From the day they were married as teenagers, he mistreated her.
She wanted out, but he shamed her. He told her nobody else would love her or want her. That she was helpless and hopeless without him.
One night he hit her so hard he broke something over her head. With threats of death spewing, one of the daughters tried to intervene he hit her too. That was the final straw; and in her agony-turned-strength, she called the police.
When the police came, they took him to jail and took her and the children to a shelter.
But after some easy manipulation of the criminal justice system, he walked out free the next day.
She worked hard to move on with her life. She lived in her own place and got a job. She is responsible and capable and to no one’s surprise but to his utmost jealousy, she performed well.
The youngest daughter had not yet finished high school. She is smart as a whip, loved to learn and desperately wanted to go to school. Unfortunately years of abuse and the resulting anxiety slowed her down.
When she finally got to a classroom though, her father would come find her. This was his way of now controlling her and practicing misogyny over her life and her decisions. His constantly showing up at the school to watch her led to even greater disturbance and eventually she was asked to leave the school. It wasn’t safe for her to be there. She wouldn’t return for eight years.
He stalked her mother at work too. He was worried that she might actually move on with her life. In an effort to control her, shame her and disrupt her life and work, he would show up at work at all hours during her shift. He would act paranoid, wondering if she was with another man; she was terrified he would kill her. Eventually she too was told his incessant presence was hurting business and she could no longer work.
The weight was unbearable. The kids kept her in it. She knew they needed her; they loved her, they needed each other.
“We used to have to whisper to each other in the kitchen, so he wouldn’t hear us,” the youngest daughter said. They wouldn’t sit next to each other so he wouldn’t get suspicious. The fear of his lashing out robbed them of their freedom.
These women battled. They were bold in seeking help, even after being let down by the justice system. They were brave in leaving once more. When they got connected to Dixon Transition House, everything changed. The fear lingered, and still does, but their safety remains protected and now their strength shines.
“We are healthy, we are strong, we are out,” she says confidently.
She wants to go back to work. She’s a talented cook and would love to sell her food.
Her daughter is back in school, now in her 30s, and just days away from finishing grade 12. The corners of her mouth perk up and her eyes sparkle when she says it.
“I see myself now as grown,” she says. “Before I was like a helpless infant, always being told what to do and what not to do.” She says she doesn’t think that way anymore.
Their relationship is strong—stronger than ever. The mother considers her grown children her dearest friends. They cherish her in return. They know how much she endured for them. The whole family has regained its life and freedom; they’re never going back.
It’s not easy. They take things day by day; step by step. Her daughter remembers how many times she wanted to give up.
“But my mom always says the light always comes after darkness. We can have our own life, the life we wanted. The past can fade; there is a better life waiting for us.”