Why Leaving is the Most Dangerous Time

Why Leaving is the Most Dangerous Time with Colette Martin

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 why Leaving is the most dangerous time with Collette. Martin Colette is a survivor of domestic violence. After a near fatal altercation with her ex boyfriend in 1997, Collette spent many years trying to process her experience. Now she is an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, as well as missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. In this episode of she is your neighbour, Collette talks about the red flags leading up to the night of the attack, her experience healing from trauma, and how she is using her story to help and inspire others.

This episode is part of an eight episode series called when violence escalates, which explores how violence can build, leading to severe incidents and death. This new series builds on season four, understanding femicide, where we explored what happens when domestic violence becomes lethal. Season five is all about the buildup. What does it mean when we say violence is increasing and escalating? Why does it happen? Who does it affect? How can we stop it? We hope you’ll tune in to find out the answers to all these questions and more. We will be releasing new episodes every other week, and we can’t wait to explore these topics with you.

I’m really excited to share today’s episode with you, which is all about Colette’s story. I first met Colette in the summer of 2023, and I immediately felt connected to her. I think a lot of people probably feel that way when they meet Colette. she has just such a great energy and warm personality, and there’s, something about her. When you meet her, you kind of feel like you’ve known her your whole life. I know I felt like that, and everyone on the team did, and our photographer Hilary did. there’s just something special about Colette. We first worked with her on our short documentary, which was released in the fall of 2023, and I was so excited when we got to have her back onto an episode of the podcast for this new series. Colette has survived something that not many people can say that they have survived. It was a very, very severe experience that she had, and I think it’s just. It’s really become part of who Colette is, it’s not just something that she has survived or experienced. It’s something that has really transformed her life and who she is as a person. It’s really become a big part of who she is and what she does now. and I just feel so grateful that I know Colette and so lucky that we’ve got to connect with her for the documentary and for the podcast, to hear her story and to learn from it. 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 to some listeners. Please take care of yourself, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


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

Colette Martin: How are you?

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m good. It’s so good to see you, and.

Colette Martin: I’m so happy to be here with you.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, I’m so happy you’re here. It’s been a little bit now since we’ve seen each other working on the documentary, but I know we’ve talked on the phone a few times since then, but it’s just nice to see your face, even though it’s across the screen. So today we’re going to be talking a little bit about your story. I know some of our listeners probably have heard a bit about your story in our short documentary, but for those who haven’t, I wondered if you could share a little bit about yourself and your story.

Colette Martin: Yes. My name is Colette Martin, and I’m from Basin and New Brunswick. I was almost murdered 26 years ago by my ex boyfriend. Took me 24 years or a little more to get up and share my story with others, to, help them heal while I’m healing myself and give them hope. So, 26 years ago, I was. Started 27 years ago. I started dating this guy and, fell right in love. Well, I thought it was love anyway. We dated for about, ten months altogether. Traveled everywhere. He played hockey, and that’s how I met him in my hometown. We traveled everywhere for about seven months for him to play hockey. And then, after seven months, I let him move in with me. And, that’s when I saw the real person. So, I knew I couldn’t live with him anymore, so I kicked him out of my house. And seven months later, he came back at night and tried to kill me.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing that, Colette. I wondered if you could share a little bit more about what happened that night, if you’re comfortable.

Colette Martin: Yeah, no problem. He, came. He called me that night to tell me he was coming to retrieve the rest of his things. And he would usually call, but he wouldn’t show up. But that night, I had an eerie feeling. And you know how they say, to listen to that little voice? And thank God I did. At 1140, he broke my door down. I was in a deep sleep. I came out of my bedroom, closed the door behind me because my son was sleeping in the bedroom. I looked up and saw him standing there. And he was standing there. He had no eyes. He had two black holes in his head. And he looked at me and said, tonight’s the night you’re going to die. And I looked down and I looked up again, and when I looked up again, I saw his eyes go straight to my knife drawer. So, I tried to get to the knife drawer before him, but I didn’t make it. He took the biggest knife out of the drawer, turned me around and slit my throat. And later on, I ran. He dragged me back. later on, he stabbed, me 37 times. I ran again, and this time, I made it to my parents house. he grabbed me and dragged me back to the end of the driveway, where I had to literally beg on my knees for my life. And I had to tell him that I still loved him and that I would never leave him. But I knew it was over. But I just. This is what I had to do to survive. He told me nobody else. If he couldn’t have me, nobody else would. So, I was very lucky my cousin was in the house because I had called her because I didn’t want any problems. And, I didn’t really know if he was coming or not. But thank God, I called my cousin. So while I was running, she stayed in the house, she took care of my son and was on the phone with the police. The second time I ran. When I got to my parents house, he dragged me to the end of the road. And, I looked up and I saw the police vehicle coming. I saw the lights, and I knew I was going to be okay. but what happened is that, he dropped the knife because I told him it was over and that he would. They would take him away. He dropped the knife, I grabbed it, and I ran towards the road. When the police got there, I was standing there with the knife in my hand, and he told the police that I had hurt him. And the police had no way of knowing because I had a towel around my neck to hide my neck from my little boy. And, so I was. Went in the police car for a few minutes until my sister and my cousin came out and told them what had happened. And it was more like a protective thing for me because they wanted to separate us. So they got him away from me. After my sister and my cousin talked to the police and told them what had really happened. then I got out of the car. He went in the police car. I went the ambulance, and, I was brought to the hospital.

Jenna Mayne: Thank you for sharing, Colette. I know you tell your story a lot, but I’m sure it’s still difficult sometimes to tell it, and it’s still difficult for me to hear it, even though I’ve heard it quite a few times now. It’s just awful. I just. I don’t even know how to react to what happened to you. But I’m just so glad that you’re still here with us today and you’re doing what you’re doing. So I just. I’m so grateful for you sharing with us and being here. For those who don’t know what happened next, can you explain? I know he was charged. I went to prison. Maybe you could share a little more about that.

Colette Martin: Yes. so after he was charged, and it happened really, really fast, I was really, really lucky. He went to jail right away. They held him there until trial. And on the 26th and 27, June of 1997 was the trial. We went to trial. of course, he pled not guilty. He didn’t want to say that he did anything wrong. He told the judge that my cousin had moved his hand, and that’s how he had stabbed me. So he lied throughout the whole trial. Anyway, he was found guilty for attempted murder and forcible confinement and break and enter, because what I didn’t share a while ago is that right before the police got there, he had hurt himself and then told me that he would take me away in his car and we could die together. so the police got there right in time, and I was so blessed and grateful that they got there, because I don’t know what I would have done. And, they saved my life. I get emotional when I talk about that all the time, because every time I share my story, every little bit. And I guess that’s what post traumatic stress disorder is. I don’t think you really ever get rid of it. I just found little tricks and little things to do to make me feel better. And by sharing my story, I give people hope, but I also heal at the same time. And that’s what the beauty is of it. So I often say how lucky I am and how beautiful this journey is, even though I’ve suffered a lot of trauma, I’ve witnessed so many miracles, and I’m still here today.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: Call out you surviving. It truly is a miracle. And honestly, when I think of your story, it just hits home, because I think of, you know, even throughout 2023, all the women who have been killed by their intimate partner. We’ve heard so many stories in the news, and, you know, in 2023, there was over 170 women killed, and it’s just not okay. And you were one of the lucky ones who survived.

Colette Martin: Exactly.

Jenna Mayne: And I really. I know. I’ve heard you say it, and I truly believe it, that you survived to tell your story and to help people. And I really think you’re making a big difference, and not everyone gets to. And what you’re doing with this chance is just incredible. So thank you for the help.

Colette Martin: Thank you. Thank you.

Jenna Mayne: So now, I really appreciate you sharing it. I know you said it is difficult, and, it does help so many people. I know our listeners will be so inspired by your story. Something else I wanted to ask you was, this episode is part of our escalation series, so we’re talking about how violence escalates, and we really want to educate people about the warning signs. What are some of the red flags that maybe you didn’t see or people wouldn’t know if they don’t know about this? Right. So I’m wondering if you could take us back to before that night and even before the breakup, actually, and maybe tell us a little bit more about the relationship and some of the red flags that. That you now see looking back.

Colette Martin: Well, that’s it, right? Because I never saw any red flags because I was never educated in anything. Any, part of, intimate partner violence or domestic violence or, like, I didn’t know. Like, I thought that, you know, when he would call me 20 times a day, I thought he was calling because he loved me. And also, like, he was trying to isolate me from my family. And that was a big thing because he didn’t want any part of anybody else being part of my life. and that was impossible for me. I had a six year old boy that was, like, a lot. Like, he, tried to control what I ate, the way I exercised. But I. You know, again, when you’re young and you think this person loves you, I thought he was doing all of that because he wanted me to feel better or look better. You know what I mean? I should have known like, I should have known these things, but I didn’t see them because I was never educated. And I think that’s where I come in and I can help lot of people. Like, when I go into schools and universities and stuff, and I share my story, you could hear a pin drop. It’s unbelievable. Like, I’ve gotten message from young girls, you know, telling me how they feel less alone after they hear my story. Because you really think you’re alone. I thought I was alone for 24 years before I started doing all of this really big, like, I did share my story, quite a few times before all of this. But when I. I started sharing and I saw that people were listening and that I wasn’t alone, then I thought, oh, my God, I can do this.

Jenna Mayne: I’m so glad you are doing it, because it’s making a big difference. There’s a few things you said there that stuck out to me. You said you should have known. And, no, I don’t think you should have known. You didn’t know. That’s not your fault. You had no education about this. So, don’t, please don’t blame yourself. But that is why we’re doing this, right? And this is why your story is so powerful and you’re helping others. So I hope that others who are listening are starting to kind of get a sense of what these red flags are and what these signs are. Because sometimes, you know, what we’re taught to think of is love. It’s not love, right? It’s actually abuse, and it’s power and control and it’s not. Okay.

Colette Martin: That’s right. he also would, when we would argue, he would grab me and leave, like, bruises on my arms and stuff. You know, like, that’s when I let him move in with me. After I moved, after I let him move in with me, that’s when that stuff started. So one time he kicked me in the stomach really hard, and that was the beginning of the end. And that’s when I knew. So I started getting ready. Like, I started planning that I’m gonna get rid of this guy. You know, I didn’t need him. My son wasn’t around when this happened, that we weren’t even at home. But I knew then, like, that was the beginning of the end, and I knew I had to get rid of him. I just didn’t know how to do it. And I was very lucky because I had my own place. Like, my parents had given me a little house to live in for me and my son. And I was fortunate that I had that. But it’s not everybody that are lucky like I am. You know, usually we have nowhere to go. And everywhere we turn, nobody believes or hears us. And the judgments are unbelievable. So I think people should just listen to understand and not judge, because we need help, and we need people to listen. And we don’t need to know what. What you think we should do. We need to know what we. You know, like, we need to hear people telling us some stuff, but not. Not to think, because that we’re gonna follow exactly what they say. But it gives us ideas. And for me, like, my mom warned me from the beginning, my mom saw it all, but I didn’t see it. I thought I was in love. I thought this was the man of my dreams. Obviously not.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: And that’s the hard thing, right? Is how do you plant those seeds? And like you said, you can’t just have someone come in and tell you what to do. That’s not going to resonate with someone going through it, because when you’re in it, it’s so much different. And I think that’s difficult for people on the outside to sometimes understand, and it’s, how do I support? But I think sometimes it’s just letting them know, like you said, not being judgmental, letting the person know you are here for them. You see some things that you’re concerned about, and just planting those seeds so that if they do decide to leave that relationship, they know they have someone who genuinely cares about them and will help them.

Colette Martin: Exactly.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah, I wanted to ask you, too, Colette. After you kicked him out, I was wondering how that unfolded.

Colette Martin: After I kicked him out, nothing. Nothing really happened. Like, I never thought in a million years he would come back and try and kill me. After I kicked him out, I, told him this wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He moved back to Montreal, where he was from. And after a few months, I think he moved back here in New Brunswick. He moved back to Moncton, and he had another girlfriend. He was living with her. You know, he would still. He would write me love letters to tell me he wanted me back, or he would call and stuff. And another thing, I never realized that he had left all that stuff behind to come back and retrieve things, you know, that gave him an excuse to come back. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now that I look back, I know that that was another one of his plans to come back into my life. You know, so he would call and he would write me letters and stuff, but I would be firm and tell him no, and that I had moved on with my life. He didn’t. I guess that freaked him out. And seven, months later, he came at night when I was sleeping. But I really wasn’t expecting him to do that. I just. And I had just called my cousin, because I didn’t want any trouble. Like, I didn’t want to argue with him. I just, you know, I just wanted peace. But that was, like, so out of, I don’t know, it just still blows my mind when I think about it.

Jenna Mayne: Yeah. And I think that piece is so important because that’s something we always talk about with women and say that leaving is the most dangerous time of a relationship, and it’s the time when violence is most likely to escalate. And I don’t think a lot of. Yeah, a lot of people don’t know that. Right? And that’s why we say for those who. Who do have connections, you know, reach out to a women’s shelter, make a safety plan, because there’s a lot that you can do to make sure you’re safe. And you didn’t know this. You had no way of knowing this. And the crazy thing is that it was seven months later. Right. It wasn’t right when it ended. I think just knowing how to be safe, you know, what are the steps? What can you do? Is really, really important.

Colette Martin: Yeah, it is. And for me, 26 years. 26 years ago, there wasn’t all the support and all, you know, all these homes, and all these shelters and, you know, like, they have so many different support systems around now. They have, like, you can call places, you can go see outreach workers. You know, there’s so many support systems all over. There’s no reason that we need to stay. But it’s like you said, when we’re ready and it’s safe, we know. Like, I knew that I needed to get rid of him. I didn’t know to what extent it would go, but I did everything right. So when people ask, why didn’t you leave? Or, you know, like, why did you stay, that long if it was that bad? Like, I thought I did everything right, and it still happened to me. So we have to be very, very careful. And it’s not right that we have to look over our shoulders for everything. You know, it’s just, we need to help women, and we need to work together to make a difference. We can’t do it on our own. I was even, I even attended, the white ribbon campaign here in New Brunswick. They’re, male allies. Like, we even, like we have so much support all over the world. We need to get together and light the way for other victims survivors to find help and to be at peace. And I think that I’m giving them little hope to keep going.

Jenna Mayne: You are. And you’ve done this in so many ways. You know, the one way, the way we got connected. You participated in our short documentary for she is your neighbour, which we’re so excited about.

Jenna Mayne: To have you on that and share.

Jenna Mayne: Your story, it was just so powerful. And the documentary has won some awards by now, too, so it’s just been really amazing to see. But that’s only a small little piece of the advocacy work that you’ve been doing. I actually wonder, before you tell us about that, maybe you could take us back to how you got into this advocacy work, because I know you said, you know, it helped you start to heal, but you didn’t share for a long time. So what prompted you to do this?

Colette Martin: my mom was dying four years ago, and she told me to get rid of everything that hurt me. I didn’t understand what she meant, but I knew there was a message in those words for me. But then Covid hit, and I had all that time to try and figure out what did she mean? And I knew that she was talking about all the stuff that I was carrying inside and wasn’t able to share for all those years because I just didn’t want to hurt anybody. I didn’t want to bring back. Like, I didn’t want to re traumatize my family, m my cousin, my son. Like, I just. And, like I said, there wasn’t any resources like there is now. And, one day I talked about it with my son a lot to try and figure out what I could do for work, because with my PTSD, it’s difficult for me to do a lot of stuff. You know, I could talk in front of a thousand people. It doesn’t bother me. But making a puzzle gives me anxiety. So, you know, like, if I have to concentrate a lot, then I get really bad anxiety. So for me to be able to go out and get, like, a regular job, and stuff that I have to think a lot and stuff and concentrate a lot makes me sick. So, I was always so scared to ask, right? So one day, my son came up and he said, mom, we’re going to write your story. So I started writing my story. I started writing a book, which is not a book yet because it’s not done, because I’ve been working so hard with everything else that I don’t. I never had time to sit down and finish anything. But I found some friends here in Moncton, and they’re willing to help me write my story, and I’m really excited about that because they’ll walk me through it because they just wrote books. They’re a part of this group in Moncton of women, and they’re called the wows, and they’re women of words, and they’re supposed to help me write my story, and they’re going to do it for nothing because they know that I don’t have a job yet, so they’re willing to help because that’s their way. That’s their gift to the world, you know, helping me share my story. So then, what happened? I put a little video of myself on Instagram. I thought, oh, my God, I finally found my tribe. Like, I couldn’t believe that there was all these people going through all of this. Like, I was the only one, like, in a small community in New Brunswick. Nobody talked about it. I knew, like, some of this had happened, you know, but, everybody, you know, like, nobody talked about anything. Everybody hides it. And it’s time for us to speak up and not be silent anymore because silence is harboring our perpetrators, and we need to do something about it. And the only way to do it, is share our story. But also we have to make sure that we have a safe space for us to share our story in. I just want to make sure that people know that it’s very, very dangerous.

Jenna Mayne: Absolutely. I think you make a good point there. That’s something we always have to be careful about when we have people on this podcast, too. Is. Are they in a safe situation to share? And when we found you for the documentary, actually, we saw that you had done a CBC interview about Claire’s law that you helped get passed in New Brunswick. And we knew then that you were in a safe place to share because you. You had shared before. And we talk with you a lot about that.

Jenna Mayne: But I agree.

Jenna Mayne: I think that’s something listeners need to know. You need to be in a safe place to share your story. This isn’t something we take lightly. It’s really important. But I’m so glad to hear you share about how you got into this, and that’s really interesting, and I appreciate you sharing that about your mom, too, Colette. I think, you know, our parents can have such a big impact on us. And I lost my dad a year ago, too. Yeah. Thank you. And I’m sorry about your loss, too. But I think, you know, I think they’re proud of the work that we’re doing. And I like to think, you know, they’re looking down and then they’re pretty happy with the moves that we’re making. So I think they definitely would be. I also wondered if you could tell us a bit about Bill 17, informally known as Clare’s law, that you helped get passed in New Brunswick. So the actual title of the law is the disclosure to protect against intimate partner violence act. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Colette Martin: Yes. so Bill 17 was passed December 16 of, 2022. And it is to, help us find out about our abusers or ex partners background. they cannot give you anything specific. It would be word of mouth. they can’t give you you specific charges and stuff, but they will be able to tell you if it’s high risk or low risk. And I think that that’s a great tool for us. So they’re working on it right now. I am sharing it with the world to make it, that everybody knows that this is available. I really could have used this law back in my time because my ex had broke the job, his ex girlfriend, but I had no way of knowing. So for me, that was like, that’s really, really important. And then, especially with everyone, like, online dating and stuff, we really don’t know who these people are. Like, if we sometimes we don’t even know who they are. They live right next door to us. It’s like you said, she is your neighbour, so we really don’t know what’s going on. So, I think this law is really important, and I think it should be all over the world. And, what happened with me is that this little girl from UNB, the, University of New Brunswick, contacted me when she saw all the advocacy I was doing. And she contacted me and she said, did you ever hear of Claire’s law? And I said, no. And she told me about it. She sent me the link and stuff. And, she said, do you think you could work on this and get it all done and get it passed? And I said, well, I said, tiff, I can’t. Her name is Tiffany Fazio. I didn’t know if I said, like, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do anything, but I’m going to give it my best shot. And, like, not, I called our MLA. I called our MP, they must have worked on their end. Like, I know my m m MLA worked on her end and brought it to Fredericton, but they were already. Women’s equality branch were already looking into it. So I think when I called and I shared my story, and I think it kind of, you know, made it more real. So, yeah, it didn’t take long. I’m sure, like, within a year, this, law was passed, and it was. What an honor. Oh, they gave me a standing ovation. Like, it was unbelievable. Like, I went for the second reading. I was there for a long time. Time. But it was passed, and it was passed unanimously. And, it’s absolutely beautiful.

Jenna Mayne: That’s amazing. That’s a huge accomplishment, Colette. That’s just doing so much for women. And I won’t forget the date it was passed, because December 16 is my birthday, so. Yeah, happy birthday.

Colette Martin: My birthday’s on the.

Jenna Mayne: No way.

Colette Martin: Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: Oh, my gosh. So, next week, it’s Sagittarius.

Colette Martin: Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: That’s awesome.

Jenna Mayne: That’s why we’re so connected.

Colette Martin: Yeah.

Jenna Mayne: And just for people listening, too, I wanted to mention that, we don’t have Claire’s law passed yet in Ontario. We do have a motion passed relating to it that happened June 6, 2023, and that was MPP Jenny Stevens, who brought that forward. So she brought forward that motion. So, the Ontario government is considering adopting legislation like this, but it is still in the works, and it hasn’t happened yet. So, just for our listeners to know where we’re at in Ontario, we are getting there. We got to keep. Keep hope and keep looking forward. So, on that note, Colette, I wondered if you could share something. We always ask podcast guests, is, you know, this is called. She is your neighbour. And we always want to talk about what we can do to be better neighbours to women who are experiencing domestic violence. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this.

Colette Martin: For me, I think if you see something, call it out. It’s not cool to abuse women, and it’s not cool to do any kinds of violence, against women or anywhere or anyone. And, I think you should just stand up and talk about it and start sharing it with your friends and saying, like, you know, if you see something, stop it. Or, you know, just don’t do it.

Jenna Mayne: I agree. And I think what you said earlier, too, we talked about this early in the episode, but just showing people that you’re there and you’re someone who’s supportive and you’re not judgmental, there’s so much we can do to kind of, to help others. And, and you do need to say something if you see it. So thank you so much, Colette, for being here. I really can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. I know. I know it’s difficult, but it is just such an incredible story. And I’m so grateful for all the work that you’re doing.

Colette Martin: Thank you.

Jenna Mayne: That wraps up this week’s show, but the conversation, 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.

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