OCTOBER is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The following is the first of two stories The Morinville News will be running to raise awareness of domestic violence.
by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Sitting in a comfortable chair in a local coffee shop, a 25-year-old mother of three tells the horrifying story of being tied to a wooden chair, taunted, abused and threatened with being lit on fire by a man she loved, a man who M, not her real name, said was anything but the man she’d originally met.
A nurse by profession, M met her husband online through shared work on a virtual reality game. After three years of getting to know one another online, a relationship developed and M came to Alberta to meet her friend. “He proposed to me the same day that I got off the plane,” she said, adding she was pretty taken back with it, but said she was thinking the wedding would be at some point in the future. But her friend had other plans and the couple were wed four days later. The abuse started three months later, after M returned home to quit her nursing job and sell her town house.
“It was a really bad physical incident that started it all,” she said. “It came out of nowhere because he was never verbally abusive or anything.” The situation escalated after M told her husband that she would not pick up after him as he was old enough to do so himself. “He snapped. It was all day long abuse. He choked me and slammed me against the wall. It was so cryptic and scary. My son was there and he told him to go in his room and not come out no matter what you hear. The abuse lasted all day. It was horrible. Physical.”
M said the physical abuse and threats continued for three years and through two pregnancies. She felt trapped.
“I couldn’t really do anything here because I found out the school that I went to for my medical training was not accredited in other countries,” she said, adding her husband was also fearful that she would make more money than him. “He didn’t want me to work anyways. It seemed like he just wanted me to be barefoot and pregnant.”
M says the abuse continued with hair pulling, dinner plates thrown against walls and even a hot cup of tea pured over her head. “I dealt with the abuse because I convinced myself as long as he is not hurting my kids, and just hurting me, it’s OK,” she said, adding the decision to leave came some time before she got away. The initial break resulted with M going to Victim Services in Edmonton. A protection order later and M and her children found themselves in a Lloydminster shelter before a friend suggested she come to live with her in Morinville. That trip was difficult in itself. “It was really scary because I had not been allowed to drive in well over a year,” she said. “I got here and have been here ever since.”
The three-year horror story has now come to an end for M and her children. The Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (JMMF) have worked with M by helping her get to and from court, housed her in a safe location, and assisted her through their connections in the community. The courts have now granted M custody of her children, allowing her to return to the United States.
A recent fundraising initiative through local support agencies has raised the money to send her and her children back to her family in the United States, back to safety and back to creating a better future for herself and the children.
It is not the first help she has received from the community. After being assisted by the JMMF in getting safe from her abuser, M found herself in a community who quickly came to her assistance with items for her children.
“I’ve never been in a community that was so giving to somebody that they don’t even know,” M said. “I’m just really thankful that I came to Morinville. Without this community and the foundation I’d probably have nothing.”
M said she has a job lined up teaching a nursing program when she returns home.
Rebecca Balanko, a spokesperson for the JMMF is proud of M and what she has done to return home. “M is an amazing soul, one of the kindest, strongest, resilient and unassuming people I’ve had the privilege of knowing,” she said. “What she has done for her own well being and the lives of her children is nothing short of miraculous. Her courage and stamina has gotten her to this point and it’ll serve her well in the years to come.”
Balanko said anyone who thinks they can stereotype an abused woman would have their theory blown out of the water after meeting M.
“She’s one of the bravest women I’ve ever met,” Balanko said.