The journey from fear to freedom unfolds one step at a time, one choice at a time, starting with that first brave “ask” for help.
Imagine living an abuse-free life. Does it seem like an impossible dream from where you stand today?
The following five stories are meant to encourage you and plant—or replant—a seed of hope within your heart. Like you, these women were once imprisoned by abuse. Now, with help from Gillian’s Place, they are living independent, abuse-free lives in the community.
Brenda, age 41, mother of 2
"I would like to tell all other women who are in a similar situation where I was, that they are NOT alone. At first I thought and felt that I was in the wrong within my relationship. I was nervous, scared and I did feel alone. Until I decided to contact Gillian's Place, that is. I remember there was many times that they stayed on the line with me, when I was living with my abusive husband. They opened their arms to me and my children completely. The counsellors at Gillian's Place also helped me emotionally...I don't know how I would of made it through without them. It didn't matter the time of day or night, they were always there for me.
To this day, Tasha still contacts me, just to see how I am doing or if there is anything she can help me with etc. or just to talk. I am so very thankful for everyone at Gillian's Place, they are sincerely caring women.
To me and my children they were our 'guardian angels'. They will never be forgotten and always in our hearts.
Thank you Gillian's Place staff!
So if you need someone to talk to, someone who cares and can help you, or just someone to listen to you....give Gillian's Place a call, you won't regret it. They can help you and protect you, if need be.
I know you are going through tough times, I was too. But believe me, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Things will get better....you have to believe, and have faith."
"My name is Heather, I am an ex resident of Gillian's place formally known as Women's Place. I arrived at Gillian's place during the summer of 1998 with my 3 children ages 11, 9, and 4. I was feeling so afraid and confused when I arrived there. They welcomed me with compassion, support and understanding just what I needed at that time. I felt so damaged by the daily abuse I had received from my husband at that time I could not think, I just needed a safe quiet place for me and my children to stay so I could have some time to think, and heal. Gillian's Place offered me kind, compassionate counselors to talk to and answer any questions I had, and advised me when I requested advice. They provided me with legal advice in regards to custody issues . They also had child youth counselors for my children to talk to during this confusing time.
When I left Gillian's Place with my children and moved in to my new apartment the staff at Gillian's Place helped me to adjust to living on my own with my children. They provided me and my children with transitional support. I was able to go back to school and find a job to take care of my children. I felt I truly lost my self when I was with my abusive husband and with the help of Gillian's Place I was able to find the real me again not the person my ex-husband thought I should be, and build my self esteem up again. My children and I felt safe which was the first step in our recovery from years of abuse. I am able to live without fear for my safety and the safety of my children because I choose not to accept the abuse anymore."
"I just wanted to start out by saying I never knew places like woman's place existed. I came from a very religious and sheltered lifestyle; I came out into the world and picked the wrong man to share my life with. He was both abusive to me physically but even more so verbally, and to my young son. I was told about woman's place and came to them when I decided enough was enough, my child doesn't deserve this life, and neither did I. I was pregnant by the man I was leaving with a young child only two years whose life was changing. It was such a frightening experience for me at the start. I had no idea what had made my life turn this way, and where I was going but the people at woman's place changed all this for me. They brought me in with minimal questions, helping me with counseling and somewhere to sleep. They showed my son love, and gave me help with him and the pregnancy as well. They gave me hope and helped me realize that I was better than what my life had become. While I was there they helped me apply for work, provided transportation to important meeting, and made sure all me and my son’s needs were met. Once I received my new townhouse, they even helped by making sure I had everything I needed for my new house, and my soon to be born son and the son I already had. After leaving woman's place, I've had good and hard times, and in every circumstance till this very day woman's place, and its team still help me. I’ve received gifts for my son’s birthday, and Christmas when finances weren’t good. I received counselling after I left to help me move on when out on my own, and to strengthen my self esteem, because that was taken from me. They’ve even called me to see how I’m doing. I've really grown from this experience. I am raising my two young children, going to university full time, and seeing a bright hope for the future ahead."
"Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a fitting name for a fundraiser supporting Women’s Place. A woman in an abusive relationship may walk many long miles before she gets out. Sadly not every woman does, and most women are in greater danger once they decide to leave. This event is an opportunity to think about these women and their journey. It’s your opportunity to support these women through the work that Women’s Place does every day. The stories and reasons why a woman stays are as different as the shoes you wear today. Some because it’s ugly but comfortable, some perhaps it’s all they’ve got or know, others maybe because the investment was so great that they must endure it even though painful, and others although painful they may hurt less than an unknown replacement. I am one of these women.
When asked to share my story today I was flattered, scared, and anxious for the opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Women’s Place and especially Gillian Dooley for saving my life. I firmly believe that if Women’s Place had not been there so many years ago I would not be here today. Without men like you, many women’s futures would be vastly different. To each and every one of you here today who hate what some of your gender do to the women in their lives I say THANK YOU.
I felt it important to ask my children how they would feel about me speaking about our very personal and painful journey from despair to a wonderful and violent free loving home. My son, (who stands before you in a dress because he was offered an extra $100 if he wore it today), told me to do what I had to do. He doesn’t remember our time at Women’s Place but his funny, loving and caring spirit speak volumes as to the positive effect our experience has had on him. My beautiful daughter who had two birthdays while living in Women’s Place wrote me “It’s not lost on me what life would have been like without WP. What patterns would we have repeated as adults if we had grown up in that kind of home? I know for sure that I would not have ended up with a husband who respects me because I wouldn’t have learned that I deserve that.” She went on to say “WP knew what you didn’t – abuse happens in a cycle and they were a soft place to fall when we went back. I look back at my 13th and 16th birthdays not with sadness or regret that I had them there. They gave us not just safety and shelter but hope and self confidence that had been taken away from us for so many years. I think we left there stronger and closer because of the experience. I’m proud that as a family we walked away from a bad situation and came out of it together.”
The first time the bolted doors of Women’s Place opened for me was 18 years ago. It was the middle of the night as I stood on the steps with a crying baby and a scared twelve year old. We had escaped earlier in our pajamas once he had fallen asleep. As we quietly drove away, to where I had no idea, we clung together like the frightened and lost souls we were. Going to family or friends was out of the question because I couldn’t have my violent drama of a life visited upon them. Stopping at a payphone, I found the number for Women’s Place. The gentle calming voice of a stranger gave me directions to what later became my salvation. They gave us a room, clothes to wear, and shoulders to cry on. They listened to my story and offered choices and hope. It was a safe haven to reflect on how my life had gone so wrong so quickly. During our time there my daughter celebrated her 13th birthday. They baked a cake, provided gifts and worked hard to make her leap into teenage-hood special. I felt so guilty subjecting my kids to this group setting that I minimized the problems at home. He said he was sorry and would change and I needed to believe him. I so wanted the good parts of my life back, I needed to make my marriage work, and I needed to give my children back the comfortable house I had worked so hard to buy.
So I went back as so many women do. Everyone at Women’s Place wished us well and hoped our lives would be better. They let me know that they would be there if I needed them again but I knew I wouldn’t. Unfortunately they knew that I probably would.
The days went by and life progressively got more difficult. I gave up more and more of myself to have peace and try to please him to no avail. One morning after yet another night of raging insanity, my four year old son said “What did you do this time Mommy?” It was at that moment I realized that keeping the family together was not giving my son the stability I thought it was. Instead I was now in a household with two males who blamed me for unknown transgressions. My beautiful young son was probably a future abuser if I remained within this nightmare pretending everything was great. I had lost the will to defend myself in my marriage but I could not allow my son to believe that I ever deserved this.
My father came immediately when I called and asked for a ride to Women’s Place. No other words were necessary. Time was of the essence to get out of the house so again we left with almost nothing but each other. As we drove my father asked no questions rather he simply said “You’ll never see a U-Haul attached to a hearse”. In his quiet and unobtrusive way he let me know that all the material goods in the world were nothing if I was dead. The house in St. David’s and all the stuff within it that I thought was so important to me and my children would not follow us into eternity.
They welcomed us back without judgment or recrimination. This time we stayed until we moved on in life to an apartment. This time included my daughters sixteenth birthday which they again went out of their way to celebrate. At Thanksgiving dinner that year we ate as a group and my children were thankful for things like our safety, lack of fighting, and that Mommy wasn’t crying. Gillian will forever be in my prayers for the understanding and support she personally gave me. I thought she must be the Queen of men haters to work so hard at helping women get away from men. She took me under her wing and spoke lovingly of her own life and husband. Her words spoke of hating only what ABUSIVE MEN do to the women in their lives that they say they love. She boosted my self esteem and convinced me that I too deserved that kind of love and support and that there were those men out there. An abusive man had stripped me of my beliefs in love, mankind, and myself but my months in WP gave them back. I later returned to school, eventually bought another house and continued my life as a survivor. My daughter is now married to a wonderful caring man and they have blessed me with two fantastic grand children. My son is a handsome considerate young man attending college and working as well. As if that wasn’t enough success, I am happy to be employed at The Famous Coffee Shop working with some incredible men that I love deeply who assist in fund raising activities for me without even asking why.
I know that life has changed for my family and that the pattern of abuse has stopped for us because I had the courage to leave, I know this because this Thanksgiving my young granddaughter when asked what she’s thankful for replied without pause “Pink Nail polish."
Anonymous, age 38, mother of 4
"My family came to Canada August 16, 2003. I came with my husband and four children to start a new life, I was excited and at the same time I was scared. While in Mexico I had problems with my husband, when I came to Canada I was hoping to leave behind all of the problems. Things were difficult in the beginning because of the language and being in a new country, it was hard to talk to people and meet new people. One incident I found myself crying on a city bus because I couldn’t understand the bus driver. Things in my life started to become worse but it was not because of the language it was because of my husband. At this time we had been married 10 years, my husband and I had different ideas of what we wanted in life. I couldn’t be myself and I was starting to forget who I was.
When I was with my husband I felt like I was deep in a hole, it was like I was screaming but no one could hear me. I wanted to get out but I couldn’t. Everyday I asked myself “when is this going to end”. I didn’t get an answer for this question because I didn’t ask for help.
When I would talk he would always talk louder. There was no way to win. After time you loose yourself, you become a different person. My husband was physical with me and my children. My husband was also very verbally aggressive with me and the children. When I heard how he screamed at them and how he treated them, I was scared and felt I couldn’t do anything.
Everyday was the same, he would scream. One night when he came home from work he was screaming about the remote control for the TV, he woke the children up by yelling and screaming at them. This was the end, it was enough.
Sometimes things can happen to make you stronger, my children made me stronger. This was the end, it was enough. That night when I heard how he was with my children it was very difficult I wanted to protect them.
I called 911, I told the person “I don’t need a police a police officer but I need somewhere to be safe," I explained the reason and they gave me the number for Women’s Place.
I called Women’s Place from work the next day October 28, 2004. They sent me a cab for me and my children and we admitted to the shelter. I was very scared.
I felt safe at the shelter; it was the only place I could sleep. I didn’t want to leave the shelter. My children were safe.
I always thought about how thankful I was. Women’s Place gave me the opportunity to be safe; they showed me life can be different. I say thank-you to all those people who gave me their hands. I know now I can do many things and life can be different for me and my children."
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There is help. There is hope. There is a future.