A Survivor Speaks

My name is Holly, and I am a survivor of domestic violence and abuse.

From the time I was just four years old, until I was nearly thirty years old, enduring violent parental and spousal abuse was a daily part of my life.

During my childhood, society followed the philosophy that "what goes on behind closed doors is no one's business." Naturally, that meant I had no one to turn to for help; not my teachers, not the police. Even my relatives couldn't help me, as my father tended to move us away from them, lock, stock, and barrel, the moment he caught wind that they were trying to get me out of that abusive home. Teachers didn't have any 'right' to lay complaints of child abuse, and police did nothing unless they witnessed the abuse taking place.

From the time I married my first husband, until I divorced my third husband, the abuse I'd endured during my childhood years continued. Resources were scarce, and women's shelters - at least, in my experience - offered little in the way of any real protection or counselling. Already a mother of three by the time I left my second husband, I really had nowhere to turn, and no help in coping with the increasing emotional aspects of being an abuse victim. In fact, one women's shelter actually sent me back into the home!

I was forced to try and get through my life alone, unable to find any help for either me or my children. The constant stress of trying to cope with emotions I didn't understand and couldn't even begin to define, as well as the relentless pressure of trying to stay one step ahead of my abusers, who always managed to find me, wore me down.

The police couldn't/wouldn't help me: "You don't have a Restraining Order, so there's nothing we can do. However," they added, "if he does show up, and he won't leave, you can always give us a call back, and we'll send someone out to talk to him."

The Legal Aid Society wouldn't help me, either, saying that because I didn't have any medical proof of the abuse I'd endured, I couldn't get a Restraining Order. "Of course, you always have the option to hire a lawyer on your own, and apply for the Order that way," I was told. Well, if I could have afforded a lawyer, I would NOT have been forced to accept Welfare in order to feed and clothe my children, and I definitely would not have approached Legal Aid for help!

Looking back at those dark days, I wonder: If help had been available, if there had been better laws in place that would have protected me (and my children) from my abusers, would I have lived differently? Would I have found my way out of that darkness sooner? Had there been access to effective resources, and had I had the support of my community, the police, and the government, could my life possibly have turned out differently?

YES! The current government, for all its bluff and bluster to the contrary, fully supports abusers, rather than the victims of abuse. What few resources there are, exist because the federal and provincial governments aren't involved. Now, what does that say about our so-called 'leaders'?

I am speaking out now, because I am tired of watching victims suffer the indignity and humiliation of being made out to be criminals by our so-called 'justice' system. I am tired of watching abusers walk away from the courts - very likely, laughing their heads off - with little but a slap on the wrist and an order by the judge: "Don't do it again."

My experiences with domestic violence not only place upon me the huge responsibility of reaching out to victims to help them find freedom, they also give me the RIGHT to stand up and fight for those who can't defend themselves. And one of the ways I fight is with words.

Words have power. Everything we think, do, and say has an effect on the rest of our lives. The time is long past due for me to use that to fight for changes to our ineffective, inadequate laws - laws that allow abusers to go free, while making the victims out to be criminals, and punishing them as such.

A Vancouver Island man beat his wife so badly she was hospitalized with critical injuries. She got an Order of Restraint against him, which was put right on the front of her hospital chart, and hospital Security guards were assigned to her.

While visiting with her mother, the victim's husband not only gained entry into the hospital, he also carried a gun hidden in his jacket.

At no point was this man ever stopped and questioned. Not even the hospital Security guards stopped him from entering his wife's room.

The husband shot and killed his wife and her mother, and then walked out of the hospital. No one stopped him from leaving. Then, he shot and killed himself.

There was an inquest, but no one was held responsible for the deaths of the victim and her mother. No one was charged, no one was dismissed, no one was disciplined. No one. In fact, the nurses and the attending doctor all claimed they 'didn't see' the restraining order posted on the victim's chart. The hospital Security guards said they 'didn't see' anyone enter the victim's room, and they 'didn't hear' any gun shots.

No one was punished for these deaths.

I ask you: How is it possible that no one saw the restraining order, when it was posted right in the front of the victim's chart?

How is it possible that no one saw the husband enter the victim's room?

And why was no one held responsible for these needless deaths?

This is by no means an isolated case. Incidents such as this happen all the time, in every part of this country. I don't know about you, but I fail to see the so-called "protection" victims of domestic violence receive.

In Alberta, our women's shelters are desperately overloaded. Do you know that almost 3000 women and children have to be turned away every year, because the shelters are constantly trying to work above capacity?

Did you know that Alberta has very few REAL resources for victims of domestic violence to turn to for help? It's true: Ontario and Saskatchewan have the highest number of resources available for victims - go online, type 'domestic violence' in your search bar, and you'll see exactly what I mean! - while Alberta has very little. Indeed, in my own search, I found only one - ONE! - site that provided only scant information.

For Albertans, it seems that the only way we can get any information is by calling one of the women's shelters and asking them for resources. It's pathetic, if you ask me, that information isn't as accessible to Albertans as it is, say, to Ontarians...

I have emailed the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Alliance Party, asking about their policies on domestic violence, and what, if anything, they plan to do to address this increasingly serious issue.

Not surprisingly, none of the parties want to touch this particular 'hot potato.'

The Liberals responded by soliciting me for money. The Conservatives only promised to get back to me (which they still haven't done, and which I don't expect them to do), and the New Democrats? Well, they didn't bother to respond AT ALL. Interesting, isn't it, how something that's so hot is consistently avoided by those with the power to change things...

This article, written by Jennifer Wells of the Toronto Star, was forwarded to me this morning. I am posting the link to it, because I think everyone should be including themselves in this fight to stop the violence. I hope everyone will read it, and email both the writer of the article, AND Paul Martin.

Change cannot happen unless we make it happen. I encourage everyone to think about those victims who are struggling to survive under the yoke of torture and torment placed upon them by their abusers. Think about the violation of their rights - rights which were laid out in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms when our nation was born.

Most importantly, I urge everyone who reads this to THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN, whose only goal in life, right now, is to try and survive just one more second, one more minute, one more hour.

If you don't do it for the women who are being beaten and killed by abusive partners, DO IT FOR OUR CHILDREN...

As promised, here is the link to Jennifer Wells' article...