Today is the sixth day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Today, we continue to share 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: Domestic violence
I grew up in a small rural community in Eastern Ontario. We lived in farm country in a very small village. My two brothers, one younger and one much older rode the bus to school and, like so many others in our community, we had chores and two working parents. We were like all the other families in the village, or at least that is what I believed.
I remember very little about being a young child. The occasional flash of happy times at Christmas, or a summer holiday, memories of playing in the woods together, or skating on the pond. I don’t have memories of bedtime stories or long chats with my father as so many daughters do. Those simply don’t exist for me.
What I do remember is his anger. As children, my brothers and I could never be too loud, to fussy or complain. Especially not in public. One look could stop us in our tracks. Fear of what was to come was too deep within us.
I recall once being very young, and climbing onto the kitchen counter to steal a cookie from the cookie jar. I accidently knocked the coffee pot onto the floor where it broke into shards. He removed his belt and struck me for what seemed like forever. I remember the pain I felt from that belt for days after.
I assumed this was normal, that whenever any child misbehaved that’s what happened. I never complained to my friends or teachers, I just tried to be a good girl and not upset him.
Everything changed when I turned 16. I’d found my first love—and my voice.
One night my father had come home from work and started an argument with me. He had kept a money bank in the shape of a loon in the living room. He had accused me of taking money from it as he thought it felt lighter than he remembered. The more I denied doing it, the angrier he got. Then he curled his fist and hit me in the face. I don’t know what changed in me at that moment, but I then curled up my own hand and hit him back. He dragged me across the kitchen, I fought like my life depended on it.
But there was a brief moment where everything seemed to stop, and I looked across the kitchen to the counter all the while he continued to scream and hit me. I could see the block of kitchen knives that my mother kept on the counter. I thought to myself, I could end this now, I could end this forever right here and now.
He dragged me further across the kitchen to the laundry room against the dryer where I hit my head and lost consciousness.
In the days to follow, no one spoke of what had happened. I reflected on what I had thought in that moment when fighting with my father. I thought about what I had been prepared to do. At that moment I knew it was time for me to leave before I could never leave again.
I gathered what I thought I needed, left a note and for more than a year, I had no contact with my family. It was many years before I could even step foot back inside that house to spend time with my mother and brothers. It was even harder to see my father.
For the decade that followed, I struggled with my experience. I made bad choices in relationships. I drank too much and did drugs in attempt to numb my feelings. I felt dark, alone and lost. I tried to move forward. I was enrolled in College, I worked full time, all the while tormented by guilt for my choice to leave. But I kept going. I kept getting up every day and trying to be stronger, be self sufficient, be the best me. It was the hardest thing that I have ever done.
And one day things changed. I got an opportunity on a new job far away from home. I took it and never looked back. With distance and time, I healed. I met new people, had new experiences and continued moving forward with my life.
My father died 5 years ago. As an adult I now know that he too was a survivor of domestic violence. He suffered from physical and mental health issues. He never got the help he needed.
I never regretted leaving, nor do I ever regret having a relationship with my family after I left. It wasn’t forced upon me, I chose that path. It helped me heal and helped me to have healthy relationships as I do today.
My experiences made me who I am today and will continue for the rest of my life to shape all that I am and all that I can do. I never considered myself a victim, but a woman who has challenged her experience and chose not to succumb to the darkness.
This is my story.
First Line Manager
Member, Society of United Professionals