November is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
In Niagara, there is a steady increase in the number of calls to police related to domestic violence. Last year, Niagara Regional Police Service responded to over 12,000 calls for this reason alone. Domestic violence can be difficult to see, yet more than a third of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. United Way Niagara has partnered with many local agencies across the region to address this important issue.
Dollars are invested in programs that directly impact survivors and their families. We wanted to share one survivor’s story with you.
“We moved to Ontario in 2009. My daughter, my now ex-husband, and I left Calgary, AB, and drove across the country to settle in the Niagara region. I left behind my family and my friends - my entire support group. During those long eight years with my ex, my daughter and I experienced mental, emotional and physical abuse. For the majority of this time I was not permitted to work nor have friends. I was alone and trapped.
In 2012, after many calls to the 24-hour Woman’s Place crisis line, I made the decision to leave. My daughter and I left with no money, just a change of clothes. We had nowhere to go. Nova House welcomed us with open arms.
During my time there, I was able to access many services. I participated in counselling and healthy relationship workshops, received assistance applying to Ontario Works, guidance on legal matters for my daughter’s custody case and help securing a home of our own. But the most valuable thing I was given at Nova House was kindness and compassion. They helped me to become a better mother and woman. My time at Nova House was indisputably instrumental in my success moving forward.
Since leaving Nova House, I’ve been able to get involved with many community organizations in Niagara. I’ve offered my time as a volunteer. I’ve returned to college to study child and youth care so that I can work with other families and give back to my community even more.
I have met a man who treats me and my daughter with respect and understanding. My daughter now has a home where she can feel safe, happy and loved. Although I’ve had the opportunity to share my story at functions in the past, my favorite ones are where I can bring my daughter with me. Her first time joining me, when she was not yet 10 years old, I had asked her if she’d feel comfortable with me sharing what Nova House meant to her and she agreed. I think that was very brave of her.
Shila shared with me her two favorite memories. The first one was how much she liked playing in the toy room with the other kids. It was so wonderful to see her wake up care free - to be excited to start her day, to no longer need to worry about what might happen. She was able to just be a child for the first time in her life. Her second memory was the time she had asked a staff member if she could have chocolate chip waffles for dinner and they said yes. This might seem funny or even insignificant, but for her this was about more than just waffles. This was Shila learning that her wants and needs mattered. That people would listen to her. For a child who spent five years in uncertainty, this was her chance to gain back a much needed sense of control and validation.
Unfortunately our story is not unique. Far too many women and children have similar stories to ours.
We are lucky because our story has a happy ending. Without the support of Nova House, and people like each of you, our story would have a very different ending. It is impossible to fully express the gratitude I have for the community and to Women’s Place and their staff.
I want to give each of you readers and donors something in return. I want to assure you that what you are doing is important. That it DOES matter. You are changing lives. You are saving lives. You are empowering women like me to leave unhealthy relationships and offering the opportunity for women to lead happy, successful lives. You are providing the resources by which women and children are able to liberate themselves from domestic violence. Liberation is a choice, an act, a social movement. It has power. It is not like escaping from prison or beating cancer; you don’t survive or beat it. You don’t get to decide not to have cancer, but you do get to decide that you and your children are worth more than your current situation and you can choose to demand better. If you stay in a victim mindset, you stay a victim.
On behalf of every woman and child who has, is, or ever will depend on the support of United Way programs, thank you all, so very much!”
Unfortunately, Sammi’s story is not unique; but it IS one out of the 3,985 success stories from last year. United Way investments are making a real impact on domestic violence. We need your help to make issues like this one, #UNIGNORABLE.