According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, one of the most common questions people ask is, “Why does she stay?’ The answer is quite simple - ‘Women often stay because the abuser has threatened to kill them if they leave, or to kill himself, or to kill the children.’
So what happens when a woman decides that her only way out of an abusive relationship is to leave? Most often, women will enter into an emergency shelter for 21 days and then move into community housing, or if safety is an issue, into second stage shelter. This is the case for ‘Maisha’, a Muslim, recent immigrant to Canada, and mother of two children. Not long after Maisha got married, the abuse started. However, that abuse intensified and increased after she had her two children. When Maisha reached out to her family for support, their response shocked her to the core. Her mother and brothers made it clear that they were taking the side of her abuser. They told her that she was to remain in the relationship, because to leave, would be to bring shame and dishonour to their family. Statistics show that the most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she attempts to leave, or leaves her abuser. That is when the risk of increased harm or worse, lethality occurs. Upon leaving, many women will seek a restraining order but can a piece of paper really keep us safe? ‘Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Out of the 83 police-reported intimate partner homicides in 2014, 67 of the victims—over 80%—were women.’
A few months passed, and Maisha finally took stock of her life; she was completely alone. She was isolated from her estranged family and therefore, her community as well. More importantly, she was afraid for her life and the lives of her children. Leaving the relationship was her only option so Maisha and her children moved into a home found for her by a housing liaison from the Community Housing Program. However, leaving her abuser did not put an end to her distress and suffering. Years of trauma and death threats had made her was so afraid for her life that she found herself constantly checking to see if she had locked her front door. Housing Liaison’s make sure that the homes our clients move into, are safe. Despite this, Maisha found herself waking up in the middle of the night to double check the doors and windows. Her fearful state started to overwhelm her. She lacked motivation, stayed at home and refused to meet with her counsellor, Dattu.
The good news is that Dattu, a highly skilled counsellor and knowledgeable about the complexities of domestic violence, did not give up on Maisha. She checked in with her regularly, and soon, Maisha felt safe enough to start meeting with her. Dattu made sure she not only had a safety plan; she reviewed it regularly, to keep her and her children safe in the community.
Maisha has worked really hard to get where she is today. She has moved into stable housing. She is working and has expressed an interest in starting school. In a recent meeting with Dattu, she said, “Without the help of Discovery House, I don’t know where I would be today.” Maisha also shared that she feels safe and she no longer checks to see if she locked her front door.
The road to recovery from a life of abuse is never easy; however, with skilled front line staff like Dattu and generous donors like you, we will change the lives of the women and children who access our services. Thank you for making Maisha and her family feel safe and have the ability to transform fear to hope and opportunity. www.discoveryhouse.ca
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, one of the most commonly asked questions about women in domestic violence situation is, “Why doesn’t she just leave the relationship?” There are many answers to that question but this one forms the basis of the story below: ‘Women are financially dependent on their partner. Women who leave a partner to raise their children on their own are more than five times likely to be poor than if they had stayed together.
Walking away from a life of family violence into a life of poverty was not what “Johanna” signed up for. She also didn’t realize how much every other area in her life would be affected by financial instability.
A few months after being housed, Johanna found herself having to navigate her way around a new situation; poverty. Money was tight and to make ends meet, she found herself selling items at the pawn shop. It was clear that she was struggling emotionally, mentally and physically to keep up with day to day tasks. Johanna felt as if she no longer had control of her life. She felt ashamed of her situation and as a result, she slowly started to disengage from her case manager, Erin. However, Johanna continued to make bad choices and it took losing her home for the second time and her support, to be the catalyst for change.
Erin checked in with Johanna on a regular basis and when Johanna felt ready, she met with Erin and told her that she wanted to gain control of life. She wanted to feel more confident and to be a better role model to her young children so together; they came up with a short list of achievable goals to work toward in the next few months.
Johanna’s first order of business was to become healthier so she signed up for a gym membership. It was at this point, where Johanna’s life started to change. She finally realized that we at Discovery House were there to help and support her in any way we can. Accountability was important to Johanna so Erin had to be innovative in her approach. In this case, Erin agreed to exercise with Johanna and support her at the same time. She also agreed to go grocery shopping with Johanna and help with meal preparation.
Today, Johanna is a changed woman. She knows she still has a long way to go and is committed to meeting weekly with her case manager and mental health specialist and her children meet with a child and youth specialist while at school. She was rehoused in a beautiful affordable home that meets all the needs of her family. The children needed their own space and they now each have their own bedroom. The home is only a short distance from school and Johanna has the time to work on herself. She is extremely motivated to change who she was and is ready to start budgeting, look into employment and regain control of her life. One of the most significant positive changes she experienced is that she no longer uses the pawn shop as a means of getting money.
Erin tells me that Johanna is so pleased she entered into the Community Housing Program. Without our help, support, encouragement and that extra push that comes in the form of personal accountability, she knows she would not be where she is today. And without the support of our donors, we would not have been able to make a difference in the lives of Johanna and her children.