The room is humming with noise until the soft flicker of the candle light invites a peaceful quiet. One at a time each woman takes a turn sharing how they are doing, what successes or struggles they’ve had while the other members and facilitators hold non-judgemental space. A topic designed to educate and invite personal reflection and empowerment follows these powerful check-ins where women realize they are not the only one and healing is possible. Once again the room is buzzing with questions and comments as each person begins to look objectively but with compassion as to how they got into a group focused on ending the cycle of abuse and having healthy relationships with others and themselves.
November was Woman Abuse Prevention Month and January 18th was the fourth Annual Global March for Women’s Rights. Despite greater education and public awareness, the rates of intimate partner violence are going up in our Region and throughout the country. Although there is a higher rate of violence against marginalized girls and women, abuse affects all socioeconomic classes and races.
Not all abuse shows up visibly in the form of cuts or bruises. Some wounds run deep beneath the surface, piercing into the heart of someone’s self-esteem or sense of safety. Although one can’t be charged for emotional or verbal abuse unless it includes uttering threats or harassment; put downs, gas lighting–where your partner constantly questions your reality making you feel as if you’re going “crazy”, isolating behaviours and controlling finances are destructive and leave scars that can last a lifetime without proper support.
Calling you all the time and questioning where you are and who you are with is not a loving gesture. It is a form of control.
In a healthy relationship there is trust and mutual respect for each other’s space and choices. In a healthy relationship, partners build each other up, supporting and encouraging one another, NOT tearing them down. And in a healthy relationship people feel safe to work through problems, ask for what they want and set limits and boundaries.
The cycle of abuse originally recognized by Lenore Walker decades earlier explains why it is hard for so many to recognize they are in an abusive relationship, let alone to find the strength to leave. It’s not all bad. Often following an abusive act comes minimizing, denying and blaming the victim. Instead of seeing how our partners need to change, we are left blaming ourselves and questioning what we need to do to change. This creates a sense of shame and further isolates people when they need help the most.
If you think your relationship is unhealthy or you have left an abusive partner and are looking for support as you heal and rebuild your life, we can help. Family Counselling Centre’s “Women Helping Women” daytime group provides weekly support to help you remember you are not alone and you are not to blame. Healing and hope are fostered in connection. FCC provides a safe place to connect, learn and grow. Call (519) 621-5090 ext. 0 or come to our weekly walk-in counselling clinic held every Thursday, intake from 12-4pm. Donations to support our family violence and addictions programs are always needed and greatly appreciated.