Formerly abused woman receives help from local church
Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 06:00 am
Editor’s note: The name of the formerly abused woman in this story is a pseudonym to protect the identities of her and her children.
Fearing for her life and the lives of her seven children everyday was a way of life for now Airdrie resident Sara.
She rarely left her house and did not have any friends. She would do whatever it took to make sure she did the “right” thing so she wouldn’t anger her husband, a police officer she met in 1994 in the UK, married and had seven children with.
“At the time, he was my knight in shining armour,” said Sara in the living room of her home where she now lives with six of her children ages four, five, seven, nine, 12, and 16.
Sara’s eldest is 18 years old.
“He professed his undying love to me and before I knew it, we lived together. It just happened so quickly.”
In fact, she felt so comfortable with her new boyfriend, she almost immediately told him everything about her rough childhood.
“I truly believed that everything he was doing was my fault because that was the way I was brought up, I grew up like that,” she said.
“(Abuse) was a lifestyle to me. It was always that way and he knew that and used it to his advantage.”
Unfortunately, Sara is not alone, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada report, seven per cent of Canadian women and 10 per cent of women in Alberta reported being abused by their intimate partner between 1999 and 2004.
The couple moved to Canada in September of 2005 and the cycle of abuse of her and her children continued.
“I justified everything he was doing to me and the children,” Sara said.
“I gave him everything.”
In August of 2010, after 16 years of torture, things came to a head when Sara says her husband choked her unconscious in their home in Crossfield.
“The abuse was just too much to bare. It was just horrid but even after that I let him back in,” she said.
“I would have, and I did, do anything to keep my family together.”
Shortly after, Sara discovered her husband was taping her conversations and through phone records, determined he was having an affair with a fellow police officer.
“At that point, I felt nothing, I was just numb and I’m glad,” she said.
Sara knew she had to get out once and for all and after a brief stay at a transition house, that is what she did.
Since leaving her husband (the divorce is pending) for good in 2010, life has been rough for Sara.
She is having trouble affording the home she rents in Airdrie because she says she has had no child support from her husband since before Christmas 2013 and he was only paying a portion of what is required before that.
“The court process has been so long and drawn out and we just want what he is responsible for,” she said.
“Caring for these children is both of our responsibility and he needs to pull his weight because his family is suffering.”
Sara says she has reached out to a number of organizations including Community Links, Red Cross, Child and Family Services and Alberta Works and although some have been helpful for resources such as counselling, most require that she have a full-time job to get help.
“How can I have a full-time job when I have three young children to care for in the day?” she asked.
“It makes no sense for me, the only stability they have in their lives, to leave the house to work everyday and have the government pay for child care. I want to be here for my children, not only because it is the right thing to do but it will also avoid more problems for them as they get older and hopefully prevent them from being a strain on the system.”
She said all of her children have suffered long-term negative effects from the abuse and she has had to homeschool one of her children because of behavioural issues.
Sara said she is confused and frustrated by the requirements of some organizations that are meant to help abused women.
“The system is so broken when they have assessed (my husband) and determined he is manipulative and deceptive and then they want to give him partial custody after my kids are telling them they don’t want to see their dad because he hurts them,” she said.
“It’s just wrong. I want to shout from the rooftops because it’s so wrong. My job is to protect my children from a system that has failed. I want to see the system change and if I can be part of that, all of this will be worth it.”
Sara has been in and out of court over the process a number of times and the case will go back in front of a judge in July to determine if her husband will receive custody or access to the children and how much he will be required to pay in child support.
“I’ve been through it, I lived through it, I’m still living through it, but I don’t consider myself a victim and I never will because that gives him power,” she said.
“I am taking my life back and I had no idea I could be this strong but I will do whatever it takes to keep my children safe.”
Unity in the Community
Although it has been a long, hard road and there is still more obstacles to overcome, a local church - Genesis Church - is helping Sara by creating the Unity in the Community fund.
The fund was started after members of the church went door-to-door in Meadowbrook asking for donations of bottles on March 8 and raised $600 to help with Sara’s rent.
“The money collected will be used to help support a family as they reestablish their lives after surviving family violence,” said Rob Allain, minister of Genesis Church.
“If you know her story and see the kids, you can see that there is a big need and this is a local family you can help out. They are uncertain about their future and if you can help them, why wouldn’t you?
The goal of the church is to raise $24,000 to pay Sara’s rent for a year.
“This is open to everyone who wants to help out,” said Allain.
“We are starting by asking the ministers in Airdrie and area to encourage the members of their congregations to participate. We would also love to see community organizations or sports teams help us out with collecting bottles.”
Sara says she does not like taking charity from others but if she hadn’t received the help from Genesis Church, Living Springs Church and Airdrie Alliance Church that includes at least $1,900 in donations so far, she would be living on the street with her children.
“This is what I have had to resort to to keep a roof over mine and my children’s head,” said Sara.
“I’m upset that other people have to help because at the end of the day, the kids are mine and (my husband’s) responsibility. It is very humbling that people want to help because without this we would be on the streets.
“This community has been phenomenal. I’m incredibly blessed because I have met some great people. I haven’t enjoyed the journey but I look back to four years ago and I am not the same person and I’m so glad for that.”
The church will be hosting a bottle drive in Meadowbrook on March 29 and 30. Residents who would like their bottles picked up can call Allain at 587-433-5989, or they can drop them off at 196 Mountain Circle. Residents can donate at www.youcaring.com