"This story of abuse unfortunately does not have a happy ending but I hope what I am about to share may help another woman or family to recognize the abuse in their lives and that they will have the courage to reach out for help. Everyone has the right to live a life free of abuse and thanks to the support and the many services offered by Gillian’s Place this can be a reality for families that need it.
On January 16, 2014, Judy Fraser arrived home to her apartment at 4:30 pm, she was just steps away from the front door when she was confronted by her estranged husband George Fraser and he viciously stabbed her 18 times with a large fishing knife he had just purchased. He then stood over her for a few moments and watched her as she was dying before he got into the car he had borrowed and sped off. By 5:20 pm he had switched cars and arrived at my home in Thorold. We had no idea George had just committed this heinous act and when we saw him, he was not emotionally upset and showed no signs of remorse, he was just very angry and started to yell at me and blame me for something he had just done.... “this is all of your faults, you made me do this, you conspired with her to do this to me.” I had been estranged from George for years and to this day I wonder why he came to my home. Was it to make me suffer or did he have thoughts of killing me too? As soon as my husband realized what George had just done he removed him from our home and I called 911. Judy was my Mom and I am also the daughter of George Fraser.
My parents were married for 47 years and George was abusive throughout their entire marriage. George did not see their marriage as a partnership but rather as ownership. By all accounts, our family appeared like a normal middle-class family. Growing up in our family I didn't label his behaviour as abusive, as this was our normal and it was all that we knew. I recall telling George to leave me alone, I’m a good kid and George would respond by saying “I was lucky that he wasn’t an alcoholic beating the **** out of me.” So I was brought up believing that abuse was only physical. It wasn't until years later, after I had my own children, that I learned that “he doesn't have to hit you for it to be abuse, he can manipulate, belittle, humiliate, curse, blame, scream, ridicule, disrespect and control you.” This is exactly how George treated his family.
My Mom had worked her entire life until she retired from the St. Catharines General Hospital Foundation at age 55 but George was the major income earner in their marriage as he worked at General Motors as an engineer. We were always told it was his house, his rules, we were told that we were lucky he allowed us to live there and we learned that we could never go against George. We walked on eggshells every day not knowing when he would have an outburst of anger. He would overreact at any little thing like one ice cube missing from the tray, or more than one cereal box open at a time. If we didn't wash his clothes correctly then he would take our clothes and draw black marker all over them. If he caught us biting our nails we would have to fill a bowl of dirt from the garden and eat it, because he would tell us that this is what we are eating from under our nails. It was a daily occurrence for him to call us names such as dumb and stupid. He would often yell at us and break us down until we were crying and then he would tell us that we were pathetic and that we would never amount to anything in life if we couldn't handle a little criticism. Since he controlled all the finances he had to approve of purchases that my Mom would make. I recall my Mom ordering luggage from the Shopping Channel one time, as they had an upcoming trip to Florida. When George arrived home and saw the purchase, he flew into a rage and accused her of having an affair or she had plans to leave him. She was instructed to immediately return the luggage and then she was told that she had to call 10 people and tell them what a dumb thing she had just done. She did make those calls as I was one of her 10 people and I knew by how she was talking that he was listening in on the other end. He always listened to or recorded her phone calls and monitored her emails. George did not have any friends and he was always critical and suspicious of anyone that came into our lives. We learned after my Mom’s passing that he had contacted several of my Mom’s friends over the years and told them to cease all contact with her. In 1989 George cut all ties with his side of the family and we were instructed to do the same. I have no idea why or what was said for this to happen, we were expected to do as he said or suffer the consequences. Now I understand this as isolation and it is a common tactic that abusers use to maintain their control over you. Over the years my Mom tried to get help through counselling, without George’s knowledge. She said she would always get to a point in her sessions that the counsellor would want her to bring Him into the meetings and she knew this was not an option because of the repercussions she would suffer so she would then start over in a search for someone else to help her. When I was 15 my Mom had thoughts of trying to leave him but she thought she should try counselling again, but this time as a family to see if that would change things. So we went for our first session, under the pretense of how to deal with his difficult teenagers. During the meeting, George quickly realized that the focus was on his behaviour and the session ended abruptly. As soon as we arrived home he unleashed his verbal abuse and then proceeded to shut off the heat, hydro, hot water and disconnected the battery on the car as punishment for 1 week....his house, his rules, nobody crosses George.
In our situation, the abuse and control extended beyond our family. Over the 47 years, George bullied, harassed, antagonized and legally pursued 22 different neighbours, and companies including two lawsuits against General Motors. Growing up there was always an ongoing conflict with a neighbour, and we were expected to keep quiet, avoid all contact with these people and be the dutiful family he demanded us to be. He knew every city by-law and targeted neighbours for anything from where they parked their car, to a fence post being a few cm on our property. He accused many people of tampering with his soil and killing his plants. He would hire environmental companies to test the soil and send the bill to the neighbours. Eventually, he would file lawsuits to control these people financially. He would make false accusations to their employers, pastors, family and friends to try and get them fired and ruin their reputation. We had a phone scanner in our home so George could track wireless phone conversations, he would learn of the neighbours’ weaknesses financially and personally and he would use this information to gain an advantage over these people. It was a regular occurrence at our home to see a police car at the end of our driveway and George was always successful in manipulating people into thinking that he was the victim. In his most recent lawsuit, he had convinced a therapist and his family doctor to testify on his behalf that he suffered from anxiety, depression, PTSD, he had a suitcase full of prescription medications. He didn’t take any of these prescriptions. They were just lies to support his lawsuits. After my Mom's passing an officer commented that he was surprised that there were no records of calls to NRP about the abuse in our home. I explained that we never felt like we could call for help for the things he did to us, and even if we had called George would manipulate the situation to blame us and then we would be left dealing with his punishments. I did tell the officer that there would have been hundreds of calls on record over the years from George about the neighbours. Possibly one lesson to be learned from our situation is that there is a good chance that if someone is that aggressive to people and businesses in their community then they are most likely that aggressive in their home life.
My Mom stayed with George all of these years for all of the usual reasons that you hear from abuse victims...She feared for her life, her safety was at risk, he controlled all of the finances, he would legally pursue her, when we were younger she was in fear she would lose her kids, she was embarrassed to tell family and friends, she was beaten down until she had no self-worth or confidence. She felt alone, she didn't think anyone would believe her or help her. He was the master of manipulation and we never felt like we could win against him.
In October 2013 at the age of 73, after two” last straw” incidences my Mom made the courageous decision to leave George. She said that for the remaining years she had left on this earth, she was going to live her life on her own terms. George was away for a few weeks closing the cottage for the season. During those weeks she retained a lawyer, she took copies of all financial documents she could find. We quickly packed up the life she had always known, taking very little only what she could pack into her car, she left behind her legal letter, her dear George’s letter and she headed out of town to stay with family until we determined her next steps. It was not until I read her dear George’s letter that I first learned that she had suffered physical and sexual abuse. She said that he would punish her with sex and hurt her in places where no one would see her. I felt sick that as her daughter I had no idea, but violence does thrive in silence and she was threatened that her life was in danger if she told anyone.
George had now lost the control he had always known and we were scared about his reaction. I will never forget his first words upon arriving home.... “she made this mess, she can clean it up, I'm out of here, I can live in solitary for the rest of my life.” I knew what he meant by this statement and I called the police station to find information and ask how to go about getting a restraining order...I was told that nothing could be done at this time, as this could mean that he just wants to be by himself. I was then advised of the necessary steps to put in place for a possible restraining order down the road.
For six weeks my Mom stayed out of town, she was harassed daily with numerous emails and she would receive up to 30 phone calls a day, ranging from crying and pleading to anger and threatening. She contacted the Women's shelter in Simcoe to get advice and support. She stayed strong and stayed away until December 1st when she moved back to St. Catharines and into her own apartment. By this time all of her family and friends knew of her abusive situation and everyone was completely shocked to learn that this had been going on. There was no judgement, just love and support, everyone rallied around my Mom to help her set up her new life. Through my EAP at work, I learned about the free legal services provided by Marion Wright at Gillian's Place. When George would overwhelm her with legal issues and his rights, my Mom could talk to Marion and learn what her own rights were and this was such great help and gave my Mom the strength to continue to stand up to George. Eventually, my Mom went before a judge and a no-contact order imposed due to his harassment. We all tried what we could to keep her safe and out of his control. She would try and arrange appointments after hours and would have friends drive her so her car would not be recognized. George had a set of keys to her car and I thought he would take her car to cause her more hardship so we had a secret switch, “a kill switch”, installed in her car so that he could not start the car with his set of keys if he didn’t know about the hidden switch. We were all on guard and tried our best to stay one step ahead of him and we were successful in doing so until that fateful night.
My last visit with my Mom was a few days before she had died. I asked her if she felt good about her decision to leave. She told me that she felt at peace, no more walking on eggshells, she could eat what and when she wanted, she could come and go without checking in and that her body was her own again and no man was ever going to touch her. She seemed positive about her future as she was talking about ideas to decorate her apartment and she had dinner and movie plans coming up with family and friends the following weekend.
On my Mom's last day she wasn't planning on going out, her home phone wasn't working and she was going to stay home and wait for the repair company. They came to do the repair early and she sent a text that she could now make it to her appointment downtown and she hoped she wouldn't run into George, as his lawyer's office was nearby where her appointment was. She never told us what the appointment as she was attending, as she usually would. For some reason this has been very important for me to know…and just a few weeks ago I got my answer. I got my Mom's purse back from the Detectives and I found an appointment card dated January 16/2014 at 3 pm…. “A Design for New Tomorrow.” This is a counselling service that my Mom was referred to through Gillian’s Place that helps empower women to lead a life free from violence. I am so proud of my Mom that she was taking that next step in her healing. I know in time she would have opened up about the domestic violence she endured. She was ending her silence and taking back control of her life. I take some comfort in knowing that her last appointment was supportive, empowering and positive before she had to face his anger and hate just moments later.
It was difficult enough dealing with the loss of my Mom in this horrific way but for several months after it felt like George’s control continued as we tried to deal with family court and the criminal court. It was really hard for me to separate and understand his legal rights vs. him trying to control the situation. It was also very difficult knowing that we all had to keep quiet about the case and anything we said about George due to the publication ban so that we in no way would jeopardize the court case. For months I would hear incorrect information about that night and rumours that he had snapped and I could not say anything, again it felt like the control continued. I would never have gotten through all of these overwhelming/ stressful legal issues without the help of Marion Wright at Gillian’s Place. I knew she was a wonderful help to my Mom, so I took a chance and reached out to her for help. Marion was so supportive and I could call her with any of my legal questions and decisions that I had to make. I can rest easy that I made the best decisions on my Mom’s behalf because of Marion’s help. I am forever grateful and thankful that Marion was there for me and willing to help me through all of this as I knew that she truly cared and she had my and my Mom’s best interest at heart.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Homicide Unit and our Crown Attorney, on June 3, 2015, George Fraser was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 18 years. The Crown Attorney stated that “this crime was one of the worst acts of domestic violence this community has seen in years.” We were scared that George would manipulate the system to get away with an NCR (not criminally responsible) defence but due to the overwhelming evidence, he finally plead guilty. He may have admitted to committing the crime but to this day he feels he is not responsible, it is not his fault. In his police interview after he was arrested, he showed no signs of true remorse and he would repeatedly state that he was a ***** great husband. I have some sense of safety with him being in jail, but my nightmares still persist that he will somehow come after me. George will always feel that I am the one to blame for the breakdown in their marriage of 47 years and for the crime he committed. My Uncle said it best in his victim impact statement “there is no expiry date on George’s rage.”
My Mom is the strongest woman I know, knowing how difficult her life was and yet she did not let it change her and what she showed to the outside world. She continued to be a kind, caring compassionate person and her commitment to her Church and faith was unwavering. She was the Big sister to four brothers and sisters, a mother of two daughters, a “Grandma Bo” to four grandchildren and someday would have been the best “Great Grandma Bo”. She had unconditional love for her family and friends and to have her for my Mom makes me feel very blessed.
Silence hides violence and we need to start speaking out to break the cycle. I'm very thankful for this opportunity today to speak to you as it helps in my healing to finally speak out about the abuse in our family. It’s hard to know how I am supposed to try and move forward from this tragedy, my hope is that someone may reach out for help after hearing this story, I can no longer help my Mom but maybe in some small way, I can help someone else. During my parents’ marriage and especially at the time of their separation I did not know a lot about the services that Gillian’s Place offers and I wish I had. The first thing I have since learned that you don’t need to stay at their shelter to access their free and confidential services. There were so many questions that my Mom struggled with that they can help with, like helping you find a place to live, helping you apply for financial assistance, putting a safety plan in place and of course the free legal services they offer. I always think that if my family didn’t know about all of their services that are available then others may also not know, so it is very important to me to help get that information out to people.
To honour my Mom, her friends and family now join together each year as the Team Healing Hearts, for the Walk for Women and the boys put on their high heels for Team Judy's Gentlemen, for The Walk a Mile in her shoes to help raise awareness and donations to support Gillian's Place.
If you are in an abusive relationship please know that you are not alone, it's not your fault and there is help available. Thanks to Gillian's Place there is hope for a better tomorrow for the abused women and children in our community.
(Love you Mom xoxo)"