1997

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. We are in awe of her strength in surviving her abusive marriage and we are inspired by her bravery in sharing her story out loud. 

Story will inspire

This is a story that has lived within me for several years, actually for almost two decades. This is a story that few have ever told, but if you know it, the story must be told. It’s a true story, one meant to inspire others, not one meant to elicit pity. Pity is not what I needed; strength and inspiration – that’s what I was looking for.

It started a long time ago, when I was a young girl. I met my sweetheart. We were very young, 14 or 15. Circumstances would lead us to marry others, but circumstances would also bring us back together. It’s at that point that the real tale begins.

I believed, like so many young women, that the man I would marry would hold me dear in his heart. He would cherish me, guard me, and protect me. Never would he harm me. I believed that whatever faults I saw, things would be okay because of the underlying truth: he loved me. This was at a time when I believed that people would change for the better, or I could help them change.

My childhood sweetheart was raised in a Christian home, believing in God. His parents were blue-collar hard-workers. I remember his dad in particular. He worked shift work at the tire factory in Kitchener. He landed his job during a time when an education was not necessary to maintain a steady paycheque. At the end of a long day, he would come home to deal with a busy household comprising of five children and a sickly wife. His reward was a cigarette and a beer.

My husband grew up and followed in his dad’s footsteps. He was uneducated. Times had changed and as a result, my husband had difficulty holding down a job. As it turned out, the love of my life was plagued by demons. He believed that he was not worthy of any of life’s treasurers, certainly not love. Because of this, one beer became two, became six. Soon the motto was: “24 beers, 24 hours in a day, not a coincidence.”

I was a master at justifying anything. “He drinks because he worked hard, he drinks because life is so busy, he drinks because…” There were a thousand good reasons to drink, and there were no good reasons to drink. He drank copious amounts, but beer was his drink of choice. I discovered that if he drank spirits, he was more difficult to handle once he was drunk.

Now when I say, “more difficult to handle,” what I really mean is he became violent, physically abusive. As it turned out, he was more violent with spirits, but that didn’t stop his temper when he was drinking just beer. Remember, I was good at justifying anything. I would say things like, “He only drinks on the weekend “(lie), or, “If he drinks beer, he doesn’t get too violent” (another lie). I would console myself by saying, “He doesn’t hit the children,” something that eventually became another lie. I even tried telling myself that others didn’t know. Others knew. They knew and didn’t know what to do.

Friends and family would watch in horror as I sported new bruises. There were so many battles fought over the course of 12 years. So many times I wondered what I had gotten into, how could I change things, could I ever learn the rules of living with him? I knew this was a dangerous situation, ready to go off at any minute. If I said the wrong thing, said something with the wrong tone, served something for supper that wasn’t up to his liking, there would be hell to pay.

After one particularity disastrous birthday and Father’s Day, I went to church with bruises on my face, neck, arms and upper torso. Not cleverly-disguised bruises – these were big, purple, angry bruises. The next day at work, someone asked me what happened. I told them I ran into a door. Looking at me, you knew I would have to run into the door repeatedly to get these bruises. Bravely, I told the lie.

I remember this weekend clearly – it’s the weekend my babies watched as I was choked and beaten. All I could think of was getting away with my babies. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have money; I just needed to get away. It was also the weekend I made up my mind that things would change.

I started dreaming of schemes, trying to figure out how we could leave the home without bringing on another beating. I didn’t care about the things in the house, they were just things and I could earn money to get more things. I envisioned so many scenarios. Maybe he would go away for the weekend and come home to an empty house. Maybe he would be involved in an accident and I could become a grieving widow…problem solved.

One thing I wanted to keep sacred was my relationships – they were few and far between. I didn’t want other people burdened with the mess I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t ask for help. I had been virtually cut off from family, so I couldn’t ask them. This is very typical of an abusive relationship, isolate the victim.

It was almost two years to the day before I finally had enough. With no plan in mind, with little cash resources, we left. We left and made a stand…NO MORE! I didn’t care if he kept everything in the house, he would never touch any of us again. Never again would we live in fear. There would be no more angry voices in my home.

It was the scariest day of my life…EVER. But, it was like being born, a new day with new hope. It was refreshing to get up in the morning and know that I was in control of all that was before me. If something went wrong, I would be responsible for making it right. I also knew that I wouldn’t depend on someone else; there would be no more disappointments.

If you are a victim, you will know when you’ve had enough. It takes a lot of courage to leave; it takes a lot of courage to stay. Make plans, but be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.

Your friends are watching you, they want to help but don’t know how. They can’t believe that you would stay where you are, but don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

If you know a victim, be their support. Don’t judge someone for remaining, you never know what you would do yourself. Be an ear. Protect the children; give them a reprieve in the chaos. Have a moving truck and plenty of strong, young men on standby.

Remember to protect yourself. Once you are free, never look back. You will second-guess yourself for a long time. Your memory will play tricks on you. You will think, “Was it really all that bad?” I have a crack in my jaw that hurts sometimes; this reminds me that yes, it was that bad.

The bible doesn’t say “reconcile and forget,” it simply says “forgive and forget.” Forgiveness does not mean the renewal of the relationship; it is the power to let go. Reconciliation is forgiveness with the expectation of a continued relationship. Don’t kid yourself – there is no expectation of a continued relationship.

Your ex-partner will be angry. They will plead. They will promise to never hurt you again. They will try to convince you that it never happened. Stay strong. Find your friends again. Cry, laugh and cry again. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Be reborn. Rejoice in the day.

I’ve survived. My children have survived. It was 1997, so long ago, but only yesterday. Scars will heal. We will be okay.

~ Dianne

If you are someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is hope and there is help. You are stronger than your story, braver than you know, and a survivor through and through.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

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A Call for Change

Before I get too far into this post, I would like to preface it with this:

I have the utmost respect for the police, the people behind the badge, the sacrifices they make that I simply could not and for keeping us safe. Seriously. I mean no disrespect to the honour they stand for, the lives they give up to serve and the horrors that I can only imagine they have seen as first responders and the mental health weight they carry from their role serving our communities. I especially mean no slight to those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in the line of duty.

I am not a cop, I have never been in a situation that required my response rate and ability to make life altering decisions within seconds and I have no idea what it is like to be faced with situations like this.

I would also like to preface this with not being or claiming to be God and therefore unable to truly know all of the events leading up to and during the horrific incident that occurred in LA on Skid Row this past Sunday. This is not a post about race. This is not a post against our brave men in blue. This is not a post taking a stand or a side with or against anyone.

That being said, it is a post about this:

What I have a problem with are the four, fair-sized men, armed with multiple weapons and professional training – some of the worlds best and finest as we are told – losing control of one man. One man that while/shortly after being tazed to the ground was apparently able to manage the energy and strength to wrestle an officer’s weapon from them – in some accounts he only reached for it and did not actually have hold of the weapon. What I have a problem with is the man who was fatally shot was known to officers as was his history and struggle with mental illness. What I have a problem with is the way it seems lives are ranked in order of importance in a situation such as this – determining that the homeless man deserved to die for resisting and struggling with FIVE shots being fired at him, into him. That the officers chose to shoot FIVE bullets into an unarmed man. I have a problem with this being the solution. FIVE shots. Over what one witness claims was the repeated request for the removal of his tent. Here’s where I had to ask myself; How do unarmed nurses, orderlies and doctors deal with mentally ill patients that are clearly out of control or physically threatening them or another patient? And how do they stay safe without killing them? They tactically take them down by each grabbing a limb – in ignorance of never being through it, is this not part of basic training for the police?

I do not understand where our society went wrong. When this type of response became acceptable. When this level of violence, of force was a reasonable reaction to this kind of situation. When did this story become more and more familiar as we become numb to it. And while I do understand that the media tailors the main stream news to whatever cause or conflict they would like us to be fearful over at the moment, I also understand that the role of an officer is to ‘serve and protect’ the people of a community – it seems the many kinds and characters it takes to make up said communities is sometimes forgotten, specifically the mentally ill. When a man pleads for his life stating he can’t breathe, or a child raises their hands in surrender, or a homeless man struggles with police in broad daylight, yet their lives are still swiftly taken, I cringe that this is a world where I live. That this is the reality of our society today. That we agree this is how a ‘crime’ should or even can be punished.  The extremeness of our society scares me, as it should you.

Our jobs, regardless of earthly occupation should we ever be so humbly reminded, are to take care of each other. To look after and watch over one another. For the lions to protect the lambs – may they be children, mentally ill, senior, challenged in any way, your sibling who is overwhelmed, a friend that struggles with addiction, the hungry that need to be fed. Our roles as souls, as human beings, are to love one another and help each other thrive, heal and LIVE.

Our roles are to find peace and harmony, not perpetuate and accept fear, life-ending violence and judgement.

What made this life worth less than any other?

What made this life worth less than any other?

My heart hurts because it seems there has been very little conversation about what happened on Sunday. It hurts because on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s senseless death, this society seemed more interested in starting actual arguments over the colours of a dumb dress then having any real conversation about our obligation to fix what we have accepted and therefore, have broke. My heart hurts that I am even a little worried at how this post is going to be received, because I know the majority of people don’t want to hear the truth or talk about the hard shit, or deal with the reality of where we are headed as a society. We would all rather talk about the colours of a dress and pretend that what is happening is just what they show us on TV and not what is occurring in our own backyards and in the streets of our own communities as it hits closer and closer to home.

As I said earlier, I am not God, nor do I claim to be – all we have is a bit of unclear video. I was not a direct witness to the details of this past Sunday, nor do I think we will ever have all of the information, as we see in cases such as this. I do not claim to have the answers, but I do have the feeling in my soul that this level of violence and response is unacceptable and that if is not addressed, curbed and improved upon, it will only continue to evolve beyond any solution, if it hasn’t already.

~ Toni

Prayer for peace

We pause today to remember those who have been affected by the tragedies that have struck our country in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and in Ottawa over the past week.

Photo by: Shawn Dearn

Photo by: Shawn Dearn

Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of the fallen and the injured, the first responders, and all those who need to heal in the days and weeks and months and even years to come.

Above all, we pray for peace in the wake of the violence, and wisdom for the decision-makers as they take the first steps to repair what has been broken.

~ The Sisterhood