Alice knows a thing or two about domestic violence.
For almost a decade she suffered mental, physical, sexual and financial mistreatment at the hands of her ex-boyfriend and she was deep into the cycle of abuse before she even knew what it was.
“I was in a very abusive relationship to say the least; it lasted eight years and I couldn’t figure out why, what was wrong with me, you know,” said Alice, who, fearing for her life, asked that her real name not be used.
“He had a very short temper and there were punches, there were slaps, his favourite thing was to grab my wrists and head butt me and pull my hair and stand me up, ‘Oh, you’re fine.’”
November is Family Violence Prevention Month, a time when relevant organizations draw attention and speak out on the issue through different events and initiatives.
Domestic violence is something that can affect anyone, regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic background, and people like the staff at the Lloydminster Interval Home want the public to know there’s no shame in talking about it.
“There are about 34 incidents of violence before a person actually reports it the first time, then the police will come about seven times to the home before there’s a successful intervention,” said Angela Rooks-Trotzuk, executive director of the Interval Home.
“So that tells you how much is actually happening before there’s even police involved, and then by the time they leave the relationship, so it’s quite extensive.”
Lloydminster’s Interval Home is a place for women and children in abusive relationships to get help through a wide range of programs
Last year alone, the home took in 165 women and 248 kids and answered about 2,000 calls to its crisis line.
“When you work in family violence, you learn that there’s a cycle of violence, and over time you start to see the person who’d use abusive tactics or power of control in a relationship start to pick away at the person’s self-esteem and over time, psychologically, their self-esteem is stripped away,” said Rooks-Trotzuk, who added there are often a few reasons that keep victims from leaving immediately.
“They’re usually being isolated from family and friends, so there’s some financial hardship and barriers that keep them from leaving,” she said.
Alice said she left her abuser on numerous occasions, but would eventually return to him.
Those occasions prompted some people in her life to criticize her actions.
“They’d say: ‘Well, it’s your fault for going back all the time. It’s your fault for not leaving. It’s your fault for taking him back.’” Alice said, while pulling a Kleenex from a box on the table.
“So I found I was in a position where I didn’t know where to run to and I knew I couldn’t stay anymore, I couldn’t keep up with that anymore and finally I got desperate enough, this is it, I have to go somewhere,” she said, unconsciously bunching the tissue in her hand.
Added Rooks-Trotzuk: “There’s shame, there’s embarrassment, there’s usually children involved so sometimes there’s a feeling that it’s not that bad; they’d rather their children have a father than no father, but typically there’s fear that’s always there and financial barriers, those are usually the two biggest ones.”
Jim MacDougall, a retired Calgary police detective who helped form that city’s first domestic crime unit, agreed that fear and finances are the two biggest factors that keep victims from leaving abusive situations.
He said a cyclical perpetrator of domestic violence will do everything— sometimes even to the point of homicide—to stop a person from leaving, so it’s imperative to act right away.
The former cop said talking to police or social workers may not be enough, so the most important thing is to reach out to someone with a strong grasp of domestic abuse who can relate personally to what the abused is going through.
“They need to talk to somebody who truly understands it, to sit down with them so they can work through it, tell what’s going on in their life so they can learn to understand what they’re going through, and what the different (kinds) abusers are about, why they do it and why they’ll continue to keep doing it,” said MacDougall.
“Once they’ve done that, then they have to develop an escape plan, they have to get out of that relationship, cut it off 100 per cent and never talk to that person again, ever.”
He noted there are plenty of shelters and resources like the Interval Home that can help, but that in itself is a difficult step for some to make.
MacDougall said it may be hard to do, but it’s the only way to break the cycle.
Lloydminster’s Interval Home offers prevention-based programs and services for victims of domestic abuse before they leave home—which may help smooth this transition—and also offers other resources for women and children when they arrive at the shelter.
“If you put it in stages, our prevention is prior to even coming into shelter and our emergency shelter is kind of like a crisis response,” said Rooks-Trotzuk.
“Our second stage, they’re moving from an emergency shelter, they’re staying with us for up to a year and they’re past the crisis response and into the healing piece, so they’re recovering from what was going on before, whatever that looks like, and then the post-vention would be, maybe they’re living in the community now, but they’re still receiving outreach supports.”
Interval made a point to bookend those issues so there are services for women and children in any phase of the transition, from the abusive relationship to the new and better life they may be seeking.
For those who may be witnessing family abuse, or even aware of it as a third party, there could be an urge to just keep quiet and mind your own business, but Rooks-Trotzuk insists if you find yourself in such a situation, don’t remain silent; at the very least approach the victim and subtly ask if they’re OK.
“Please don’t mind your own business; that’s usually what people feel, they’re usually taken aback if they witness something, if they are suspicious of something they feel like it’s not their place to say anything,” she said.
“But I think there’s a way you can intervene without being intrusive or feel like you’re being nosey– you can ask them how they’re doing,” she said. And if you have strong suspicions abuse is happening, call the cops.
“Don’ worry about calling, you could be saving somebody’s life,” said Rooks-Trotzuk.
After eight years, Alice knew she’s had enough and when her abuser took an out-of-town trip, she feigned having the flu so she could stay behind.
When he left she started making calls to all the women’s shelters in her town, but they were full and had to turn her away.
She finally arrived in Lloyd at Interval Home.
She said reaching out for help was the best thing she ever did, she said, and now she has amazing supports and goes to counseling sessions that are helping her tremendously.
She agrees with MacDougall and said Cutting off all contact is essential, and keeping your location secret from family and friends is important so no one can inadvertently give away your location.
“They know I’m safe and sound, they know I’m in a shelter, that’s all, they don’t know what town I’m in; my parents don’t know, anybody that’s close to me, and they appreciate that—then,” she laughed, “they have plausible deniability.”
As part of Family violence Prevention Month, the Interval Home will be out in the community hosting various events, like Nov. 5 when they’ll be handing out coffee and hot chocolate at Sobeys.
There will be a reach out-speak out chloroplast silhouette there for people to sign and make a statement that they reach out and speak out against family violence.
On Nov. 8 staff from Interval will be on location at Lakeland College Lloydminster Campus with a reach out speak out booth with information on family violence and how the public can support the people affected by family violence.
If you, or someone you know, is a victim of family abuse, please contact the Interval Home’s crisis hotline at 780-875-0966 or Lloydminster RCMP at 780-808-8300.
You can get out
November 8, 2016 12:00 AM
REACH OUT SPEAK OUT The Lloydminster Interval Home gave a presentation to the Rotary Club of Lloydminster Tuesday, recognizing Family Violence Prevention Month with the re-introduction of the Red Silhouette Project. JAIME POLMATEER LLS PHOTO
Help for abused women and their families
Alice knows a thing or two about domestic violence.
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