Today is the fifth day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. For the next three days, we will be sharing stories of gender-based violence from actual Society members. Their names and workplaces have not been included in order to protect their identities.
CONTENT WARNING: Intimate partner violence
I will start my story by saying that I was raised by parents who, although extremely strict, always encouraged me that I could do whatever I wanted to do; all you have to do is keep trying. This became true when I found myself in the situation of being a young married mother of two and the marriage was not good. I was doing contract work, and, I knew that I needed steady work if I was going to be able to support my children on my own. I decided to take on one of the trade unions by threatening to inform on them because, at the time, they were hand-picking who they let on their books and it wasn’t many women. I succeeded and was offered a spot at Ontario Hydro.
At that time, my bad marriage quickly got worse and was filled with arguments and mental abuse due my then-spouse having addiction problems. I had done my best to try to help him and make it better for several years, but it was evident that it was over. He, too, worked for Ontario Hydro and we were at the same site.
When the mental abuse turned physical late one evening, I was attacked with a knife because I refused to argue any longer. I discovered that it is amazing what adrenaline can do for your strength, because at some point I found that I had him pinned to the ground and I had the knife. It could have been only seconds before he drew his last breath, but I had a moment of clarity – what would my children do if I was in jail? I ended up letting him up, I pulled my children out of bed and proceeded to the police station after which I dropped them off at the babysitter’s place and went into work.
A long and lengthy court battle followed, ending in divorce, but since we both worked at the same site I had to register the restraining order with Ontario Hydro. This was not easy either due to the fact that it was during construction days and there were very few women on site.
There were additional struggles at work with the “boys club” not wanting women there. At one point a much older male peer started physically trying to hurt me. He didn’t want women on the job and publicly stated that I was taking a job away from a man who needed the role to feed his family and didn’t care that I was doing the same. I went to my boss to complain and the advice I received was to beat him up in the parking lot. I went higher to the supervisor’s boss and was told the same thing. It wasn’t until I went and found the head of staffing for the site that I was told they would take care of it, and they thanked me for not taking the previous advice.
I learned through my entire life experience that nobody was going to look after me – I had to do it myself. You get up each day and make the best of the hand you are dealt. I go to bed at night with no regrets for anything I had to do to protect myself and my children. As a result, I have been able to speak up, seek the assistance required when the solution is outside my scope of ability, and have been able to become a strong woman who raised two strong young ladies. I have become an advocate for others who are not yet strong enough to speak out for themselves.
Together we can achieve anything.
First Line Manager
Member, Society of United Professionals
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, seek help: https://www.ontario.ca/page/get-help-if-you-are-experiencing-violence