Domestic violence awareness : Tales of abuse


Raise awareness about domestic violence this October by wearing a purple ribbon.

Raise awareness about domestic violence this October by wearing a purple ribbon. (Photography by Courtney Blok / The Sheridan Sun

“I love you. I can love you like nobody else could. If I can’t have you, nobody can have you.”

They are words a victim in an abusive relationship will commonly hear. Potentially dangerous words.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, with experts explaining that what can start as a loving relationship sometimes spirals into an abusive one. Be aware, they say, of the warning signs.

“Pay attention to what they say and their body language. Many simple signs can be over-looked,” says Dr. CarolAnn Peterson, who teaches a class on domestic violence at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work. “It’s a pattern of abusive behaviour from one partner to another. It’s can be psychological, physical, or economical.”

Deb Cameron, 58, a victim of domestic violence in her first marriage, says the first violent incident came as a shock.

“The first time it happened, it was over meat pies and rice. He didn’t want to eat that and I got the hot plate and food thrown at me,” recalls Cameron. “I didn’t know him to be abusive until that moment.”

Peterson explains it’s a common misconception that victims in an abusive relationship willingly choose to be in that situation.

“No domestic violence that I’ve ever been aware of started out being abusive. A lot of the abusive behaviour doesn’t normally show up until they begin living together or they are already married,” says Peterson.

This was the situation with Cameron.

“He didn’t do it when we lived at home. Maybe a year into our relationship he became abusive. We moved away from my family and that’s when it started,” she says. “I went from having family and friends to having the odd family member from his side of the family visit me. He also wouldn’t give me a key to the house so I couldn’t leave in the day.”

Cameron kept her husband’s actions to herself because she felt embarrassed.

“I didn’t want to tell anyone. He had completely destroyed my self-esteem. That’s what they do. They destroy you,” says Cameron. “You just want to hide in a corner. You’re in constant fear and you’re afraid of what will upset them next.”

Nine months into the marriage, the abuse reached an all-time high.

“There were times where I’ve laid in bed at night thinking ‘Will I be alive tomorrow?’ ” she says.

Cameron admits she felt helpless – and were it not for a neighbour, she might not be alive.

“The one night he was so violent. He picked me up by my arms and threw me into the closet. Luckily, my neighbour heard and she called the cops.”

Her husband was taken away, but Cameron still feared he would come back and find her. Even though he was in jail, she still struggled to leave.

“Generally, leaving is the most dangerous time,” says Peterson. “Victims who die in an abusive relationship tend to die in (an) attempt to leave or having left within two years.

“Victims will really consider what it takes for them to get out. Sometimes from the outside world it might not make sense to why someone is staying, but sometimes they are staying because it might be safer.”

Cameron attempted to cut off all contact with her husband, but nine months later when he got out of prison they reunited.

“Somehow he found me,” says Cameron. “I thought maybe he had changed, but he didn’t. I was back to living in constant fear.”

She knew she had to leave. This time on her own.

“I didn’t have anyone to help me. I couldn’t get out with any of my stuff. I left with nothing,” says Cameron.





In 1983, fewer options were available to Cameron than there are now.

“There are shelters. Even if somebody doesn’t want to go into a shelter, the shelters provide outreach services that can help them through a safety plan on how to make them feel safe, help them figure out what Important documents they need to take with them like medication records and birth certificates of children,” said Peterson.

According to Statistics Canada, a 2010 survey found 3,459 residents in Ontario shelters that offer services to abused women. More than half of these residents were women, while 46 per cent were dependent children. About 3/4 of the women were primarily there because of abuse.

Shelters may not always be ideal, but they do make a good home when you don’t have one.

Samira Allison, 19, moved into a shelter with her mother when she was just 6 years old.

“We moved into the women’s shelter when my family split up and we had nowhere to go. My dad was abusive, mainly towards my mom, but emotionally abusive towards my brother and I,” said Allison. “The shelter was like a big family because other families there were struggling too. We didn’t need to feel embarrassed and we came together because we were all hurting.”

Allison admits that experiencing her father’s abuse has definitely had an effect on her and her brother.

“It was hard watch your superhero, someone who’s supposed to protect you from anything, your mother get abused… I felt so helpless as a kid,” said Allison. “It affected my brother because it gave him a bad example, and I can see similar tendencies between my dad and him as we grow older. I think it affected me because I am very untrusting of men now.”

Domestic violence can be a learned behaviour.

“Children believe this is how all families operate so they think violence is okay,” said Peterson. “It used to be little girls would become victims and little boys would become abusers. Now we are seeing both boys and girls becoming abusers because they are understand who has the power.”

Abuse can happen in all kinds of relationships.

“Men can be victims too. I think we sometimes overlook it and forget about it,” said Peterson. “We have to remember that there are same sex relationships. We don’t want to forget about the LGBT either and as much as it is difficult for men to get assistance when they are in a abusive relationship -and it is difficult- for transgender people, it’s almost nearly impossible.”

There are shelters that accept men, but very few.

This just isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a community issue. We all need to be aware of what happens in our community,” said Peterson. “Donate your time or money to a shelter. That goes a long way.”