them, and we plant that seed that we’re here to care about them, whether it’s a friend or family member or just someone in the grocery store, you pass. Who knows? Someone sees me, I think that can go a really long way towards them, getting support in the future. So thank you so much for sharing that and for being here today. I really, really appreciate it.

Iona Sky: Thank you, Jenna. It’s been my, profound, honor to be a part of this and to share a little bit of my story. So thank you.

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

We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

Holding Men Accountable

Holding Men Accountable with Jude Oudshoorn

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

This week’s episode is called holding Men accountable with Jude Oudshoorn. Jude is a restorative justice mediator and a professor in community and criminal justice at Conestoga College. He also helps facilitate the engaging men program at AH Women’s Crisis Services. His work centers on making justice systems more trauma informed and working towards ending male violence. In this episode, Jude tells us about his experience growing up in an abusive household and how this experience has led him into the work that he does today. This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence builds, leading to more severe incidents and death.

I really admire Jude and the work that he does, and I’m so grateful for how open and honest he was. In our conversation, Jude always talks about how men need to be role models for other men. And to do this, men need to be willing to share their own stories and be authentic and open up and in order to help themselves and help others. Something else that was really interesting that Jude talked about was some of the unexpected triggers that he has experienced in his life. one of those being when he had kids and they were having tantrums, which I totally get. Tantrums are not fun. I’m a new mom myself, so I know what that can be like. but it was really interesting to kind of talk through this with Jude and just talk about how triggers can sometimes feel like they come out of nowhere. You didn’t know you were going to be triggered by that. But also triggers can change over time. Just because something triggers you at one point doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. You are able to move past that if you have the right tools and resources. So that was something I really enjoyed talking about with Jude. Of course, I was really happy that we got to expand on women’s crisis services new engaging men program in this episode. It’s an example of some of the prevention work that we’re doing to stop domestic violence, either before it starts or once it’s already happened, to prevent it from happening again. And I think this work is just so, so, so crucial because we can’t support women without supporting men and helping them with their behavior and changing their behavior. The onus shouldn’t always be on the women to change. Right? I think we need to encourage men to be accountable for their behavior and then give them the tools and resources they need to be able to change. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note that the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse and contains graphic content which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


Jenna Mayne: Hi, Jude.

Jude Oudshoorn: Hello.

Jenna Mayne: Thanks so much for being here today. I’m so excited to have you on the podcast.

Jude Oudshoorn: Thanks very much. I’m super honored to be here with you. Thanks for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, yeah, I’m so excited. We’ve been talking about it and just looking forward to it for a while now, so I know you’re gonna have lots of great things to say. I was hoping maybe you could start by just sharing a little bit about yourself.

Jude Oudshoorn: Sure. So, my name is Jude, and my connection to the podcast, I guess, is probably mostly the work that I’ve done with men over the past 20 years or so around engaging men to, end violence against. Against women and children and other men and other genders, too. I come at this work from a variety of contexts, one as a college educator, another as a researcher, and then also, as a frontline worker, so to speak, in this area. And then I’ve got my own story as well, too, that’s connected to these issues.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you so much for being here, and I know you have so many different experiences, and I’m excited to learn from all of them. So today we’re going to be really talking about how we can engage with men who use violence towards their partners and children, and why this is so critical in preventing violence from escalating. So, at, women’s crisis services, we have an engaging men prevention program, and it’s designed to work with men and families. I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about the program and your involvement with it.

Jude Oudshoorn: Sure. It’s a great starting point, and I’m very excited about this engaging men program at women’s crisis services, and I’ve been involved with it for a couple of months now, coming on board in the role of a consultant to help support the development of that work. Pragmatically speaking, the program is about providing, services to men who are at risk of using violence, or men who have used violence in order that they might engage with a therapeutic process to do better in their relationships in the future. So we have a couple therapists that we can refer men to. I think for me, though, the why of the program is so important, right in the area where we are from, as it is also being named in other parts of the country, violence against women, gender based violence is being named as an epidemic. And one of the things that’s been really important to me in this work is actually clearly naming that most of the perpetration, at least of serious violence, of sexual violence, of, assaults against partners, actually being perpetrated by male identified people. And so part of this work then is really being honest about that. It’s acknowledging that and then really getting at more of the root cause of what’s going on for men, in the sense that why are we as men, at risk of perpetrating violence much more so than other genders?

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s a great overview. Thank you for sharing a bit about that. And I’m also curious, kind of what led you into this work. I know you touched on a little bit of why it’s important to you, but do you have a bit more you’d like to share about that?

Jude Oudshoorn: Sure. Thanks for asking. So, I grew up in family violence and domestic violence myself. Probably the best metaphor or analogy that I could use. It it’s kind of like growing up with a dark cloud over your home. And I deliberately mean like a dark cloud over my home instead of in an open field, in the sense that it felt like there’s no real escape from it. So there’s this dark cloud in the home. Lightning strikes. I don’t always know when lightning is going to strike. Sometimes I do, and I can predict it and try and steer clear of it. but more often than not, it’s that feeling of kind of being frozen in fear and not being able to function. So myself, my brothers, my mom, we all experienced some physical violence. and beyond that, it was just a hyper controlled environment, emotionally, spiritually, all of the areas of well being. So I was fairly frozen in my childhood. actually, in advance of getting ready for this podcast, I was kind of having different memories pop up to my mind, and it actually got me thinking. One of the most dramatic experiences I had when I was growing up related to violence, I actually. I didn’t remember it, and I still don’t remember it. And the only reason that I know about it is because about 15 or so years ago, when my parents split up, my dad had sort of a brief window of accountability and taking responsibility. And I was sitting across from him in his living room at the time, and he was, he was sobbing and apologetic about his, patriarchal violence and his control and all of that. And in particular, he wanted to share this one story about something that he had done to me when I was in grade one. So this would have been in the early 1980s, 1983. And what I remember from 1983 was boy George’s karma chameleon. I mean, that was the song I remember singing that, on the ride to school. And I was a bit of a troublemaker in grade one, as much as somebody can be a troublemaker in grade one. And I think that’s part of the reason my dad laughed out with his violence towards me. And he actually, beat me pretty badly. He used to keep this stick that he would use as like a spanking implement, but it was often used for much more than just a simple spanking thing. He said that he had to put like long clothes on me so that I could go to school, so that nobody could see that there was bruises on me. but I share that story for a couple of reasons. One, that specific incident actually shaped me for the rest of elementary school and high school without me really realizing I became a really compliant kid and I became a really withdrawn kid. and I was actually super hyper well behaved because I was afraid of authority in those settings, in those contexts. So I found it interesting to hear that story from my dad, both from how I was shaped, and there were other incidents of violence that I remembered. but beyond that, I was also really intrigued that there was just this brief window of taking responsibility that my dad was actually present. And things shifted after with that. I mean, I actually don’t have a relationship with him. Ah, to this day. A number of years ago, he disowned me when I tried to put some boundaries around our relationship. but that window of account accountability became really important for me in my work, because I actually thought, you know what? Men who use violence are human beings, and more often than not, we want to characterize them as monsters. And yes, they’ve done monstrous, harmful things to us. At the same time, even this podcast is called she is your neighbour. I kept thinking like, he is your neighbour as well, he being the man who have chosen to use violence. And so are we going to acknowledge their humanity and are we going to draw in those moments of remorse that they have, or are we going to continue to kind of separate them and other them from society? When in actual fact, these men are our dads, they’re our brothers, they’re our uncles, they’re our friends, all of those sorts of things.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you so much for sharing that. I know, it can be difficult, but I really do appreciate you sharing that with us. A few things you said were interesting. You said that experience shaped you without even realizing it. And I think it’s interesting, and I think it would be, relatable to a lot of our listeners and our clients. And, you know, I think when you’ve experienced trauma, I think a lot of your experiences do shape you without you realizing it. And a lot of the time, it’s not until much, much later that you start to really feel the impact and understand it. The other interesting thing was the windows of opportunity, because I’ve heard you talk about that before and talk about how that’s so important in the engaging men program and how can we turn these windows into doorways. And I was wondering if maybe you could share a little bit more about your thoughts around this.

Jude Oudshoorn: Yeah. To me, it’s such an important question, and it speaks to our social obligations. Right. I think part of our problem with dealing with gender based violence is we’ve really tried to individualize it, and it doesn’t mean these men shouldn’t be responsible. They should be. They should be accountable. And certainly I have that expectation of my dad right. Even now, to this day, if ever he wants to do more to take responsibility for his behavior, I would welcome that. and at the same time, I think these are men and boys who we raised in our communities. They are our responsibilities. The behaviors that they have chosen to use are as a result of part of who we are as a community. And so that’s where we can start to talk about things like patriarchy and colonialism and white supremacy and some of these bigger structures and how they get tangled into, why men choose to use violence in interpersonal relationships. And so what I’m looking for when I’m thinking about, like, expanding on these little doorways of accountability and shifting us into actually bursting open the door of accountability, is creating a structure where we can actually encourage men to take responsibility for their behavior. So those who use violence, but I’m also very, very into. In awakening this whole silent group of men. So, of course, most men don’t use violence in their relationships, right? Most men are peaceful, loving, caring human beings. At the same time, most men are silent and don’t say a whole lot when it comes to gender based violence. And I’ve worked in some areas, trying to be kind of invitational, word of mouth, trying to get men involved. But I actually think we need to do more from a policy and a systemic framework on this stuff. So if violence against women is a systemic problem, which it is, that, requires a systemic response. And when I’m talking about changing policy, I’m talking about. So in all of our education settings, we should have mandated work, being done around masculinity and what it means to be a man, and talking about issues of violence and structural violence and all of it, right through, like, from elementary all the way into post secondary, or in our workplaces as well, too. I mean, patriarchy isn’t just interpersonal, gender based violence against women. It’s also that at, the top of most organizations, we find male identified people. We find that men are better paid than women in the workplace. Like, there’s all these areas that require sort of a systemic analysis and a systemic response. And then the one more thing that I would add to that is, and you might have heard me talk about this as well, too, I firmly believe we need more role models, more men who are willing to stand up and say, I have caused harm, and I’m willing to make some reparations, I did it. It was wrong, it hurt other people, and I’m willing to take the steps necessary to change. And that isn’t just an interpersonal violence, but I also mean leaders in our communities who make mistakes, mistakes and do things that cause harm to other people, actually legitimately taking responsibility for their behavior. Because how can we expect these men to take responsibility for their behavior when leaders in our communities make mistakes and they do everything possible to deny, deflect, minimize, justify all that stuff that we work on with men when we’re working, with them around their choices based on using violence.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, you’re right. We’re sending complete opposite messages. Right? How are we going to expect someone to do that for themselves when they’re surrounded by a world that doesn’t do that? So it’s just, it’s not something you’re going to pick up on naturally. I also think it’s so interesting, going back to the story you shared for a second, like, it was interesting how that was such a pivotal moment for you. and I think it could be a pivotal moment for a lot of men having this window of accountability. I’m curious how you think we get there. Because it’s not something that can just happen, right? Men don’t just, out of the blue, take accountability. And that’s what some of this work that you’re doing in the engaging men program is all about. So I wonder if you could explain a little bit more about what that work actually looks like and how we, we get there.

Jude Oudshoorn: Yeah, I think for me, the overarching theme is that we need to not only get men to ask for help sooner, we have to make sure that that help is available, and we have to make sure that people aren’t being shamed when they’re coming to receive that help. Because shame is often at the root of why people are using violence in the first place. And if we’re going to tap into those windows of accountability, we have to make sure that we are receiving and welcoming men into, into that support. So in a second, I’ll say what that looks like in terms of the engaging men program, because I want to be really specific about it. But before getting to that, I just want to comment a little bit on some of the men that I’ve worked with in prison over time. I think that’s the most consistent theme that I’ve heard from men in those contexts, is that they wish they had gotten help sooner. And if I can, kind of even relate it to my own story in my own life, I mean, I don’t want to position myself in a way that I’m better than my dad, I’m any different than my dad. I’m certainly, as a human being, capable of using violence towards others in my relationships. I have just chosen not to. And then the one difference between my dad and I is that I reached out for help, when I was in my early thirties. So I was. I had just become a dad. I had been a dad for a couple of years. And one of the aspects of I absolutely adore and I love my children. And being a dad is the most wonderful thing. Wonderful, experience of my life. And temper tantrums were incredibly hard for me when I was a young dad. They were a significant trigger for me because they put me into a feeling of being out of control and overwhelmed. And I actually remember, and temper tantrums are normal. So when I share this story, this is nothing on my kids. This is everything to do with me. Temper, tantrums are actually a beautiful thing. If you can look at them that way, that kids are just processing, and it doesn’t feel beautiful when you’re a parent in the moment. But I very clearly remember one night, I would have been in my early thirties about 15 years ago, and one of my children was having a temper channel. Tantrum before bedtime, and his parents were worn out. We’re exhausted. We want our kids to get onto bed so we can have a few moments of quiet, that kind of thing. And one of my kids was having a temper tantrum. And it put me into this overwhelming state of. I can’t even describe it, almost fear. And I remember running downstairs from the upstairs in my house. I started punching myself as hard as I could in my own face. I ran out the front door of my house, and I just wanted to hurl myself into trap. And again, this had nothing to do with my children. My children are beautiful. They’re wonderful. Temperature rooms are normal. But it had everything to do with my own sort of traumatic experiences of feeling overwhelmed. I mean, one of my dad’s common lines was, don’t cry, or I’ll give you something to cry about. And he would. Every time we cried, we would get beaten for it. And so for me, then, I was a trigger is where trauma is being relived in the moment, even though it’s a past experience. Right? So I didn’t obviously hurl myself into traffic. I managed to calm down as I walked. But what I did the very next next day was I reached out for help. I phoned M for walk in counseling. I found out that there was walk in counseling in the community. The next week, I showed up there, and I did about six weeks of counseling with a therapist. And I discovered that talk therapy wasn’t going to work for me, and I needed more than that. So I went to a doctor, and I got medicated for depression and anxiety, and I’ve been taking medications ever since. And I’ve been doing therapy ever since as well, too. So long winded way of saying what I want to support in engaging men work is recognizing that we’re all human beings. We’re all capable of hurting each other. Sometimes we do hurt each other, but we need to have people who are courageous enough to ask for help. And then now we’ve got women’s crisis services, who has been incredibly courageous to create that place where men can actually get that help sooner. And so one of our primary areas of referrals now in that program is there’s an outreach worker who is contacting couples where there’s been two domestic violence calls to 911 in a two month period. And that outreach worker is offering service both to, let’s imagine a heterosexual relationship here. The woman who might have experienced, some form of violence, making sure there’s a safety plan, making sure the support’s necessary, but now we’re also offering support to the man as well, and asking, would you like to be healthier in your relationship? How can we support you with that? And then that’s where we help them tap into, a therapist or one of the therapists that can work with them.

Jenna Mayne: Great. Thank you so much for sharing that. Jude, you said a lot of things there that stuck out to me. First of all, the tantrums. I get it. I have a daughter. She’s, not two yet, 19 months old. And, we have tantrums a lot in this house. Right. I love her so much, but they happen and they can get to you. I appreciate you sharing that example, because I think it’s relatable to a lot of people. and I do think it’s important we talk about this and not be ashamed to share our experiences and our feelings with it, because I think we all have these feelings, and I think a lot of people are going through things that you went through. So I think we should just get it out there and talk about it and not be ashamed of it, because there’s nothing to be ashamed about. There’s things we can do. There’s things we can, ways we can make it better, and we’re not going to unless we talk about it. So I think it’s so important. I really love that you highlighted that for us. You also touched on the work that you do in prisons with men earlier when you were speaking. And I really appreciate you talking about the engaging men program. I’m wondering if you could also share a little bit about what the work you do in prisons with men looks like.

Jude Oudshoorn: So, for the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a restorative justice mediator and facilitator in the federal prison system. So, where safe and appropriate, bringing together for some form of contact, whether it’s a letter, a video exchange, a phone call, or even face to face in person dialogue. people who’ve been hurt with people who’ve caused harm. So for shorthand, a victim together with an offender. Now, this is a long, careful process, and there’s many people who initiate it, where it’s our job to assess and make sure it’s, whether or not it’s safe or suitable. So the shortest it takes is about usually a year of preparatory work and more likely between a year and two years. And in fact, I just had a case wrap up recently that took about, twelve years, all told, of bringing people together. So, as you might imagine, in the aftermath of serious, harm in the federal prison system. I’m talking about, about 50% of our cases in that work have to do with murder, about 25% sexual violence, and then 25% about other serious crimes that have taken place. Through that work. Though I have learned a lot about myself, and I’ve learned a lot about other people. I’ve learned a lot about responding to trauma and how to walk alongside people who’ve experienced trauma. And I’ve learned a lot about what accountability actually looks like. And since accountability is kind of the topic, I’ll focus more on that area. But I can certainly speak to some of what survivors need as well, if you’d like. One of the things about our current approaches to working with men is we have put most of our resources into the single basket of the criminal justice system. very simplistically, all the criminal justice system requires of a man is that they do their time. So does a person actually have to do any kind of rehabilitative programming? Do they actually have to be introspective? Do they have to think about the impacts on other people? No, not necessarily. Right. Of course, doing some programming could potentially help, and there are some but limited programs that are available, and it might help them get parole and out back out into the community a little bit sooner. fundamentally, all a person has to do is their time. And I’ve actually heard from, some of the men that I’ve worked with over time that doing your time is a lot easier than actually having to face the consequences of your behavior, face the people that you’ve hurt, understand the impacts of your behavior. and so what I’m actually interested in with restorative justice is, I wouldn’t call it true accountability, because it’s more complex than that. And we certainly need a system that contains and incapacitates people who are hell bent on hurting other people or hurting themselves. But what I’m interested in is that deeper accountability, I’m interested in meaningful change. I’m interested in making sure that there are no more victims, that we’re making sure that also that nobody’s disposable, and we’re willing to continue to work with people as long as they’re willing to continue to work with us. And so I’m actually looking for a deeper level of change. and of course, I mean, I already mentioned I do assess and I do screen, and there are certainly instances where we don’t bring people together for contact. It wouldn’t be safe or appropriate. And then more broadly, and again, we can get into this if you’re interested as well too, that, working inside of prisons and having been in most prisons in Ontario and many in the United States and Canada, I’ve also seen how that system tends to replicate some of the very dynamics we are challenging individual men to do different in. So it’s a system of power and control and dominance that dehumanizes, and we expect men to go live in that kind of a context and experience that, and then to come out the other side and to not use power and control and dominance in their relationship.

Jenna Mayne: Relationships, yeah, that is interesting. And actually, we had Jessica Hutchinson on the podcast a couple seasons ago, and we talked about this, and that’s what it’s making me think of. We had a really interesting conversation, and I think that is a really important piece. There. Something else that you said is, you know, you’re interested in making sure that there’s no more victims. So we’re really talking about prevention here. and I know prevention there can take many different forms and there’s different ways to look at it, but there’s really kind of three main stages of prevention that I’ve heard you talk about before, and I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on these.

Jude Oudshoorn: Sure. Yeah. So I sometimes talk, I mean, and this isn’t my language or terminology, but in sort of the prevention field, we talk about primary prevention, secondary prevention and tertiary prevention. So tertiary prevention is what I was just talking about, which is our prison system. Right. It’s responding to things after the fact. another good example of that is the partner assault response program. So the pars program, as they’re, they’re known. So those are programs that men are mandated in either by the police or the courts or probation to participate in in order to do some psycho educational work around, violence against women and children and understanding something better about the choices that they’ve made and how to be in healthy relationships. So that’s kind of the tertiary side. It’s after the fact. Obviously, we are always going to need those types of interventions. We’re never going to cure human beings of violence. I don’t think we have yet to see it in human history, but I suspect we’re always going to need that again. Unfortunately, when we put all of our eggs in the tertiary prevention basket, we tend to take away from what we could do earlier to get at root causes of addressing why people are doing things in the first place. So the next step back, the next level back, is more the secondary prevention. And that’s the work that we’re up to with the engaging men program, at least so far. And that is where we are trying to identify people at risk of using violence, or people who have used violence in relationships that are fairly committed to making change. Right. So I gave the one example already of the outreach worker contacting couples where there’s been two domestic violence calls. We’re also offering the service to people who have done the Par program. So again, that’s the partner assault response program. Now, it’s a little bit less secondary prevention, but a little bit more tertiary prevention, because violence has happened at that point in time. At the same time, what we know outcomes related to what we call batterer intervention programs like the PAR program, is that at their best, they are successful in sort of turning away one in five men from perpetrating violence in the future. So, that’s an approximation based on meta analyses of the research that I’ve looked into. So that’s not great. That’s not meaningless either. I think it’s really important that we want as many people as possible not to use violence. But what we know, though, about the, batterer intervention programs is, and I’ve been hearing this for decades in this work, is that they’re one size fits all approaches. People use violence for different reasons, yet we lump everybody into the same basket, give them the same type of educational experience. What men often need more is that individual therapeutic approach that helps them connect the dots between the education that they’ve had and their own life. Because often these men have stories of trauma as well themselves. Right. We know that 70% of men who perpetrate violence in domestic violence relationships either experienced it or witnessed it growing up. And so we know there’s a correlation there. And, in the educational, the par programs, it’s not that we don’t want men to be introspective and think about their pains, but we’ve often looked at that is them minimizing or rationalizing or explaining away their own violence by using their own stories. But I think the therapeutic process with men allows us to be more complicated than that. Still, the emphasis is accountability and better relationships. At the same time, it’s pretty hard for men to think clearly about who they are and the choices they’re making in their relationships if they’re also still acting out of their own traumas. And so we need to do some trauma therapy words. So it’s kind of balancing support with accountability. So that’s a little bit more about the engaging men. It’s kind of at the secondary prevention, primary prevention is kind of a step back further, which would be more about how do we raise men and boys in our communities so that they don’t use violence in relationships, so that there are no more victims. And so this is where we don’t have a whole lot of examples. There’s some programs in the community that, try and talk to men around healthy masculinity and what healthy masculinity looks like. So that’s a part of it. But going further back to your question earlier, I really think we. We do have to do that more of a systemic way, rather than just inviting individual men to reflect on their masculinity.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I think so, too. And it’s interesting when you say, you know, it’s more complicated than that. And I think we can be more complicated than that with our approach. I just love that because I think this is a really complicated, thing we’re talking about here. You know, it’s not easy to solve domestic violence. Like you said, we’re sadly, probably not going to have a world free from violence very soon. And I do recognize when I’m saying that, that our vision statement at women’s crisis services as a community free from violence. And we always say, you know, our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job. But sadly, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. But I do think. I do feel hopeful when we’re talking about prevention initiatives like this because I really do think we’re getting closer. I know there’s still kind of a big, mountain there to climb, but I think we are kind of working our way up it. But I’m curious what you think. I mean, I was listening to a CBC interview. You were talking to Craig Norris, and it was from nine years ago, actually. And, when I was listening to it, I was thinking, oh, how funny. Craig is asking Jude a lot of the same questions that I want to ask him and talk to him about. Just got thinking about it and thinking, you know, I wonder what Jude thinks about what it’s like to do that interview nine years ago and then what’s it like to do it now? And if you don’t mind me asking. I’m just curious, you know, how do you think things have changed? Do you see it going in a better direction?

Jude Oudshoorn: Not yet. Maybe. Maybe a little bit. I mean, I think in a lot of ways, we haven’t changed a whole lot as a community when we’re talking about ten years later. And you’re right, I was speaking about the same themes back then. And I think we’ll be speaking about the same themes for a while. What has shifted for me, though, and this feels really significant. And one of the reasons I’m so excited about what women crisis services is up to is that you’re the ones now that have said, enough is enough. We need to move upstream. We’re never going to get at, addressing these issues unless we actually get to the root of this violence. So this is stuff again, that people have been saying for years and years and years. And I find it, isn’t it always the people who are most affected by a social issue? They’re the ones that step up and advocate, for the change and make the change. I kind of feel like that’s what women crisis services is doing. Like, for decades, you’ve been supporting some, of our most vulnerable community members who’ve experienced horrific traumas and abuse, and now here you are once again stepping up and saying, let’s get at the root cause if we actually want to make change, if we want no more victims. So that’s one thing I certainly. I think the implementation of this kind of program is really unique. I haven’t seen it done the other thing, too. And I think this is also kudos to you and other, feminist based organizations locally that have allowed us to actually name intimate partner violence as an epidemic. So I didn’t hear that kind of language at the political level ten years ago. So that’s really important for me. What remains to be seen now is where do we invest our resources as a community? What hasn’t changed in the past ten years, as we continue to put more and more money into police, courts and corrections, that hasn’t changed. And I think at some point in time, we have to recognize that by putting all of our resources in the tertiary prevention basket, not only are we taking money away from what we could do upstream, upstream, hopefully, like the idea is prevention, we want to end this, this thing called violence. And the other thing is when you put all of your money in tertiary prevention, you’re basically accepting that violence is inevitable. And I refuse to accept that violence is inevitable, even as much as that cynical part of me has said, I, will probably always have it. That doesn’t mean I’m going to accept it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to go earlier in people’s lives and help them live meaningful lives so they don’t hurt other people and they live a more meaningful life themselves. In fact, that’s the other thing I hear from men in prison is. Most of them are incredibly, incredibly lonely now. They have hurt so many people along the way over time, for so many years that people don’t want anything to do with them. And why would they? Right? Again, that’s not on us at that point in time. That’s something they have to live with. And is that. That loneliness? So part of it for me is I actually want people to live meaningful lives. I want people to be in good relationships. I don’t want any more violence. And so that’s why, I think at this moment in time, we’re at a kind of a critical juncture where we’ve named intimate partner violence as an epidemic. We actually have the emergence now of a secondary prevention program. And I’m curious to see, is the community going to go a step further and do more of that primary prevention work in a systematic way.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you. Yeah, I hope so, too. I know it’s sad to think a lot hasn’t changed, but I do think we are starting to see, you know, little glimmers of hope. And I feel like we have to hold on to them, or else those who do this work, you know, you just. You start to get a little down. So, yes, you gotta. You gotta look for the good, even though it’s hard.

Jude Oudshoorn: It is. It is, dude.

Jenna Mayne: I also wanted to ask you something. We always ask guests on the podcast is, how can we be better neighbours? Those experiencing domestic violence. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here by talking about it. And the whole point of she is your neighbour is it’s happening to people in neighbourhoods all around us, whether you know it or not. So I do want to ask you how you think we can be better neighbours to men, too.

Jude Oudshoorn: It’s a great question. I think we need to tune into each other, right? And pay attention to each other and notice things about what’s happening with our friends. If we’re seeing something that’s a little bit off, we should trust our instincts and ask some questions about it. Right? It actually reminds me of my own story, this question. And then I’ll add a few more details to. To your question, specifically of what we can do. A couple years ago, just before my nana passed away, this is my mom’s mom, she said to me, and I remember I met with her in the seniors residence where she was living, and we never, ever really talked about deep, personal things. That’s just kind of the way she was. I loved her. I adored her. She was a bit of a cheerleader for me and that kind of thing, which I really appreciated. And we didn’t talk, like, deeply personal about our lives and traumas, but she said to me, she’s like, you know, we knew what was going on in your home, and we didn’t do anything about it because we were scared we would lose you. And it took me. I still don’t know if I fully understand, like, what that means to me. I don’t feel any judgment for my nana about that. I think we all make choices constrained by, like, whatever our experiences are or what we’re seeing. And at the same time, I wonder, like, what would have happened if Nana had had the courage to speak up and say something about what was going on. Would that have made a difference now? I mean, I can’t play the speculative game, and she didn’t do that. So I kind of think maybe it wouldn’t have made things any better. They were the way that they are. at the same time, for me, in the work that I do, I encourage people to, I mean, not intervene and do things against people’s will, but to believe people when they share things, to ask them about how they’re doing, to ask them what they need, to trust them that they know what’s best. And I apply this to my nana as well, too. I trust that she knew what was best in that circumstance, and her lack of speaking up in that circumstance was the right decision, and I’m okay with that. Right. at the same time, there might be other circumstances where survivors actually do want us to say something. They do want us to speak up and to notice something. Right. Beyond that, I think there’s many things we can do. I mean, my partner and I have just recently signed up for monthly donations to women’s crisis services. And I think we need more people giving to the work financially, to support women’s crisis services in the work that you’re doing there. we need more men who are willing to, stand up and speak out on this issue to get involved. We need more men in their peer groups who are willing to engage other guys when it comes to the way that they talk about women. I mean, I grew up in playing sports, and I’ve heard what the locker room talks about, and I was pretty silent along the way with a lot of that stuff. And I think it would have been much better if I had been able to speak out, because what we know about domestic violence is it’s correlated, and it’s mediated by the conversations that men are having with other men about how women are objectified and that sort of thing. So I think part of, recognizing that she is your neighbour is that men need to learn to, speak up and tell each other what’s okay and what’s not okay to talk about. we certainly need that silent group of men to get meaningfully engaged, to, be looking out for their neighbours.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you, Jude. I’m so excited you could be here today, and I’ve just been so excited to have this conversation. I think it’s so important, and I think we’re not bringing men into this conversation. How are we going to make any change and make this any better? So I think it’s just such an important conversation to have, and I’m so glad you could be here to speak with me about it today. So thank you so much.

Jude Oudshoorn: Thank you very much, Jenna. I’m truly, truly honored to be a part of this. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing with she is your neighbour and the way that you’re having these conversations, I think to me, this is a part of exactly what you’re asking about, about raising this topic so that it’s not a topic that’s in the shadows anymore. So thank. Thank you.

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

We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence.

The Psychology of
Domestic Violence

The Psychology of Domestic Violence with Dr. Katreena Scott

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

This episode is called the Psychology of domestic violence with Doctor Katrina Scott. Doctor Katrina Scott is the academic director of the center for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children. She’s a professor at Western University in the department of Applied Psychology, and she is a child psychologist by training. In this episode, we talk about why people use violence in relationships. We talk about the cycle of violence and the psychology behind how and why violence escalates. This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence builds, leading to severe incidents and death.

I got, so much out of this conversation with Katreena, and I really hope you do, too. I just think we can’t talk about stuff, domestic violence without talking about the role of men who are most commonly the perpetrators or the ones engaging in the abusive behavior. So I think that’s really important to highlight and talk about. The other interesting thing we talked about in this episode was the role of shame. And this is something we’ve talked about before. We’ve talked about it a lot in regards to the woman or the survivor who is experiencing the abuse and, not wanting to share her experience because of the shame. But in this episode, we also talked about the shame that men feel when they’re using abusive behavior. So that was a really interesting piece that we talked about, and we also talked about power and control, and Katrina talked about how you can’t be a good dad if you are also an abusive partner and just explain how there really are steps we can take to prevent, violence from escalating and how we can work with men to do this. Now, before we get started, I’d like to note the following episode includes a discussion of domestic violence and abuse, which may be distressing or traumatic for some listeners. Please take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


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

Katreena Scott: Hi, thanks so much for having me.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, we’re really excited to get talking with you. We’ve been looking forward to having you on the podcast. So really excited for our conversation today.

Katreena Scott: Me too.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, good. So could you just start by sharing a little bit about yourself.

Katreena Scott: Yeah, for sure. So I am the academic director for the center for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children at Western University. So we’re a pretty large knowledge mobilization center in Canada, and we do lots of work on addressing gender based violence. We do public education and professional education. We do work with workplaces. We work on changing the experience of survivors in the family law system. We work with criminal justice partners and child protection partners, and we try to be a center for collaboration, for research and community partners who are doing this work. My own work, over my career has mostly been about how to better intervene with men who are using abuse and causing harm in their families.

Jenna Mayne: Great. Thank you. Yeah, I know you’ve done some really interesting work over the years, so we’re looking forward to hearing a bit more about that today. So today we’re going to be talking a bit about the psychology of domestic violence and how domestic violence escalates. So I was hoping we could start with some of the basics and you could just tell us what the cycle of violence is.

Katreena Scott: Yeah, for sure. So the word cycle of violence used in a few different ways. I think in this context, it’s useful to think about the cycle of violence as referring to intergenerational patterns of abuse. The fact that children who grow up in families where there’s violence and that might be child abuse and neglect, or child exposure to domestic or intimate partner violence, those children are more likely to use violence later in their own relationship. And this happens despite the fact that for many of them, they vow never, ever be like their parents. It’s also important to say that not all individuals who use abuse in their relationships have grown up with violence, and that certainly not everyone who grows up with violence goes on to be abusive. But it is a major risk factor and it is a cycle that we want to break. I just want to also mention while we’re doing this podcast, I’m likely to slip into using some gendered language and talking about boys and men as engaging in abusive behavior, and women, girls and gender diverse people as victims and survivors as well as children. And we know that violence in relationship is gendered, with women more likely to live in fear and be injured or killed, and men more likely to perpetrate violence. But I also want to acknowledge that there are male victims of family violence and intimate partner violence, and also female people who perpetrate violence.

Jenna Mayne: Great. Thank you for explaining that. I think that’s important to note. So. I’m glad you mentioned that there and thank you for sharing a bit about the cycle of violence as well. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about why someone might choose to use violence.

Katreena Scott: Yeah, you know, I’m really happy to, talk about that question. I want to talk about it to start with, this idea of somebody choosing to use violence, because, of course, people’s behaviors are a choice. But I want to emphasize that for almost all of the men that I’ve worked with in my career, their experience of their behavior is often not of choosing to be abusive. So I’ve met very, very few men who want to be abusive who think, you know, this is a good way to be, or, you know, who hope to grow up to be an abuser. It’s just not how it works, you know. Instead, the men that I’ve worked with, generally, they don’t see themselves as abusive. they often think of abuse as being limited to really physical violence or beating somebody up, but don’t recognize the harm of, for example, monitoring a partner or making them report on everything that they do. They also see abusive people as that guy over there. It doesn’t apply to them. When they do acknowledge behaviors, the harm is often minimized, that it’s not that bad or that the other person’s making too big a deal about it, or they blame the other person. You know, she drove me to it or have a sense that anybody in my situation would react the same way. So this idea that somebody might choose to use violence, you know, it’s important to recognize that any behavior has a choice to it. But that’s not often how, the men that I’ve talked to, they often don’t see themselves in that language. I think that it is important to understand how violence comes about in the first place. Place. Some of the reasons and some of the ways we think about this is we think about violence as a learned behavior. So from patterns at home or from violence seen in movies or games or online, we talk about portrayals of masculinity, and we talk about toxic masculinity. And, of course, there’s truth to all of this. So we continue to socialize boys and men to be more aggressive, to take what they want, and at times to use aggression and violence to get it. and we also don’t do a great job of helping boys and men recognize emotions and figure out how, you know, different ways to cope with and regulate their feelings and how to communicate those emotions and reach out for help. And this kind of teaching is, of course, particularly important for boys who are not getting positive lessons at home. But it’s not the whole story. Another important part of the story has to do with the way power works in relationship. So there’s a famous saying that goes something like, nasty things roll downhill. So it’s a recognition that when it comes to hurtful and harmful and abusive behaviors, those who have more power have more capacity to engage in harm. So in a workplace, it’s easier for a manager or a supervisor to mistreat an employee than the opposite. Parents are at, risk of maltreating their children, and not the opposite way. In intimate relationships, there’s also dimensions of power. So it might be physical power, it might be economic or financial power, it might be access to social capital. And so those power differences also play out so that the person in a relationship that has more power is more likely, to be able to use abusive behavior. It doesn’t mean that that power is going to be misused, but it does create an opportunity. And when things get tough, and increasingly, as there’s buildup of stress and challenges in families, when people are dealing with the challenges of living, maybe dealing with microaggressions themselves, when people’s coping gets overwhelmed, it’s sometimes the case that then that person who is more powerful takes that out on somebody in their life that is less powerful. You’re a good target if you’re less powerful. And it can give the person behaving that way a, feeling of being less overwhelmed and more in control, which is the very final piece of the picture. And that has to do with consequences. So it is critically important that when people use abusive behavior, something happens, but too often, nothing does. Too often, we’re afraid to say something, that there might be a concern about invading someone’s privacy. and then if we do say something, where do people go? How do we get the kinds of services for men so they can have these kinds of conversations? How do we recognize the shame that may result? How do we have a conversation about that? How do we open those, those doors and make sure that this doesn’t happen again? So, of course, the question about why somebody uses abusive behavior isn’t easy to answer. But, it’s part that it’s learned, it’s part because there’s opportunity, and it’s part because we don’t do enough to stop it.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for elaborating on that. That is really helpful and kind of paints a picture of why abuse can start in the first place. And I’m really glad you talked about power and control. So we can see what a big part this has, like what a big role power and control has when it comes to domestic violence. That’s something that people don’t get in the beginning when we’re talking about abuse either. Right. I think sometimes people think domestic violence is about anger or about lots of other things, but don’t always see it as about power and control. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed that in the people who you’ve worked with, if they’re surprised, if they haven’t maybe seen themselves as having more power over the other person in the relationship, if this is a surprise to them at all.

Katreena Scott: Yeah, I do. I think that for, in a lot of ways, we like to attribute violence to, as you say, problems with anger, or maybe it’s problems because of substance use, or maybe it’s a mental health problem. And it’s true that all of those problems can go together, but what makes it abusive behavior is the fact that individual, then is causing harm to another person. So in terms of dealing with whatever problem that they’re having, the way that they’re dealing with is taking advantage of and doing it in a way that hurts people around them. And, often the men that we work with don’t. They don’t recognize that when they start, they may have a little bit of a sense of that and feel so ashamed of it, they won’t even talk about it or think about it. They may not have as much of, an awareness of how much impact that they’re having on the people around them or with shame. They may then continue to blame the person. So it gets kind of worse and worse. I would say that our systems as well, don’t tend to ask those questions. If we have somebody who’s struggling with whatever that problem is, it’s useful to think about, well, how does that problem look to other people in that person’s family? How is that playing out at home? How can we then raise awareness of that and help the people themselves think about what might be happening?

Jenna Mayne: Thank you. Yeah, that’s really helpful to understand. I also want to talk about the caring Dads program, which you helped develop. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what this program is.

Katreena Scott: Yeah, for sure. So, caring dads, you know, came out of some of these conversations. How do we have conversations? And in this case, how do we have conversations with men as fathers about the kinds of violence that they might be using at home and the kind of abuse that they might be engaging in? And, you know, it came out of the same recognition that this conversation had to be had. So I’m trained, like my training is at that of a clinical child psychologist. So I’ve done a lot of work with children who’ve experienced adversity and violence at home. And lots of times I was working with children who were there because of the violence that their father had engaged in. And it might be that a father had been directly, abusive or neglectful to the child, or many times the children had been exposed to violence that he had perpetrated against their mother. And these kids often still had contact with their fathers, but nobody was having those conversations. Nobody was talking to the men about what does that mean for your child? How are you going to kind of reckon with this? How are you going to think about rebuilding or changing your behavior and rebuilding a relationship with your children? and children were still seeing their fathers, and this silence is harmful. We know that silence around violence is harmful. So we wanted to start to have conversations with men. And so we worked together across women’s services and, men’s services and children’s services and started to think about how do we do a better job at having conversations with fathers about the, the violence that they abused in the home and the impact on children and the fact that you can’t be a good dad and an abusive partner. The fact that being a good father means also being a non abusive partner to children’s other caregivers.

Jenna Mayne: Thanks for explaining that. Yeah, I’ve heard so much about the program, and I know it’s really developed over the years, and it’s used really widely now, so it’s definitely great to learn more about it. I’m wondering, as well as part of that program, how do you talk about changing behaviors in that program, or how do you kind of get at, changing abusive behaviors?

Katreena Scott: Yeah. So I’m glad you asked that question as well, because I think sometimes people think that abusive behaviors can’t be changed, that, you know, somebody, once they’re abusive, they’re always abusive. And it is true that there is a, small subset of guys who, or abusive people in general where change is really hard to come by. But for many people, change is not only possible, but change happens. And it does require work. It does require change, but, change is possible. And so in terms of making that change in the caring dads program as well as other programs, I think really strong programs for addressing abusive behavior. The first job is honestly creating space to have the conversation. Although it sounds difficult, and I think it sounds challenging, when we know about the impact on victims and survivors, it’s still the case that in order to invite somebody into change, you have to create a space where you can have real conversations. So that is a space that, holds off some of the judgment of those people as people and allows a space for exploring behaviors, allows a space for exploring the impact of those behaviors. Also allows a space for saying, who is it that you want to be? What kind of father did you want to become? What kind of partner do you want to be? What’s important to you? And so often, you know, men engaging in abusive behaviors will talk about how important it is to provide safety and security to their family. and so it’s a gradual process of then holding up a mirror to who you want to be and what’s happening because of your behaviors. And that’s part of recognizing abuse, a part of taking accountability or recognizing the impact on somebody else and then changing that behavior and walking through in terms of behaving differently. So once you do that, and that’s a big part, being able to hold the mirror up, recognize that this is the behavior that is harmful, and decide that these are the things that I’m going to change, then sometimes it’s a little bit of skill building around, being able to take responsibility for themselves and their emotions. It might be developing new skills for communication or connection. but the kind of things that you want to do to behave or to be a healthy and secure and safe person in the lives of people you love.

Jenna Mayne: And I know when you’re talking about these behaviors, I know some of them develop over time. Right. They’re kind of gradual. It doesn’t happen right at the beginning of a relationship, necessarily. A lot of people find that the relationship is really good at the start, or so it seems. And then as things go on, things change and the violence can escalate. I’m wondering if you can see, speak to this a bit and why this happens.

Katreena Scott: Yeah, it’s absolutely the case. You know, nobody is going to go into a relationship where, you know, the first time things start to go wrong, there’s, you know, abusive behaviors that are happening right again. No, nobody’s going to stay in that relationship. and so it is a situation where there’s a slow, often a slow escalation. It is often a situation where, you know, the couple feels very close to each other. Maybe this is the first person that, the person who’s behaving abusively, maybe this is the first person that they’ve been able to open up to that, they feel like they have a connection with. They really want to have. As I said, the value is to have a good and a strong relationship. And so, you know, the first time something goes wrong, then, and the first time they engage in something that’s abusive, the question then is, okay, wait a second. How strongly is the message that, oh, actually, it’s the other person’s fault. Like, it’s not my fault. And then that pattern can set in where, no, it’s that person’s to blame, not me. and then slowly, that can grow so that the next time it happens, that pattern is already set. And so then it becomes even more so that it’s the other person that’s telling blame. I’m not to blame. And then I think the other thing that comes in there is shame. So when people engage in behaviors that they’re ashamed of, you know, and abusive behaviors and behaviors that hurt others are the kinds of things that we’re often ashamed of. The easiest thing to do with shame is to push it away and not talk about it and make it about somebody else. We really hate being ashamed. And so for a guy who’s being abusive, one of the things that helps that cycle repeat is the shame that he may be feeling and then avoiding and pushing onto his partner and making it about her. And then the next time that shame comes up, as well as all of the other emotions that might be happening in that event, and then it goes on. And the extent to which the abusive behavior has helped him sort of feel more in control has helped him feel like he’s kind of doing okay, that gives him relief from that initial, from what’s happening or his concern about maybe where his partner is or makes his concern about the security of the relationship, well, then he’s reinforced for doing it. And if it doesn’t have any consequences, if nobody is saying, you know, there’s some harm here, don’t do this, like we need to talk about this, then it can escalate.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you. That’s really helpful to understand. And I do love that we’re talking about shame and specifically for men who are abusive, because I think women who experience domestic violence, we know there’s lots of shame and stigma associated to that. But I think it’s really helpful to unpack the shame that men experience who are abusive and how this shame is kind of. It’s a part of all of it, right. It’s kind of a cloud over the whole relationship. No one is feeling very good about it. So I’m, Glad we’re talking about that and how it impacts men because I think that’s an important piece if we are going to move forward.

Katreena Scott: It’s a tough line because I think that it’s important and it’s valuable to understand. For many individuals who engage in abusive behavior, they have their own history of childhood abuse. They have their own history of victimization. they’re feeling shame. They have thoughts that are. That it’s not a good situation for them. And being able to recognize that and at the same time recognize that because of that, you’re causing harm to somebody else and that needs to stop. It’s sometimes hard for people to hold both of those in their heads at the same time, but it’s critical.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that’s so true. It’s so true. It’s, you know, something has happened to you, but now you’re making something happen to someone else. And. And I think it is so important to recognize. So we’re also talking about people’s men’s childhood experiences and how experiences in their childhood can impact what happens in their relationships down the road. And I know you talk about this more in the beginning of the episode here, but I’m wondering if you can elaborate on it a little bit more and help us understand why someone’s childhoods can so greatly impact their relationships later on.

Katreena Scott: So when we talk about how childhood experiences end up leading to abusive behavior later on, I love being able to think about the complexity of how and when that happens because, as I said at the very beginning, when you get kids, let’s say you get a teenager at that point, it’s so much part of that child’s identity to say, I am not repeating these patterns. I have grown up in this place where I’ve seen my father behave abusively towards my mother. I am not going to do that again. Even as they’re saying that they’re starting a relationship with somebody, maybe another. So they’re starting a relationship with a young woman, and that young woman is doing things that make them feel uncomfortable. And all of these emotions are coming up, and they’re at the same time as vowing never to do this again. They find themselves yelling at their partner and feeling like she’s the one that is causing all of this stress in their relationship and she just needs to stop. And in psychology, we call these vicious cycles. There’s something that happens, we try our very, very best to avoid it, and then we end up creating it. An easy vicious cycle to understand is, you know, I really, really don’t want. My father cheated on my mother all the time. I saw how that happened. It’s really important that my partner doesn’t ever cheat on me, and so I’m going to monitor her and make sure that she never cheats on me, and I’m going to make sure that this relationship is really the only thing she’s thinking about. Not only is that abusive, but it’s almost driving her to cheat. Right. It’s driving that relationship away. So that’s a really easy example of a vicious cycle where my desire to make sure this never happens. Right. This never happens to me, I never repeat the patterns, end up repeating the pattern.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. It’s so interesting how that can happen. And even with the best of intentions, how things can sometimes get a bit out of control. I also know that when it comes to leaving a relationship, a relationship that is not working, it’s become abusive and a woman is ready to leave. I know that can be the most dangerous time for a woman, and I’m wondering if you can. Yeah. Can you explain why that is?

Katreena Scott: Yeah, there’s a few reasons why it is. I think the one that we think about most often, and the one that kind of comes to mind in sort of popular kind of literature or talk is that, you know, this idea that that’s a loss of control for him and he’ll do everything he can to get trouble. That sort of sense that if I can’t have her, nobody can. And there’s an element to that that’s important to understand. But I think there’s a couple other things to understand. One is that in the context of the relationship, when they’re together, the survivor, the victim, there is continually monitoring and managing his risk. Right? So all of those little tiny things that she may have been doing to make sure that things go well, that don’t trigger him, that makes sure that things are a little bit easier. All of. And to, take a break or to put some resources in when he seems to have had a day where abuse might occur afterwards. All of those things that she’s been doing, she no longer can do. And so she’s not doing that monitoring and managing, and she’s not able to take as many steps to keep herself safe. So there’s that part. And then I think it’s important to understand that his distress is also escalating. And to ask, is anybody reaching out to him? Who’s monitoring with him his risk level, who’s monitoring with him his distress level? To what extent is he then ruminating and going over again and again, sort of revenge fantasies or the thought that she’s the one that has caused that? And who’s talk. Is he getting angrier and angrier? And if so, who is talking him down and having conversations with him about that?

Jenna Mayne: Thank you. Yeah, that’s really helpful to understand because I know that’s something we talk a lot about at our organization is, you know, leaving is the most dangerous time. Make sure you have a safety plan in place. Make sure you’ve sought support for this, and you’re not kind of just doing this on your own on a whim, especially if the abuse has been going on for a while and it is likely to escalate. That is something that we talk about with our clients here, and we do try and warn the public about as well. Something else that I’ve got thinking about as we’ve been talking here is I know you’re talking about the caring dads program, and I’m also thinking about for couples and relationships, I know sometimes couples try and go to something like marriage counseling or go to counseling to kind of fix their relationships, but I also know that this doesn’t always work very well when there’s domestic violence. And I’m wondering if you can explain a bit about this or talk about why this might be.

Katreena Scott: So. You know, one of the things that there’s a pretty problematic history that goes back many, many years around the use of couple counseling in situations of domestic violence. Part of that history rests in a lack of a, good domestic violence risk assessment. So any intervention that involves domestic violence and involves two people really needs to start with an interview with each person separately with a sense of the level and the nature of risk in the relationship, then the other thing about that is, for me, and I think that in terms of recommendations as well in the field, is that if somebody is engaging in abusive behavior, the first thing that needs to happen is that they need to stop engaging in that abusive behavior. The other person can’t fix that. There’s nothing that’s going to happen between the two of them. That means that he’s going to choose not to behave abusively. He does have to ultimately recognize that these behaviors are harmful, that he’s responsible for these behaviors, that these behaviors have an impact. They create fear. They limit his partner’s choices. They make her doubt her reality. They make her doubt her sense of self. And until those behaviors stop, you can’t move on to start to build the communication that you might want to or to change different ways of relating as a couple. So I think that’s the other part that’s really important is what’s the work that has to get done first around stopping abusive behavior before you’re going to do the work of building that relationship back up.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think the risk assessment is important to talk about and think about there, too. I know also, you’ve done a lot of work looking at domestic homicide, how we can prevent domestic homicide from happening. And, you know, there’s lots of risk assessment that goes into this and recommendations that are involved. I wondered if you could share a little bit about this work.

Katreena Scott: Yeah. So, and I know that you have done a great job on this podcast in some of the other episodes of time, talking about domestic, homicide and some of the risk factors and warning signs that everybody needs to be aware of, of domestic homicide. I think some of the things that I would add to that, and we know a history of domestic violence. We know that a recent separation are both important risk factors. We know that her sense of fear is important. We know that the extent to which, you know, she’s been being controlled by her partner is important. We also know that there are a number of really important risk factors that are about him. So those risk factors include his depression and suicidality. It includes, you know, whether or not there’s a lot of dysregulation in his life, and his kind of level of denial, his level of isolation is important to understand. And so I think that when we start to understand that there are risk factors that are coming from him as well, it helps to remind us that part of the risk assessment that we need to do, and also part of the risk management we need to do is have conversations with him. Because, you know, in those conversations, you likely can have the conversation about, you know, here’s what your risk looks like right now. This is where it might be going. And my guess is that’s not where you want it to go. My guess is that you want to do something different. And so let’s talk about what might be needed for you to make sure that you’re safe, to make sure that you’re taking the actions that you need to be safe in this time of stress, in this time of heightened kind of all sorts of things around the end of the relationship.

Jenna Mayne: Something else we always like to ask guests who come on the podcast, is how you think we can be better neighbours to families who are experiencing domestic violence? And I’m wondering what you would say about this.

Katreena Scott: Absolutely. I think that we’ve had lots of. We’ve had some conversation about how it’s really important to see what’s happening and then open a door to a conversation with people who may be experiencing domestic violence. I would say it is equally important to open the door to a conversation to somebody who might be using violence in relationships. Relationships. And we’ve found in some of our work that when you ask neighbours, friends, and families, and co workers, and you ask, do you have somebody in your life who you suspect might be using abusive behavior? There are a number of people who say yes, and their friends, their neighbours, their co workers, you know, they’re part of the family. And the question then is, okay, so is anybody actually saying anything about that, or are we complicit in the silence? It’s hard. It’s scary to say something, but there are resources out there in neighbours, friends, and families, and also in other kinds of resources about how do you start the conversation? And just like, when you’re talking to, you know, a, survivor, an important start point is non judgment. An important start point is, you know, here are the things that I see that are concerning. I’m worried about you. I’m worried about what’s happening. I’m worried about what your family is. Is there anything that I can do to help? Is there a way that we can start a conversation? And being able to start that conversation with people who may be causing, harm is just as important as being able to start the conversation with somebody who might be experiencing violence.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you. That’s so important to understand, and I think something we haven’t talked about enough. So I really appreciate you being here today and talking about this with us. I’ve really loved chatting with you and learning from you, Katreena. So thank you so much for being here.

Katreena Scott: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

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

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