The hardships and trials of a woman that experienced violence and abuse, and how she overcame it to bring hope to others
More than 4 in 10 women in Canada have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. When Angela* met Dan*, she never imagined becoming a part of this statistic.
They met at work and fell in love. Soon after, they were engaged. Angela saw that Dan was sweet, kind, attentive, and considerate of others. Co-workers loved Dan, and many told her that she was lucky to have him; she felt lucky.
On their wedding night, Dan hit her, and it was then that everything changed.
Dan’s true nature was revealed behind closed doors. He was possessive, controlling, manipulative, and violent. He was short-tempered and quick to anger.
Angela endured physical, verbal, psychological, spiritual, financial, and sexual abuse by his hand. She was beaten and belittled. She was socially isolated. She was financially tied to him since he did not allow her to work. He only allowed her to wear baggy sweaters and sweatpants to hide her body so that other men wouldn’t pay attention to her.
Angela’s feelings about the situation were complicated. She loved Dan; she fell in love with the man she knew before the abuse started, and he was the father of her children. She blamed herself for the abuse, often telling herself that she provoked him and needed to do better.
As time went on, Angela thought more about leaving as the abuse continued to grow in intensity and frequency. Dan sensed this, and threatened Angela with a “bad accident” if she tried to escape. He promised her that she would never see her kids again. He told her that no one would believe her and swore his wealthy family connections would ensure it. So, Angela remained out of fear for her life and for her children.
The abuse reached an unbearable point, and Angela fled after enduring this violence for 17.5 years. On a night that Dan was working late, she buckled her kids in her car and drove off. They slept in the car that night.
Angela took her kids to school the next day. Later, when she went to pick them up, she found that Dan had stolen them. It was the first time she felt truly alone.
For two months, Angela lived in her car. She went to the YMCA for showers and meals and slept in Wal-Mart parking lots overnight.
She did not tell any of her family or friends about her situation because she was ashamed. She felt like the "black sheep that couldn’t hold it together.” She also had no idea that Violence Against Women shelters, like Interval House of Ottawa, existed.
After a time, her brother found out and brought her home with him. She slept on his couch, got a job, and was able to visit with her kids.
Things started to look up when one of the clients at her workplace, Nish, befriended her. He encouraged her to start her own business.
Today, she is a wildly successful businesswoman. She has her own apartment, a new car, and vacations in Florida annually for a few months. She is continuing to heal from the abuse that she endured.
Angela wishes that she had known about Interval House of Ottawa. IHO would have helped Angela navigate the legal and family court matters with the custody of her children. We would have helped her build and implement financial supports and acquire safer housing so she didn’t have to experience homelessness. We would have introduced her to other survivors of violence to build community & friendships and reduce shame & stigma. We would have advocated on her behalf so that her experiences were believed.
Angela is now in a better place and actually provides services to IHO as a way to give back to survivors and children experiencing violence. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her story and hopes that her experiences will resonate with and bring hope to other survivors who are struggling.
*names have been changed for safety reasons