They met as children.

They married the first chance they had at the strike of adulthood.  She was excited and looking forward to having her own family.

When they moved to Vancouver, things began to shift. No longer did they have the accountability of family and a community that knew them. He wanted to control her, he was jealous of her potential to thrive and desire to be independent so he kept her isolated and estranged to the new surroundings. He began to hit her.

She hated it and was embarrassed to talk about it. When people would ask about the bruises on her arms, she would say she fell at home. It made things simpler.

She became pregnant and he became more aggressive. Fighting for her safety, she contacted the police. He was removed from the house for a brief time, but then his friends threatened her, forcing her to deny the case so that his record could be clear. For the sake of her life and the child’s, it seemed like the best thing to do.

He knew he controlled her resources, especially now with an infant. He spoke of crippling her so that she would have to rely on him more fully. She wanted out, though she hated the idea of single motherhood. She knew no one in her new neighborhood and had nothing; she expected to suffer.

And while she endured much, her will to survive remained strong.  She left anyway, because she is brave.

She wanted her kid to have a normal family life so she returned a few short days later —he was angrier and the situation continued to spiral.

At school, she had met a teacher who seemed to suspect what was happening. The teacher would offer help and said to call anytime. She insisted to the teacher that he would change. He didn’t.

One night she called the teacher and cried out for help. Again, she went through the courageous ritual of gathering her child and her things and boldly stepping away from what had been her only source of stability. She was welcomed into Dixon Transition House and offered safety and freedom. She eventually moved to her own housing. Things seemed to be better.

Six years later, she yearned for a fresh start in a different city. She arranged an agreement with the child’s father that would allow their son to go with her. When they went to sign the papers, he lied and said there was no agreement. In a shriek of devastation, she knew this couldn’t be right.  She’d have nothing. She had told housing she was leaving and had quit her job.

“She’s homeless and can’t take care of the child,” he said to the judge. And he went home with the child.

She returned to the transition house—the most supportive network she had in the area. Staff told her not to give up even though he wanted her to give up; that’s what this was all about. She kept fighting.

That transition program became her family, her friends and her motivation. She never went back to him after that. She knows now she can do it on her own; she believes in herself. She has a drive to always become better version of her old self.

Staff listened to her in counseling, walked her through the legal system, gave her space to persevere and realize her own strength.

“I have many goals,” she says now. Her body squirms and her teeth show as she giggles with joy and confidence.  So many goals and dreams, she says, she looks forward to so much: school, a career in healthcare, and finally regaining custody of her son in the weeks to come after months of being apart.

Her first and best interest has always been him. She wants him to finish this school year and every one that follows. She has resources to raise him well now; she wants to show him a better way than that of his father.

“Anyone who loves you will not abuse you,” she proudly pronounces. She knows that now. She knows there are women who hide in the same dark shame and embarrassment she once did.

She employs innovative thought today, not backing down to problems and setbacks. She believes she has the strength to find a solution to anything and to help others who have walked a similar journey to hers. Most of all, she knows that whatever it is and however long it might take, she can and she will overcome.

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