Neighbours, Friends and Families Newsletter Winter 2015

Melissa is a Survivor

Without the support of her neighbour, Melissa’s not sure she would have survived her abusive relationship.  Eight years later, she tells her story so that others in similar situations will know that there’s hope.  “You can have a whole different life,” she says.  “I would tell my story a million times if it would help one person.”

Melissa was married for more than five years to a man who was charming at first.  “He made me feel like a princess,” says Melissa.  “But then, while we were still dating, he became controlling.”

Afraid to fail and sure that things would get better if she just loved him enough, Melissa married and had two children.  “He was better when I was pregnant but after our second child, he went out more, he was short-tempered and abusive.”

Over time, the abuse escalated and Melissa knew she had to leave.  Her husband was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive.  Melissa found herself under constant stress, unable to pull her weight at work and brushing off the concerns of friends who noticed she was bruised or limping from his assaults.

When her husband began to verbally and physically abuse her in front of her children – then aged one and three years old, Melissa decided that she had to find a way out.  The violence continued to escalate until he started to choke her until she was seeing stars one night.

Afraid for her life, Melissa fled barefoot into the snow that February night.  Screaming for help, she found shelter at a neighbour’s.  Fortunately, the woman understood Melissa’s situation well because she was also a survivor.  Her neighbour called the police and Melissa remembers the intense sense of relief she felt after giving her statement.  “I wasn’t hiding anymore,” she says.

Melissa received a cell phone from the police to help keep her safe and contacted a local abused women’s centre.  She entered their support program and started counseling sessions.  There were lots of appointments to attend with the police and other agencies and Melissa was fortunate that her manager at work was very supportive in giving her time to attend the meetings.

The support Melissa received from others kept her firm in her decision to leave the abusive marriage.  Today she’s in a happy, healthy second marriage to a kind and compassionate man.  Her kids are thriving and she’s proud of her promotion to a management position at work.

“My life just started again when I left,” says Melissa.  “I don’t know that I’d even be here without the support of my neighbour and other friends and family.”

Can Work be Safe When Home Isn't?

Change is most effective when it’s based in a solid understanding of the facts.  A recent pan-Canadian survey by the University of Western Ontario has revealed important information about the scope and impacts of domestic violence in the workplace that will help concerned neighbours, friends and family to support victims.

The survey report titled “Can Work be Safe When Home Isn’t?” contains facts and figures but also shares personal comments from victims.  The important role that outside supports play in a victim’s efforts to survive and leave an abusive situation shines through.

One victim commented, “The support from the few co-workers and the employer psychologist was empowering.  The gossip was malicious and not at all helpful.”

Another said, “…confiding in co-workers helped alleviate the stress of being attacked going to the car, the unending phone calls over and over and over and the extreme fatigue both physically and mentally.”

The survey highlights are startling. More than one third of workers across Canada have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, and for more than half of those affected, the violence followed them to work.  6.5 percent of survey respondents indicated they are currently experiencing domestic violence.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario partnered with the Canadian Labour Congress to conduct the first every Canadian survey on domestic violence in the workplace and released their findings last month.  Ultimately, stronger evidence will help to shape legislation, policies and practices that results in progressive change.  It will help promote violence prevention and safety in workplaces; hold abusers accountable; and lift the burden from victims so they don’t have to deal with domestic violence alone.

Survey results reinforce the fact that supporting victims can make a real difference.  Learn the warning signs of abuse, how to support victims or even the how to initiate a discussion with someone you suspect of being an abuser.

Behind the Scenes of our New Digital Stories

This fall, the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) released a digital series showcasing a fictional story of domestic violence and the impacts on the couple, their friends and families.  Now a behind-the-scenes video reveals the motivations and hopes of the director, actors and others who worked on it.

The series was produced by Facilitator Films under the direction of Alan Powell who has been involved for a number of years in work that dispel myths around violence against women.  He is dedicated to authenticity in his work.

“We try to be as realistic as possible in our approach and in the script writing, allowing the education to still come through.  The high end quality of this work will affect the people who see it,” he says.

The series of eight first person accounts explores the feelings, experiences and consequences of abuse on the victim/survivor, her abusive partner as well as family, friends and coworkers.  The stories also offer models for action to help end the abuse and keep everyone safe.

Cast member Kate Drummond believes the digital stories can make a difference.  “I’m always more than willing and anxious to work on a project like this that helps to give a voice to people in our community who are feeling trapped and who are feeling like they have no options,” she says.

Shelley Yeo, Director of Transitional and Community Programs for Women’s Community House also comments from behind the scenes.  She is convinced of the value of educational videos like these.

“When we become aware of the impact of violence and the effect on our communities and our homes and our workplaces, then we’re much more willing to step up and do something about it.

The digital stories can be viewed here.