Survivor Stories
Living Proof That There IS... Hope for Healing

“The Untold, I Think I Love Him” by Anonymous, ON

Girl meets boy.
It started out so innocent, I met this guy through friends. There was an obvious attraction and an outward facade of everything I was looking for in a guy.
Just friends.
The first year consisted of not dating at all. However, I, as many stupid young girls do, made my affections all to clear. To which he of course took advantage of, always letting me know (after) that it was only due to the fact that the perfect one he was waiting for, he’d not met yet. Therefore was unwilling to label us as anything more then friends.
The other guy.
After a year of “fooling around” I’d created a serious tie to this friend. We’re not talking about full blow sex here, but fooling around fools your heart into thinking you’re in love. I met a different guy that showed interest in me, even though only e-mails and phone #’s where exchanged, this was enough to push my friend into confessing his Love for me and committing to the label of boyfriend/girlfriend.
He finally loves me.
O.k. When you’ve had your heart messed up for a year of being pulled in then pushed away over and over again like a yo-yo, an actual label is marriage, right?  WRONG! Shortly after this point I gave him my virginity.
It all starts so subtle.
At the beginning of the relationship he made all kinds of BIG empty promises like “I’ll never leave you like so-and-so did). He used the weaknesses I had that he’d learned over the past year to manipulate me into thinking he was perfect. However, these broad statements where usually followed with tiny tips on how to keep him (like losing weight.. etc.)
Moving in together.
So THIS is marriage right? WRONG! This step in the relationship he convinced me as well as I did myself that we were the same as married. But forgetting one thing… no covenant, no public confession of our love. Therefore no stability and foundation.  Remember, being pulled in and pushed away for the whole first year creates a lot of instability.
I’m a Barbie Girl.
My boyfriend was always into fitness, but now it had become his obsession.  Well, not his fitness, mine. He watched everything I ate. When we’d go out to eat we’d have to share a meal and he would eat as fast as he could so I didn’t eat too much. We had to go to the gym everyday, 7 days a week, 2 hrs a day, healthy or sick.
He would often work out on the cardio machine beside mine as to increase the intensity to what he felt I should be doing. He got me blue contacts, paid over $300 to have my hair bleached blond and was reserching breast implants ( which I never got). We had to tan regularly and he even told me what to wear.
“WHY” you ask would I ever let him change me so drastically from who I was.
Simple, by this point he’d already confessed his obsession with other women and continually let me know what I had to do to keep him. And at this point I was already convinced by him of course that no one else would ever want me. That I was lucky he was settling for me.
I am slowly going CRAZY.
We bought a house togeather during our relationship and he had me stop working so I could play “wife”. Everything had to be kept shipshape and everyday when he got home he found the one thing I didn’t do or that I didn’t do right.
Maybe supper wasn’t on the table or I forgot some artical when doing laundry. I even had to build his sandwiches in a perticular order, there where always a lot of toppings and it would be very confusing and if it was built wrong he’d know. For ex: onions on the tomatoes, never reversed!
By this point pornography was a common accessory in the bedroom. If it wasn’t used he would use a sheet to cover the parts of my body he didn’t like . If I requested intamacy the answer was always “NO because I didn’t look my best yet!” This kind of rejection often led to my crying and his pinning me to the wall by my throut because he wanted me to stop crying so he could sleep. I cried myself to sleep almost every night by that point.
Bad to Worse.
Through this season of our relationship he’d proposed and broke up with me for desire of other woman and re-proposed a couple of weeks later. He would go to bars with his friends and leave me home so I wouldn’t embarass him, of course I couldn’t drive so I would be isolated at home. At one point we’d had plans to go to the dinner theater. I’d been looking forward to this event for months. I purchased a $100.00 dress and new shoes. The evening came and he decided last minute I hadn’t acted well enough to go and didn’t want to be embarrased by me in front of his family and other women so he left me screaming and crying and went without me. These are just a few examples of life with him!
Time to get out.
I started having panic attacks and really thought I might be going crazy. I didn’t know how to get out and was to embarrased to admit I’d made such a big mistake to friends and family. So many times I should have phoned the police but I believed “I made him do it.”

I had a friend who was a Christian.  He told me I needed to get out and he took me to get my stuff. This was the first act of true love I’d seen. There was nothing in it for him, no romantic interests or anything like that. Just selfless love in getting me out and he couldn’t know the half of it, no one did. I protected my fiance so people would like him. He took me to a sister’s house and I moved provinces shortly after. After God sent that friend in to rescue me I really started seeking this God who cared enough to get me out.
Healing takes time.
The first thing I had to learn was what LOVE really was! “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not rejoice in unrightousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, beleives all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Seeing people actually act “this kind” of love out opened my eyes to what love really was.
So often we confuse obsession and lust for love. The difference is, one you can never satisfy and the other gives life. Healing took a lot of time and in some areas I’m still being healed.  I made more mistakes along the way but after a three year jorney of learning to love myself and learning my self worth, a very importate part of healing, I met my husband.
A new beginning.
My husband, a man of God, placed so much value in me that he wouldn’t even kiss me until our wedding day. He didn’t want our relationship to be built on emotions. People thought we where crazy, “how will you know if there’s chemisty” we’d get.
Attraction is obvious. You don’t need to touch fire to know it’s hot, you only have to be near it! Of course we had a quick engagement!
We have been married six years December 4th of this year, we have three beautiful boys and our last baby on the way. Nine years ago I didn’t know how to go on. I still look at my husband and thank God for getting me out of that former relationship.
God doesn’t make junk!
Before a relationship becomes physically and sexually abusive, guaranteed it has been mentally abusive. That’s how they can start hitting you and raping you, because by that point you think you deserve it. That’s why realizing how God sees you is so vital. It not only keeps you from going back it keeps you from making the same mistake with another guy. That’s why so many women go from one abusive man to another. Deep down they are trying to find love and their worth in what a man thinks. But that kind of love and self worth only comes from God. When you have that understanding you raise your standard in men. And when a man truly loves God and fears Him, he would never lay a finger on one of God’s precious daughters to hurt them. Healing can come through the Love of God, in knowing He loves you, that He made you and He never makes mistakes.

“Virgil’s Secret” by Grace*(Office Admin), Calgary, AB

I am a confident, intelligent, happy woman.  But it took a lot of hard work, counseling, a wonderful man and God’s love to get me to where I am.

I loved school because I got respect at school. Being at school meant I wasn’t at home.
I hated home.  Home was where the abuse was.

I suffered sexual abuse from my father, many times having to sleep in his bed. Many nights he would come into my room just to “touch” me.
I also suffered emotional abuse from my father.  I was not allowed to cry… about anything; even when my mother died.  I was only six years old.
And I suffered mental abuse. I was never going to amount to anything because I just wasn’t smart enough.  No matter how hard I tried to make him proud of me it just wasn’t going to happen. He told me that he was going to kill himself when I turned 16 and I looked forward to that day.  It didn’t happen. In grade 12 I came home with straight As but that wasn’t good enough because my marks weren’t the highest of all the kids.  I finally gave up.

I spent a lot of years after that living exactly how he said I would.  I didn’t amount to anything but trouble.
I went from abusive relationship to abusive relationship.  I was raped by a friend of one of my siblings when I was 18  but didn’t report it because who would believe me?
My self worth couldn’t have been lower.

One boyfriend was suffocating me when he got pulled off by someone else but I stayed with him.  On another occasion the same guy dragged me out of a bar by my hair.
I was no stranger to the police.  I married a physically abusive man.  He beat me and left scars but I still told people what a nice guy he was.
I remember, after 6 long years, the last time he beat me up.  I finally said that was enough and fled to the aid of a friend.

I was so heavy into drugs and alcohol that I felt there was no way out.

By now I had pretty well forgotten the abuse from when I was a child.  It was blocked from my mind somehow but it still affected everything I did; every decision I made.

Then it happened. I met some people that became true friends and a man who could, even though we have our ups and downs, love me for me without striking out.  They had something I wanted; happiness, confidence and peace of mind.

That started me on my journey.  It took a long time to get past the belief that it was all my fault but I have learned that I did nothing to deserve the abuse.  My nightmares are a thing of the past.  I can sleep and know I am protected.  I can say what is on my mind and know I have that right.  I can love because I finally know what love is.   I can reach out to others because like them.

I have been to hell and back and survived!

“My Worst Nightmare” by S.R.S. (Social Worker), Calgary, AB

Everyone has experienced nightmares at some point in their childhood. Most often they reflect your worst fears (zombies or aliens, getting lost or left in the dark). For twenty-some years, I have had the same nightmare, it never changes, and it always ends the same.

I’m 3 years old, wearing a white nightgown that’s a little too big for me, and I can hear shouting and glass breaking above me.  These sounds are as familiar to me as my own heartbeat, but I crawl out of bed and climb the stairs anyway.

And then I’m frozen, stuck watching this scene that I know by heart.  My dad has my mom pinned against the wall, there’s a broken beer bottle at his feet and he takes a knife and stabs the wall an inch from my mother’s face.  I scream, and even though I know what will happen next, I can’t stop myself from running to her.  But he turns toward me and with the back of his hand sends me flying down the stairs.  Somehow I’m always surprised when I hit the bottom that it doesn’t hurt.

I climb back up the stairs as quietly as a mouse to find my mom on the floor and my dad kicking her in the head with his big heavy boots.  I remember these are the ones that have metal in the toes.  At that moment I see the glint of my father’s boot knife and so does my mother.  I watch my mom grab it and sink it into his arm.  My dad lets her go long enough that she can run to me, but it doesn’t matter., he’s not coming after us.  He’s lost his power, for tonight.

My mom grabs me and before I know it she’s got a little green suitcase from under the stairs and we’re out the front door.  Only I look back.  When I start to cry, she strokes my hair and tells me not to be afraid, we’re going somewhere safe and that daddy will be okay too.

I don’t tell her I’m actually crying because my pretty white nightgown is now red.

When I was a teenager, I told my mom about this dream.  She neither confirmed or denied my worst fear, that it was not a dream but a memory.  Years later, I visited my dad and I asked him about the dream, but he gave no indication that he even understood what I was asking him.  But before he walked away, I noticed a scar on his bicep that looked remarkably like a knife wound, healed to a faint white jagged line.

I’m now married and expecting a daughter of my own and my mom has shared pieces of her story with me.  She told me how I could be the one to break the cycle.  The cycle of abuse that started in our family long before she met my father.  So how do you do that?  I found my hope for healing in my mother.  She finally escaped my father’s grasp for good when she was pregnant with my little brother and I was 4 years old.  And when I got into an abusive relationship as a teenager and began to continue the cycle of abuse, she gave me the strength to break free.  She taught me how to stop being a victim, and start being a survivor.

How do you give another that hope for healing?

You tell that woman that she is worth more, and you show her just how much.  You tell that little girl or boy that they deserve to be loved, and then you love them.  You take their story with you and you hand out pieces to those who haven’t found their hope yet.  And you encourage those around you to do the same…

“Not Ashamed” by Dara MacKay-Sherwood (Teacher), Lethbridge, AB

Domestic violence cannot always be seen by bruises and broken bones.It can also be seen by shattered self-esteem, stolen innocence and broken dreams.

My story was a silent, hidden story of domestic violence that left me with many issues and memories that may never go away. My story begins with a controlling step father, who, seeing that screaming, belittling and neglecting was no longer exerting the control he wanted, decided that sexual domination was the next step. Although I was never actually raped, the memories of my 6 foot 2 step father hovering over my ten year old body will never leave me.

Throughout my life, I have had to deal with self worth, because I had always been emotionally dominated. I did not feel beautiful, smart or strong, and looked for fulfillment in many destructive places.

It was not until I left home at sixteen that the healing process began, and I realized that I am worth fighting for. I have dealt with fear of intimacy, fear of losing control, and just fear for my whole life. In adulthood and marriage, I have had to deal with painful memories and many other repercussions, but thankfully, have been able to put much of it behind me, because I have been able to talk about it openly and deal with all those emotions.

The only way to end this kind of abuse is to talk about it and make people aware. It is not shameful or to be kept silent and secret. I encourage anyone reading this to give a voice to people with stories like mine, because we do not all come out the other end as I have.

“I Never Had That” by Jennifer Lee Ollinger (Photographer), Calgary, AB

From the earliest age I can remember I have been a fighter.

At 5 years old my mom met the man who she saw as this angel coming in to direct her life.  I saw something different.  He came around late at night, drunk, high and ready to pull someone down to his level.

I can clearly remember peeking through the crack of my bedroom door to see what was going on and what I saw no child should see.  My mom was being thrown around like a ragdoll, like the way you throw your doll when she doesnt do what you want her to.  I remember the taste of my tears running down my cheeks because she was MY mom, the one who took care of me and he was hurting her.

As each day passed, I grew stronger and realized what he did isnt something you do to someone you love.  I rejected his “hellos” and his attempts to bond with me.  One day I came home and my mom had packed up our entire house into a white van.  She told me we were going somewhere better than this place and we were going to be so happy. I called that white van home for the next 3 months. We drove all the way into Okanogan.  We found a little apartment and I thought for once, she may be right.

At age 6, I woke myself up, tried to find something to eat and walked myself to school. I made excuses as to why I didnt have lunches and why my mom was absent.  I walked myself home each afternoon wishing I was anywhere but there.

I distinctly remember waking up one night to hear screaming.  Someone had broken down our front door!  He found us and was in one of his rages.  I distinctly remember the shrill shatter of 20 wine glasses hanging from under our upper counters shatter against my mothers head.  She blacked out and that was it!  I ran after him and hit him with everything my little body had.  It wasnt enough; he threw me against the wall and I too blacked out.  When I woke up I was in the same spot I was in before I passed out.  There was a banging in the stairwell next to us.  I got up and staggered to the door to see him dragging my mother down the stairs by her hair.  I screamed and yelled and no one came out of their units.  I cried and ran down the hall… no one listened.  There was silence for a long time and I feared the worst… I ran to my room and cried and cried thinking I was next.

What happened next I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  I was hiding in my closet, he found me and I screamed and passed out.

The next day I found my mom on our floor, black and blue and cut open everywhere.  I held her and cried, realizing I needed to do something. I remembered my grandparents number and they were so glad they finally knew where I was and that I was ok.  I told them what happened to my mom and they wired us money to get bus tickets to come back to Calgary.

I have never looked back thinking, “what if”.  I know everything happens to make us grow, make us think, make us learn and live and realize what we are capable of handling.

I never knew how to let go until I realized one day it doesnt define who I am or what I will become.  It defines my strength and courage and will to help change the world.
My lifelong journey is to create the happy memories I never had.  To capture those little moments in time that, to everyone, seems like an everyday occurrence; but to someone who was in rock bottom means honestly the whole world.

I will create strength, courage and passion with my pain.
I will remember.