Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Angela's Story

My sister would have turned 43 this week. Even today I am stunned that she is not here to celebrate it, I always thought we would have many more years together, to grow our relationship, to share our joys and sorrows.

Why isn't she here? The violence and suddenness of the day she was taken away from us still stuns me.

On December 22, 2005 I was preparing for Christmas, doing some housekeeping and dancing to "Six White Boomers" with my almost 2 year old son when a police officer showed up at the door. To be honest, I didn't even think anything of it, there were some ladies with him and I thought, weirdly, that they were there to give us a Christmas Food Hamper. I quickly realized they weren't when the ladies took my son to the living room giving the officer and I privacy. My mother was on holiday in the mountains and my first thought went to her, when the officer told me what had happened I didn't want to believe it. To say I was stunned is an understatement.

Angela's marriage had fallen apart. They had separated for a short time in November, reconciling for the children's sake and because he had promised change. Of course, when they got back together she discovered the change was only surface and knew that the marriage could not continue. She planned to ask him to leave again after the Christmas holidays.

I don't know what his trigger was that night. I don't know if he planned it or simply lost it. The night before my visit from the officers, without warning, without the major red flags that usually accompany death by domestic violence, my sister's husband beat her to death.

He had been verbally and emotionally abusive for years, but she told me only a few days before her death that he had never hit her. He had insulted her, exhibited extreme jealousy every time she had a friendly interaction with another man, demeaned her, criticized her and talked badly about her. He had discouraged her friendships, broken up friendships, and restricted her access to family. I had encouraged her to make a safety plan, to protect herself but she didn't feel she had a need to, she didn't perceive any danger to herself or the children from him.

After she was dead, my brother-in-law phoned a friend of theirs to tell them what he had done and asked them to come get the kids, telling them he planned to kill himself next. He left her body lying in front of the door in the house, went to the shed and shot himself. The friends, wisely, called the police and they waited, not knowing who, if anyone, was alive. Knowing he had guns, they had to be cautious so they didn't become the next targets. When the children finally answered the phone at 8 am, there was great relief to know they, at least, were alive. I can't imagine the horror they must have felt when they had to step over their mother's body to leave the home.

Over time, more details would come more to light, showing the horror and pain my sister went through that terrible night. My passion is to help other abused women realize the danger they are in before it is too late. To make it clear that it doesn't matter the form of domestic violence, it is dangerous and life threatening.

Freedom is within reach. You too deserve to be treated with respect, with courtesy. You deserve to be loved, not hurt. If you are in an abusive relationship, I encourage you to reach out for help immediately! Call the Distress Line (in Calgary it is: 403-234-7233), see a counselor. No matter the type of abuse, or how "bad" you perceive it to be, make a safety plan, have an escape route. Above all, do not remain silent. Silence holds you captive to your abuser, it is only when we start to speak up that we can become free, that abuse can be stopped.

Are you uncertain if your partner is abusive? You can check out this webpage to assess your situation. If you find this to describe you, please reach out for help! You are worth it!!

I won't stop dancing because in dancing I find freedom. In dancing, I show that I am still alive. Won't you dance with me?

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