Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love. The kind of love that uplifts us, whether its for a significant other, our children, our parents or our friend. But what if it’s not a love that uplifts, but rather destroys or consumes? What if it’s not a healthy love, but one driven by possession, control or hate? One that has you living in fear or in doubt and hurt?
This is the dark side of love, and you don’t have to live that way.
According to Statistics Canada, spousal violence is one of the most common forms of violence against women in Canada, and less than 1/3 of victims will report the crime to police.
Abusers can have an incredible power over their victims. Luckily places like Interval House, Canada’s first centre for abused women and their children, is here to help. They offer holistic services for women and children escaping from violent and abusive homes. Services include initial crisis intervention, sheltering services, women and children’s counselling, legal support, housing assistance and services to help them build economic self-sufficiency.
At Interval House, women help women learn self-sufficiency and regain their sense of self-worth through compassion and shared power
To bring awareness of the seriousness and pervasiveness of domestic violence, Interval House has developed this jarring video. It’s an eye opener, and I felt compelled to share it with you. I also asked Interval House to share a resident’s story with us. You’ll find that below.
And then let’s start the conversation so that no woman ever needs to live in fear again.
If you or someone you know is living with domestic violence, please seek help at Interval House, or your local women’s shelter. To learn more about Interval House, or to donate, visit their website.
Before I left my husband I was too scared to say anything — I just let the words hurt me and kept it all inside. My spouse controlled everything — every move. He was constantly looking into where I was, what I was doing, how much I spent. He checked on what I was cooking and if I was ironing his shirts right.
He’d get so furious sometimes and I really thought one day he would kill me. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew it wasn’t right that we all lived in fear.
Then my son Oskar started talking about how women are stupid and repeating all of those things that he heard his father say. It hurt me to think that my son could turn out like his father, and truthfully, I think that’s what finally pushed me to look for help.
I think many of us who decide to leave — we already feel numb on the inside. But we go because we see the children are hurting and that’s the trigger.
I first reached out to Interval House through the crisis line. I was looking for advice and wanted to know where I could take my children to be safe when the time was right. That call was the first step on the path of a new beginning.
My three children and I lived at Interval house for seven months. During that time, I started my life from scratch. I’d never had my own bank account, I had no credit history and I wasn’t sure how to go about finding a permanent home. Interval House helped me with all of this and more.
When I called the Crisis Line — even before I knew what Interval House was — I didn’t know how to get out of my situation. That call took me from living in fear with my every move controlled, to making my own decisions and finding the energy and empathy to make sure I was giving each of my children what they needed.
Living at Interval House gave us so much more than shelter. We would look forward to attending the programs — to learning new skills and feeling heard and understood. Through individual and group counselling, I became a better parent, and we all learned how to be a stronger family.
My kids need lots of support — my youngest has Down syndrome and is a high-needs child. My oldest boy had been living with undiagnosed behavioural issues that made it uncomfortable for him to take part in social activities. And it was tough for him to control his emotions.
At Interval House, the counsellors showed me how I could set limits and better help my kids handle their unpleasant feelings. With their help, I taught Oskar about the colour-coded “Zones of Regulation” that encouraged him to put words to his emotions, with tips and tools for how best to move from one zone to another.
Like red, yellow and green traffic lights, this system helped Oskar say: “I’m in yellow now so I need to slow down. I need to take a break.”
It was a tool for him, but also a tool for me to help him through his emotions. It told him that it’s okay to have all kinds of feelings — that he’s not bad because of his feelings, but that he needs to recognize what’s happening and move away from bad behaviour in a more positive direction.
Oskar is 7 years old now, and the big brother to Emilia, 5, and 3 year-old Daniel. I have the warmest memories of how it felt when Santa showed up at the shelter with Christmas presents for my kids.
I’ll never forget the delicious turkey dinner that was cooked up and served by volunteers. It was very heart-warming and it gave me a new goal.
Before leaving my abusive husband, I was never allowed to develop any of my own Canadian holiday traditions, but that’s all changed now. Through my experience with Interval House, I discovered that I’m extremely motivated and persistent in the face of all of the obstacles I’ve faced.
I wake up now and I think — life is a gift. I no longer feel I have all of these obstacles that I put up in response to the fear. Now I feel I can do anything I want.
I can start planning for the future — put things in place so that I can go back to school to work in the field of environmental science. I have an appointment with a social worker to help me figure out the best program to take.
Suddenly there are all of these possibilities and I can create my own life.
I am so proud that I have given my children a new home where we can all relax and enjoy our family time. And the best part is I set the rules. And this Christmas holiday — the first in our new home — I will cook my very first turkey dinner with all of the fixings!
·[endif]Interval House is Canada’s first shelter for abused women and their children
[if !supportLists]·[endif]Interval House offers holistic services for women and children escaping from violent and abusive homes. Services include initial crisis intervention, sheltering services, women and children’s counselling, legal support, housing assistance and services to help them build economic self-sufficiency
[if !supportLists]·[endif]At Interval House, women help women learn self-sufficiency and regain their sense of self-worth through compassion and shared power