Last Thursday evening approximately 80 people gathered in Penticton to take part in a Take Back the Night march, in order to bring attention to violence against women in our society.
Organizing the event was the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society.
Hundreds of events such as this take place in over 30 countries around the globe, during the month of September.
A Summerland woman has agreed to share her story of how she broke free from a 24-year abusive relationship, in order to offer hope to other women.
As a teen she had fallen in love with a troubled young man with a criminal record.
Her parents had warned her against this relationship, so in order to marry without parental consent the teens eloped.
They were still on their honeymoon the first time he hit her.
This was because she had misread the map and gotten them hopelessly lost. It was to be the first of many violent incidents.
She kept the abuse secret and was too ashamed to tell anyone. He was always sorry after it happened, and promised never to do it again.
He would say he loved her, couldn’t live without her and needed her.
She would always feel sorry for him, and thinking she could help him change, she would forgive him.
The years went by. There were more bad times than good.
Every time she threatened to leave he would tell her that he would find her no matter where she went.
As a result her fear immobilized her and she thought there was no way out. She put on a smile and pretended all was well.
Then one day as he came towards her in a rage, she threatened to call 911.
He stopped cold in his tracks and with an icy stare said if she did that, he would lose his hunting rifles.
He told her he would “kill her, cut her in pieces and dispose of her body” before he would ever risk losing his guns.
In that moment she cracked. It wasn’t because he had threatened to kill her…he had done that before. It was because she realized, that after all she had done for him, his guns meant more to him than she did.
This time she could not turn off the tears.
She fell into a deep depression and went to see her doctor.
That was the first step in a long line of events that led to recovery, safety and a new life.
The doctor referred her to a psychiatrist who helped her to see her role in the relationship as being co-dependant.
Through group therapy she learned to share her story and not be ashamed and to understand that she was not alone.
As she found new strength, her life now seemed to be in even more danger than before.
Her husband, now having lost his control over her, became paranoid and obsessed with the thought that he was losing her.
She soon felt like prey, being stalked and hunted.
A coworker accompanied her to the RCMP in Summerland and it was there that she was informed of her right to apply for a restraining order against her husband and have him removed from the home.
Her medical team supplied her with the number for the transition house in Penticton.
She left her home for one of safety until she was able to appear before the judge and be granted a restraining order.
Her husband was forced to leave and in fact left town all together.
The good news in this woman’s story is that the law no longer looks the other way when it comes to domestic violence. It offers protection and legal clout.
It can be a dangerous time, but women no longer have to stand alone in fear.
Help is available, but one must be brave, speak up and reach out.
The other bit of good news, the subject of this story found happiness once again.
She remarried and lives a peaceful, fulfilling life today.
While her guard will always be up and her memories of bygone days painful, she looks back on the growth and rewards of being brave enough to take back not only the night, but her life as well.
The South Okanagan Women in Need Society helps up to 800 clients each year, to move on with their lives, away from abusive relationships. This included eight from Summerland.
Statistics from the society show the need is increasing. In 2015, there were 2,617 bed stays for women and 1,532 for children, an increase from the 2,450 bed stays for women and 1,014 for children in 2014.
If you need help call them at 250-493-4366 or their crisis line at 1-800-814-2033. The South Okanagan Victims Assistance Society can be reached at 1-888-493-5355.