Who I Am

I am a self-motivated, confident woman, who stands up for what is right. I never thought that I would end up in an abusive relationship.

I am also a person who gives and gives and forgives. Although these qualities are good, these are also the qualities that lead to me staying in an emotionally abusive and financially controlling relationship for 18 years.

But women are strong. I am strong. So no matter how many times I was pushed to my breaking point, I stood back up and kept going.

Sometimes I think abusive relationships should really come with a warning sign. You know, like the ones you read waiting in line for an amusement park ride. If my past relationship came with a warning sign, I imagine it would have went something like this:

Warning: I will drain you of your energy and of your strength. I will make you feel like you are nothing. I will make you feel crazy; like you are losing your mind most days. I will keep hold of our money and I will keep it from you. In my eyes I own you. My needs are the only needs that matter. I will use everyone you care about against you and make you feel hopeless. 

Although there was no large, flashing sign to warn me about what I was getting into, now that I look back, I do see that there were some other signs that I did not notice at the time. Signs that indicated he did not respect me or my feelings. But I was young, naive and in love. And the abuse started out slowly – so slow that I didn’t even notice it beginning.

A Journey with Domestic Violence

I was only 16 when I met my ex-husband. Our relationship was always rocky and we broke up many times before getting engaged. But I was always drawn back by his charm and humour. My forgiving nature meant that I would let the past go, always hoping for a better tomorrow.

As we dated, I started to spend the majority of time with him and only him. My friends fell away and so during the times we broke up, I had no one.

Like I said before, there were signs that he did not respect me or my feelings. For example, he always ignored my plea to slow down while driving. He had terrible road rage and would weave in and out of cars, tail gating and yelling at people. I remember feeling terrified and asking him to stop, but instead he would speed up. Once I even opened the passenger door and threatened to jump out – I was so afraid that this actually seemed like a better option for a brief moment.

In addition to his actions, he would use his words to hurt me. He told me I didn’t know how to manage money and he would remind me that nothing I did ever worked out.

Once we were married and had children, he saw that I loved our kids more than anything. So then he began using them to hurt me. Calling me at work, telling me I was a bad mother and that I should be home with my kids. He told me that I was making him hate our children because he had to deal with their tears and bad moments.

The list goes on. There are countless ways he made me feel small. He would push me to my breaking point during arguments – I would explode and feel really bad about it later. When I was cleaning, he would point out all the spots I missed and he always reminded me that he contributed more financially towards our lifestyle than I did.

18 years I was with him.

And as you can probably imagine, after 18 years of feeling small, I was starting to lose myself.

I Remember

I remember the day I said to myself, “either you lose yourself completely here or you leave and save the small piece of you that is left.”

But it took a long time to get to this point. It started with recognizing that I was in an abusive relationship.

It was 16 years before I connected the dots.

I clearly remember the moment when it clicked for me. I was at the mall with him and our children, where we spent the morning shopping for them. The kids were starting to get tired and I decided to get my own shopping done while they sat and ate some lunch.
I told my ex-husband I would meet him at a certain store. When I went to that store I quickly realized there was nothing there I liked, so I went across the hall to another store. While I was in line waiting to pay, I turned on my phone to find multiple messages. He was demanding to know where I was, saying that I better come out of the store I said I was going to.

For a second, I honestly was trying to figure out how I could sneak over to the other store without him seeing me so that I could make everything okay.

But I couldn’t. So I walked out and there he was with the look I had come to know far too well. The look that told me no matter what happened next, I could not do or say anything to avoid a fight or being labelled “the bad guy”.

He started going through my shopping bags, looked over my receipts and said I had to return everything I had purchased because it was not on sale. In that moment I felt like the world was moving in slow motion. The other shoppers walked past me and I stood there while my husband looked down at me, scanning my receipts with our children by his side. In that moment, everything finally came together.

I realized I was in an abusive relationship and I knew I needed to get out.

Moving Beyond Violence

After this realization, it took two more years for me to leave the relationship. During this time, the cycle of good-to-rocky-to-bad continued over and over again. Finally, I took to the door with what little I had and the hope that I would be free once I left.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t exactly the case. It was impossible to completely break the tie with him because we had children together.

So for a while the abuse continued. My ex would send me messages and emails. He texted and called my family and friends, using them as weapons against me. He also used our children as negotiation tools to get what he wanted.

During this time I used the outreach services provided by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. I went for counselling and took courses in communication, all while navigating through the court system.

Through this process I learned that in the past, I hadn’t been doing what I truly needed to help myself. I spun in the cycle of abuse for so many years that it became ingrained deep within my muscle memory. But after falling and getting back up so many times I had to realize what I needed to do for myself. I had to let go.

I had to stop engaging. I had to walk away and let him spin in his own cycle. He would never change, no matter how much time passed. So I had to change. I had to continue to work on me and move forward.

My Life as a Survivor

I have been out of that relationship now for almost 6 years and officially divorced for 5 years. To this day, there are still many challenges. But I have walked away and no longer engage – so in his cycle there is no one left to blame.

I opened my own business which is doing very well. I also own my own home. I have even written my first book coming out February 2020 called Behind the Mask, A glimpse of emotional abuse and dealing with a narcissist. I am a motivational speaker and hope to use my book to help others going through emotional abuse and financial control.

I choose to have my children in their father’s life because they love him and their relationship with him is not mine. I make boundaries for myself each day when dealing with my ex. My journey with him is ongoing until our children are adults, but my involvement with him is absent and I am in a much better place.

I Am Your Neighbour

I hope by sharing my story I can shine a light on domestic violence and open the door to conversation.

Emotional abuse is not something you can always see. Those who appear to be strong can be hurting so badly inside, holding onto a secret so deep that the thought of letting it out eats away at them. The thought of escaping seems impossible.

Not everything is simple.

It is not easy to leave an abusive relationship. And when you do leave, things don’t get better overnight. I know this because I went through it. I have been broken and put back together more times than I can count. But knowing that I am strong, resilient and by making the choice every day to not engage, I am free.

Doing the work to break free of the cycle of abuse has saved who I am. I feel whole again. I feel strong and I am proud that I am where I am today.


*Trigger warning: This story contains information about domestic violence that may be triggering to some survivors.

Who I Am

I am 49 years old and I have been married to my wonderful husband for 21 years. We have two amazing children.

But for more than 20 years, I called myself “the girl in between”.
This is why.

A Journey with Domestic Violence

In college, I met someone who I dated for approximately six months. I didn’t realize that when we first started dating he was still “seeing” his ex-girlfriend. We overlapped for about a month.

When I finished school, I moved back home, which was 30 minutes away from where he lived. He didn’t have a vehicle and I did, so I often drove to see him. After the move home, our relationship started to slow down. We went from boyfriend and girlfriend to “seeing each other”. While in this stage of the relationship, he opened up to me about something.
He told me he had kidnapped his ex-girlfriend for a weekend.

He assured me that he wouldn’t do that to me. He said he felt so bad and awful about it that he had asked her to take him to the police station. She drove him there, he was charged and he had to appear in court.

After he told me this, I knew I couldn’t panic. I knew that moving quickly with this information could have some scary consequences, as I had left a violent relationship the year before. So we finished our date and I drove him home.

Our relationship ended about a month later. I didn’t know it at the time, but I later found out that he had another girlfriend while we were together, who was living in the same city as him.

Eight months later, he murdered her.

She had decided to go to school in another city and ended the relationship.

He had never been violent to me. I was the “girl in between” the violence.

I Remember

I remember the morning I received the phone call. I thought he had died in an accident.

I remember feeling disbelief that he could actually take someone’s life.

I will be forever grateful that someone I knew reached out to me. It was very early in the morning when I found out and I was thankful to know before I heard it on the news.

My friend’s aunt worked at the college where I had recently graduated. I remember she suggested that I take advantage of the counselling services being offered at the college, which I could access for free because I was an alumni. I declined because I felt that I wasn’t physically or emotionally traumatized like the women before and after me. I was the “girl in between”. I felt I had to be strong and brave. I could not show any weakness.

But two years later, I found myself struggling. I couldn’t be in crowds by myself or drive on the highway. The cars on the highway were too close to me, just like the people in the crowds. If I did either of those things, I would have a full blown panic attack. I could not go grocery shopping by myself. I could only do things with my “safe person”. If I needed to pick up items for dinner, I gave myself 10 minutes. I had to strategically plan my route around the store – any longer and panic and terror would set in. I was scared of everyone and everything.

Then I was subpoenaed to court.

I knew I had to get help or I would fall apart on the witness stand. I knew then I had to take my life back. And so I found the courage to ask for help.

Moving Beyond Violence

I received the counselling that I should have went for right from the beginning. But as the “girl in between”, I never felt that I should ask for help. I saw myself as the lucky one. However, in my counselling sessions, I learned that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Survivor’s Guilt. Recognizing this helped me begin to move forward.

After being subpoenaed to court, I thought to myself, if I could get through court I could get through anything. It was one of the worst hours of my life. Even years later, when life gets tough, I reflect on where I was then and how far I have come. I got through that hour and I can make it through another.

It took me a long time to trust myself and my judgement. I started to listen to my gut and intuition and slowly built trust back in myself. I had to trust me before I could trust others. The night I met him, my gut said run. I thought I was being dramatic but now I know better.

Fortunately, at the time I was called to court, I was dating my now husband. His love, compassion, understanding, empathy and support helped me move beyond my pain and find love and laughter in my life.

My father is my rock. I was living with him when this all happened. He supported me through the whole process and still does to this day. He has given me great advice when anything comes up in the legal process. My family’s love and support helped me find the strength and courage to ask for help and move past the PTSD.

My Life As A Survivor

I am not afraid to live my life anymore. I laugh more and find joy in the little things. I live in the moment and appreciate special times with family and friends.

I am the best mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend and co-worker that I can be. I live with love in my heart and refuse to live in fear. I am not the “girl in between” anymore. I am the woman who listened to her gut and saved herself. I am the woman who found the courage to ask for help and the strength to receive it.

I live my life to the fullest in honour of the one who didn’t have that opportunity.

I Am Your Neighbour

Even in your darkest hour, the sun will shine again. You can move past darkness to find love and laughter. Being diagnosed with PTSD is not a life sentence, you can move past it. Some days will be more of a struggle than others, but that is okay.

I refused to let him win. Instead, I became the best version of me.

During the time when my PTSD was really bad, I had so many “friends” tell me to get over it and move on. Please listen and be compassionate to those who are struggling with PTSD, anxiety or any disorder due to violence. It doesn’t turn off because they are no longer in that situation and they are now safe. Respect the person and allow them to share if they want to or just hold them when they cry. Be patient and kind. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Don’t assume that you know.

Acknowledge how brave they are when they reach out for the help they need. It takes strength and courage to ask and receive help.


November is Women Abuse Prevention Month and I believe that we all have a role to play in ending domestic violence. While I realize I could never understand what a woman has gone through who has experienced domestic violence, I believe that men need to be part of the solution. That is why I want to speak up and encourage other men to do the same.

I am participating in the Wrapped in Courage Campaign that is happening this month throughout Ontario, including right here in Waterloo Region. The purple scarf represents the courage it takes a woman to leave an abusive relationship. However, the idea is that the courage of a woman alone is not enough; it will take the support of an entire community to end violence against women.

Participating in the Wrapped in Courage Campaign is one thing that I am doing to show my support. Something else that I can do is use my voice.

As a firefighter I’ve witnessed the immediate aftermath of domestic violence first hand, but the impact ripples on for years, even becoming cyclical. If we want to build safe and healthy communities, silence and apathy are not options. We cannot stop at identifying and labelling either – we must press on into deeper conversations and as men, I believe we need to look into our roles and seek opportunities for growth.


Creating Meaningful Connections

One way we can continue to grow is through building meaningful relationships. Recently, in a closed but very large group on social media, I shared some emotional feelings about a journey that my wife was going through. I was amazed at the feedback. So much support, so much love… A connection and acceptance that is rarely observed on social media. I could even venture to say a clear and obvious need was identified. People want and need to see real, raw emotion.

It seems in our busy lives we have more friends but less meaningful connections. What it means to be human is being shaped and redefined by every media story and Instagram post that we read. For many people, this increases their desire to identify with someone and to truly SEE them.

Some comments on my post also seemed to point to a belief that good, caring men are rare. And that a “Man Up” culture is disrupting and destroying the cultural balance and safe space that our communities are meant to provide. These two ideas tear at me at a visceral level and so I’m writing this in the hopes that we can work together to change the future.

Desmond Tutu has two quotes that profoundly impact me and shape my viewpoint:

  • “If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor…”
  • “There comes a point when we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.”

I’m an upstream thinker, so these thoughts are intended to help prevent abusive situations by opening the dialogue, challenging emotions, and building skills.

The Impact of Toxic Masculinity

There is also a lot of buzz right now around male toxicity and the patriarchal society we live in. This can be worded in many ways, but recently I heard Elizabeth Gilbert describe it as Divine Masculine vs Profane Masculine and Divine Feminine vs Profane Feminine. Whatever verbiage we use, I think it’s important to recognize that these possibilities exist in all of us. It is up to us to choose how we show up in the world.

Qualities like logical, focused, courageous, nurturing, creative, receptive, brave, patient, wise and responsible taken to extremes can present and show up as disruptive, controlling, petty, selfish, aggressive, jealous, boastful, intimidated, etc. We are constantly balancing between good and evil or light and dark – so how do we tip the scales in favour of good?

Whether it be Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, or Harvey Weinstein, the headlines are filled with glaring examples of dysfunctional reactions, patterns and choices of how to show up. These figureheads are modeling behaviours that are not aligned with caring and compassionate leaders and often receive more attention from media. But it isn’t only in the headlines – if we pause and reflect on the traits I’ve mentioned, I’m sure everyone can think of examples in their own lives where they’ve witnessed or displayed the profane masculine or profane feminine.

Earlier I mentioned the Wrapped in Courage Campaign and how the purple scarf represents the courage it takes for a woman to leave. I think we also need to discuss how men can be courageous – by speaking up when we witness inappropriate behaviour and by modeling the behaviours of good men.

Building Safe Communities

Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, says “…leadership is a choice, not a rank.” I hope we will choose to be leaders of ourselves and lead a vision of safety for all our community.

Challenging stereotypes is one way that we can start being courageous. It’s important to recognize that there are several social stereotypes that many of us contribute to. In some ways, statements like “boys don’t cry”, “tough it out”, and “suck it up”, can have positive, survivor mindset benefits. However, they can also cause destructive patterning at a very young and impressionable age.

It’s my opinion – albeit non-professional, but with almost 50 years of being male – that we emotionally stunt boys from early on. The ability to connect to emotions and more importantly process and express them is often not taught at all.

A rather humorous quote by Confuscious sums it up:

  • “It is only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you learn to solve problems without violence.”

Truthfully, I can’t imagine this is an exact quote, but thanks to google our strategy appears to be to walk around naked and wait for a mosquito to enlighten us… Obviously we can’t wait for the mosquito plan or solve this in one blog post, but how can we start to change the patterning? How can we engage in discussion about emotional regulation for boys and men? Here are a few options I have explored that I think are valuable.

My Request to Men

  • Create a personal ethos. Write it down. It will become your moral compass.
  •  Self-awareness is crucial to making some groundbreaking changes. Take up some form of regular reflection; a journal, meditation, or join a group. Place a calendar reminder and make it a habit.
  • Build accountability into your life, with your moral compass ask buddies to join you and keep each other on the course you set.
  • Find a coach or a mentor, who: 1. Demonstrates the values and morals you believe in and 2. Requests a commitment from you for the time they spend with you. The first one is so you get someone who can show you the path; the second one is so you value the time and investment.
  •  Have courage to stand by your convictions, and to speak up when examples of profane masculine occur around you.
  •  Educate yourself on healthy relationships, forms of abuse, and what you can do to help.
  •  Read books on emotion and leadership and continue to improve yourself.The Body Keeps the Score, The Mask of Masculinity, The Alter Ego, Leaders Eat Last, The Infinite Game.
  •  Maya Angelou said: “When we know better, we do better.” Become a coach, mentor or guide to young boys and men. Let’s ensure that the definition of being a man does not become narrowed and limiting.
  • Have open and candid conversations about stereotypes.
  • Openly encourage the men in your life to express themselves, the younger the man, often the easier it will be. If you have great men in your life remind them to spend time being Clark Kent – even Superman takes off his cape.
  • If you’re a parent, you can encourage the exploration of all emotions. If your children are happy, sad, angry, excited, scared ask them to describe it and explain why. What makes them feel that way? Ask where they feel it? Emotions often manifest in physical ways. This will teach them to associate physical feelings and know how to manage them. Sit with them and help them manage and assess the experience. Dr. Shefali is an amazing teacher and professional. Read her work. You’ll set your children up for a massive head start on life.

Men, we need to be part of the solution when it comes to ending violence against women. I think that if we all work towards being better people, as well as engaging in healthier relationships, then we will be able to make a positive difference.


Who I Am

Elton John once said: “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

I couldn’t agree more.

My name is Kathy and I am the Music Therapist at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. In my role, I use music therapy to help women and children who have experienced trauma due to domestic violence.

Music Therapy is a discipline in which accredited professionals use music to support development, health and well-being of a client’s quality of life. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social and spiritual domains. They conduct client assessments, develop treatment plans, implement therapy practices and evaluate progress.

Although traditional talk therapy can be a powerful tool, it does not work for everyone. Music therapy is an accessible alternative to talk therapy because music is a universal, non-verbal language. It appeals to everyone who comes into our shelters – children, youth and women alike.

A Journey with Domestic Violence

Every week, I visit each of our shelters (Anselma House and Haven House) for 6 hours to provide music therapy services to women and children. The music therapy services I offer are designed to support each, individual person.

Family music therapy includes sessions with mothers and their young children and babies. The music therapy techniques that I use are based on attachment and bonding between mother and child. This is so important because through studies, we know that trauma can have a significant negative impact on the bond between a mother and child. A big part of my role is to strengthen that relationship.

It is a relief for many young mothers to engage in guided play and music-making with their young child. This may seem simple, but unfortunately for many of the women we support, their trauma has overwhelmed their ability to meet these seemingly basic needs of their children.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, children who have endured trauma early in life are more vulnerable to develop psychiatric afflictions like depression, anxiety, mood disorders, addictions and high-risk behaviors later in life. Highly-respected physician and researcher here in Canada, Gabor Mate, states a similar case in his book “Hungry Ghosts”.

Children who have experienced trauma and abuse can also have real difficulty expressing their feelings. Music therapy offers an outlet for self-expression that is often immediately accessible, in that it does not rely solely on talking. Children and youth are encouraged to let out their emotions, rather than bottling them up. Painful memories, abuse and trauma, and expression of feelings and thoughts that are typically socially unacceptable can all be released during music therapy. Guided drumming, piano improvisation, song writing, lyric analysis, and learning an instrument are each used to support children and youth in their emotional processing.

I Remember

I met Harry, the youngest of 10 children, when he was seven years old. He was struggling with a significant stuttering problem – an issue that can be associated with experiencing trauma at a young age. During Harry’s first music therapy session we began drumming together on a djembe. It quickly became apparent that when Harry chanted short phrases in combination with his rhythmic drumming, his stuttering dramatically reduced.

The look on his face as we both took notice of this was priceless. Harry had big tears in his eyes as he tried to express his frustration with his stuttering, especially at school, so you can imagine the power of this moment.

During the next two sessions, we worked on Harry’s speaking to a drumbeat while he tapped his hand on his leg. Again, his stuttering greatly diminished while he spoke to this steady beat. During our last session, Harry’s mother joined us. Tears quickly came to her eyes as she recognized how this simple, rhythmic technique could equip Harry with a way to overcome his stuttering. I showed her how she could play a role moving forward by reminding Harry to tap his leg while he spoke.

Harry now had a strategy to help him with his stuttering – and his mother had the opportunity to strengthen their bond by playing a role in his continued success.

Moving Beyond Violence

Through my work, I also have the opportunity to connect with women who moving beyond violence. These women who come into shelter can be struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction and mental health issues, as well as shame and grief. These issues have often developed as a direct result of the trauma they experienced due to domestic violence.

Music therapy offers a safe, non-threatening exploration of emotion; it can be an expressive and creative outlet, as well as a cathartic release of pent up emotions. It can also work as a tool for transforming things like anger and conflict into something powerful, energizing and strengthening. Guided Imagery to music can be a powerful tool to assist in relaxation. Songwriting, lyric discussion, improvisation, and singing can engage our women to access a deep part of themselves that they may have lost or repressed.

One woman who benefitted greatly from this is Rhonda. During her stay with us, Rhonda was struggling with intense grief. Her 17-year-old son had decided to leave shelter to live with his brother because he was frustrated with his mother’s addictions. The residential staff at the shelter asked me to assist them in their interactions with her. Rhonda had not left her room for an entire day and night and staff were concerned with her suicidal ideation.

I went into her room to speak with her, gently encouraging her to come for music therapy. We were very relieved when she agreed. First, she had some juice and a little food, as she had not eaten in two days. Rhonda then began to unload, telling me about her experience, her sadness due to her son leaving, the deep shame she felt because she had not been able to give up her addictive behavior, as well as her depression. I simply held space for her and listened, validating her very real emotions.

Life As A Survivor

Rhonda agreed to take part in some deep breathing while listening to some simple improvised piano music that I played. She closed her eyes and visibly relaxed into the breathing and while concentrating on the live music washing over her. We then began to talk about music and I asked her if she’d heard of “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. She said that she had. So I played it for her and we sang some of it together:

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”

Through tears, Rhonda told me that she identified with the lines, “I’ve still got, a lot of fight left in me.”

After we sang the sing together, Rhonda started talking about making some positive life choices. We loaded the song into her phone so that she could listen to it whenever some of the negative self-talk emerged. Three weeks later, I ran into Rhonda as she was packing up her things. Her son was back with her and she told me they were moving into their own place. “Thank you for that time I came to visit you,” she told me. “It helped me a lot”.

She gave me a hug, and I knew that she still did, indeed, have a lot of fight left in her.

I Am Your Neighbour

These are the kind of moments that remind me we do this work and why it is so important.

For many women who experience domestic violence, their journey doesn’t end when they leave the relationship. There are lots of women like Rhonda who have a long road ahead of them as they re-build their lives. The abuse from their partner may be over but effects of the trauma they endured can linger for much longer.

My job is to provide these women and children with the tools that they need to move forward, especially once they leave shelter and they are no longer receiving our support. I feel confident that Harry and Rhonda now have the tools they need to live a more safe and happy life.

As a music therapist, it is an honour and privilege to help my clients. I’ve always thought that I have the greatest job in the world. I am grateful to be able to bring the healing elements of music to women and children who need it most.


Who I Am

Everyone has a story, some good some bad. I think the most important thing about your story is what you learn from it.

Here is my story.

I am 53 years old and originally from California. I have been married to my amazing husband for seventeen years and we have a wonderful son who just entered his teen years. He is the only blood relation I know in this world.

A Journey with Domestic Violence

I was born one of thirteen siblings all who were given up for adoption. My biological mother had me when she was forty-two and as far as I know, I was her last child. My mother’s lifestyle as a sex worker put me at risk for sexual abuse at a young age. If you think a child does not remember things from their childhood when they are adults, don’t kid yourself. I remember it like it was yesterday. I moved often between foster homes and orphanages, until my mother lost custody of me for good. At eight years old, I was placed in foster home where the sexual abuse continued.

I was finally free from abuse two years later when, at age ten, my adopted family was awarded custody. What I didn’t realize then is how my past abusive experiences would affect my future relationships. I thought my life was free from the pain of my childhood, but once you’re abused, or at least for me, it became the only type of attention I really grew to know.

I Remember

I met my first boyfriend at eighteen. I was naive and so desperately wanted someone to love me, all of me, no matter the consequences. The first time he hit me was after I spoke with a boy I went to college with while at the grocery store. When we got home I was thrown up against a wall, punched and called names. He said I was flirting with the guy, and had a “thing” for him. I remember he took a can of deodorant out of the grocery bag and started slamming his head yelling “look what you’re making me do”. I felt so bad and ashamed that I was causing him to self inflict pain. I am going to repeat that, I felt ashamed that I hurt him. I felt it was my fault that he was so angry and I remember hugging his ankles begging him to forgive me. He did and promised he would never strike or shove me again. I believed him. There were little arguments that we had where he upset me but not to the point that I would say it was abuse. Perhaps I neglected to recognize the signs.

The next big fight we had happened when we were headed to a birthday party. I had a white summer dress on and he thought it was too sexy. He shoved me to the floor and physically assaulted me by dropping a bowling ball on my back, breaking my back. All I can remember is the dreadful pain that I was in and that I could not move. He begged me not to tell anyone what really happened. He said that it was an accident, that he was so very sorry and that he promised he would never do it again. In the hospital, I remembered his words and again I felt so horrible that I chose a dress that made him so angry. What was I thinking! He said all sort of things that made me feel that I had provoked him and I felt his actions were all my fault.

Moving Beyond Violence

The final straw that finally motivated me to run was when he broke my nose. After it happened, he fled my apartment and I picked up the phone to call for help. This was the breaking point when I decided to leave the relationship. Throughout the five years we were together, I had pushed away anyone who wanted to help because he secluded me. He was so good at manipulating me that I didn’t know what love was truly supposed to feel like. I thought I was deserving of his abuse. I did not know any better. I did not know there was better.

One thing I have learned through all of this is, if you have a friend in a similar situation, in pain, and hurt, you may wonder why they don’t just leave. You need to realize that it’s not that easy. There are many reasons why women don’t leave. They may have had a childhood like mine and could be craving attention. Even bad attention, because it’s all they know. It’s all I knew! I was weak and my abuser had such a strong hold on me. I am here today to say, we can get strong. With the right support, with God and a strong supporter, like my mom, I got through it.

Like many abusive partners, my boyfriend tracked me down years later after I had moved to a different city. My mom had an encounter with him while she was staying at my apartment and he climbed in the kitchen window. I don’t know how that conversation went. But whatever she said, I never saw him again.

My Life as a Survivor

To be a woman who was in an abusive relationship for five years is not something I am proud of. What I am proud of is that I am a woman who survived, got out and never looked back. I made the choice to help myself and help others. I am free of the pain and control I was under for so many years. Today I am an example of someone who was severely abused but found the strength to love myself and create a life that I had always dreamed of. We are all survivors and it is possible.

I once heard someone use the phrase “Beauty from Ashes” I feel that I became a beauty from ashes. I AM A SURVIVOR. I am so proud of who I have become and though the journey was hard, I feel that I am a very strong woman because of it. I have an amazing man who loves me with his entire heart, I have an amazing son who is my entire world, I own my own company and I now make it my mission to help other women who are going through the things I have. I hope that by sharing my experience I am able to make a difference in many woman’s lives. I want to help others create beauty from ashes.

I am Your Neighbour

If someone comes to you and is need, if they are going through abuse, know they are coming to you because they need someone. They need someone who they can trust, they need someone to listen, they need someone who is not going to judge. Just be that person. In my personal journey, I was not ready to make any moves until I was really ready. It was so very, very hard to open up to anyone, but when i did, I was not looking for a scolding or a lecture, I was looking for a trusting person who would just listen, let me cry and ask for help when I was ready. Always recommend the places where they can seek help such as Women’s Crisis Services, be gentle with them, and let them know there are places of safe haven for them.

Together we can save one person at a time.

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