“It wasn’t until the pain of my present drove me to the pain of my past that I had the courage to look within and deal with it.”
I guess I never really liked myself because others didn’t really like me. That was and is the lesson. I am LOVE.
Be gentle, love yourself.”
– Leslie, 53
Empower Resilience. Support Victims and Survivors of Crime #VictimsWeek
Whenever I was happy, he’d put me down. He liked to see me insecure; he’d break me down every time I regained some confidence in myself. If I succeeded or claimed a tiny victory at work, he’d ruin it for me.
Strength is finding your voice, making the decision to leave, to get help, to put one foot in front of the other and fight for your freedom and happiness.
Today, I’m loved; I’m happy, I feel confident and I’m successful in my career.”
– Michelle, 39
Empower Resilience. Support Victims and Survivors of Crime #VictimsWeek
I’ve survived both parental and partner violence and trauma. I’ve become an expert at re-starting my life. I used to be hard on myself about it, thinking that I just couldn’t get my life right, but today I see it differently. I love myself enough not to give up; I’m always willing to get back up and change what I know needs to changed. I’m a survivor.”
– Gianna, 42
Empower Resilience. Support Victims and Survivors of Crime #VictimsWeek
In 2015, with the support of Prairie Action Foundation, PhD student Kimberley Zorn used Narrative Inquiry methodology to hear and identify themes in the experiences of female victims of criminal harassment in Regina, Saskatchewan. Here is what she found:
- Participants noticed red flags early on in their relationship. Partners began monitoring their phone calls, asking frequent questions about where they were going, what they were doing and who they were spending time with, and ultimately worked to isolate these women from friends and family.
- Controlling behaviours eventually turned to more aggressive and violent outbursts. Women reported substantial psychological and emotional abuse. Some also reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse during their relationships.
- At some point, women made a decision to leave the relationship. Some believed that leaving would bring an end to the abuse and violence. On the contrary, it brought new types of controlling, obsessive, and abusive behaviours in the form of stalking.
- Tactics were used repeatedly and contributed to the emotional and psychological trauma experienced by women targets. Phone calls, e-mails, and letters would alternate from harassing and abusive messages to apologies and declarations of love. At times, the perpetrators would leave messages threatening acts of suicide or faking medical health conditions, statements made in an attempt to get the victim’s attention or to manipulate her into contacting him.
- Women explained that the psychological and emotional abuse experienced as a target of stalking is constant and relentless. Moreover, a few women reported that the emotional torture experienced as a target of stalking is far worse than the physical abuse they endured prior to ending their relationships.
- The relentless harassing created an environment where women did not feel safe and reported being in a constant state of fear. Women reported being afraid to leave their home, were always looking over their shoulder to see who was there, and felt as though they were living in a mental prison.
- All women within this sample sought help from the police and justice system in an attempt to stop the behaviours of the stalker. Unfortunately, for many women, seeking protection from the legal system did little to stop the ongoing abuse.
- With a few exceptions, women reported positive experiences with local police. Women explained that having police who listened and tried to understand their experiences helped them to feel safe and comfortable in reporting incidents of stalking and seeking formal supports. They also emphasized the importance of continuing to take women seriously when they come forward to report instances of stalking.
- A number of themes related to women’s experiences with the justice system emerged from the data. For instance, prolonged trial dates, low conviction rates, and constant breaches associated with no contact orders, added to feelings of disappointment and exacerbated fears associated with personal safety and protection. In addition, women reported that many charges were dropped or plead down to a lesser offence, which added to their frustration and dissatisfaction with the justice system.
- Women reported feeling overwhelmed with the process of gathering evidence and explained that it was very difficult to prove criminal harassment in court. The majority of stalking incidents happened within the home or away from the public eye. As a result, women sometimes felt as though others did not believe their recounts of stalking or experiences of abuse. This added to feelings of isolation and the challenges associated with being a target of stalking.
- Steps taken within the legal system did not stop the perpetrators from stalking. In some cases, going to the police actually increased incidents of stalking.
This post is condensed from the work of Kimberley Zorn. To see her full summary with quotes from study participants, click here.
Clearly, the person being hit, intimidated or humiliated and bullied in their own home is a victim. But IPV takes its toll on others as well. Individuals close to the one being abused are caught in the crossfire, and communities bear the cost.
Who else does IPV hurt?
- The children – Children or teens of a victim inevitably feel the effects, whether they directly witness the violence or whether they experience the depleting effect it has on their parent. Children are awake and aware far more than parents usually assume, and research shows that even (perhaps especially) young infants are affected by the trauma.
- Family members – The whole extended family may be rocked by an abusive partner. They may see the behaviour and not want to be around it, or they may not see it and fall prey to the abuser’s manipulation. The abuser’s threats and abuse may spill over and be directed at family members, especially as they try to support the victim’s independence.
- Friends – Like family members, friends may be hurt by apparent rejection from a victim whose abuser uses tactics of isolation. Too often, families and close friends are at a loss and give up on their loved one who just won’t seem to leave a damaging situation. Then when the victim is ready, she or he may feel too alone to make the change.
- Workplaces – In extreme cases, intimate partner violence can compromise the safety of the workplace. More often, it takes a toll on the well-being and productivity of workers. For example harassing phone calls are both made and received at the workplace. Co-workers and supervisors are aware and uncertain what to do. Absenteeism and distraction can occur due to injuries, loss of sleep and emotional turmoil for the victim. While ethical problems with dismissing someone for being a victim of violence are obvious, employers are often not prepared to respond to the circumstances.
- Communities – As we know at Family Service Regina, strong communities are made of healthy families and individuals. A family torn by domestic violence will not be interacting and contributing as they could. Domestic violence is isolating, alienating, and it drains the confidence and energy of the victim. A quarter of all violent crime in Canadian communities is domestic violence. It’s a crime that is perpetuated through the generations, as children who are exposed to Intimate Partner Violence are more likely to perpetrate such violence themselves in later years.
- Pets – Animal cruelty often goes along with domestic violence. Pets are important to people — making them a potential support for victims but also a potential hindrance to getting out, as victims tend to consider the welfare of their companion animals and it is often difficult to take them to a shelter or new apartment.
To find out about services and information for children, concerned family and friends, workplaces, community groups and agencies and even pets, please Contact Us.
- Believe her. Even if you know and like her abuser, know that it is common for abusive individuals to put their best face forward outside the home.
- Tell her it’s not her fault. Don’t focus on what happened to “provoke” abuse. No one makes someone else abuse them.
- Validate her feelings. A person who’s been abused can be filled with self-doubt. Let her know that feelings of fear, anger, shame, confusion, depression, embarrassment, loneliness, hope, hopelessness, hate, love, are all normal.
- Don’t minimize. Let your friend know that you take what she has told you very seriously. Don’t try to make her feel better by letting on that it’s not that bad. Bring it up again. Remember that pretending it’s not happening or that it’s no big deal doesn’t make it go away.
- Tell her positive things about herself. The act of physical abuse and the verbal abuse that typically go along with it can tear down a woman’s view of herself. You can help by communicating clearly the strengths that you see in her.
- Listen. Although you may want to intervene immediately, the best help is to be someone she can rely on while she sorts it out for herself. Too much advice may make it difficult for her to do that.
- Ask her about the children. Without judging, encourage her to talk about how she sees the abuse affecting them. Validate those concerns. It may help her to leave in the future.
- Don’t try to make her do anything she doesn’t want to. If you try to take control, she won’t be ready and it’s likely to fail.
- Don’t blame her for the abuse or her decisions. Leaving an abusive relationship may seem like a simple decision to make. It’s not. Leaving is difficult for a lot of reasons, and it usually takes a long time.
- Urge her to seek medical attention and report to the police. The decision is hers, but even if she is not ready to leave, a documented history of abusive incidents will help her in the future with obtaining safety measures and custody of children.
- Give her good information about abuse. It might not be safe for her to keep books and pamphlets around, but you can pass on information verbally and direct her to internet resources. As internet use can be easily monitored, recommend she use your computer or a library to access these resources.
- Tell her that domestic violence is a crime and she can call 911 for help. If it’s not safe to stay on the phone with the operator, run or go to a safe place.
- Help her develop a safety plan for the time she stays as well as the time when she leaves.
- Encourage her to build a wide support system. Talk to her about the possibility of breaking the secret with trustworthy people, consulting a lawyer, attending a support group, getting to know people in the community, having a job or building job skills. Keep safety in mind, as the abuser may oppose these efforts.
- Don’t blame or attack the abuser. Realize that in spite of what has happened there is a relationship that has involved strong feelings and loyalty. It’s emotionally confusing to be with someone who says he loves her, yet hurts her so badly. It’s likely that she has coped by making excuses for the abuser. Harsh statements against him may prompt her to defend him.
- Keep in contact. Abuse creates isolation, and isolation makes it harder to get out. Find out from your friend the best times for you to initiate phone calls and get-togethers, and follow through.
- Respect her right to privacy. Gossip only reinforces the sense of isolation and shame, and it could put her in danger.
- Be patient and don’t give up. Gathering the will and strength to leave may take longer than you hope. Waiting can be frustrating, but knowing you’re still there for her can help her act when she is ready.
Site for Youth affected by Family Violence www.burstingthebubble.com
Family Matters program from Saskatchewan Justice with advice for those going through separation/divorce.
Information to help parents, teens and children through the stress of separation can be found at Families Change.
Stalking, which is also called criminal harassment, is a pattern of behaviour that can have devastating consequences for victims. While sometimes stalking is carried out by a stranger or casual acquaintance, it is often a continuation intimate partner violence after the relationship has ended. Those who engage in criminal harassment behaviours may be attempting to control a former partner.
Stalking is illegal. According to Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada, criminal harassment can involve repeatedly following, communicating with, watching, and/or threatening a person either directly or through someone a person knows. Part of establishing the pattern of criminal harassment for the purpose of charges is that the victim fears for their own safety or the safety of someone they know
Examples of Stalking
- The person appears wherever you are
- The person parks nearby your home, workplace, or other location where you are and sits in the vehicle
- Texts, emails, phone calls or visits continue even when you ask them to stop
- Your friends, family and acquaintances are contacted by the person, who asks questions or spreads information about you
- There is evidence that the person has been around, such as notes or objects left
Criminal harassment varies widely in the range of harassers, victims, motives, methods, and settings. One thing that is common is that victims often have difficulty convincing others that their situation is harassing and frightening, let alone criminal.
If you need help because of someone who is repeatedly contacting or intimidating you, contact Family Service Regina Domestic Violence Unit at 306-757-6675.
We have information available for both professionals and victims who would like more information on stalking. Please click on the PDF links below for more information.
Information for Victims and Professionals:
When there is violence in the family, it affects every member. Often adults assume that children are not aware. But children take in the sights and sounds and feelings of abuse in the home. It affects their emotions, their behaviour, and the way that they view themselves and the world around them.
Children sometimes react quickly to a particular trauma, perhaps becoming clingy or fearful. More often, the changes are gradual as children strive to deal with their emotions and experiences over time. Some may become angry, disrespectful, or aggressive. Others can grow anxious or withdrawn. Children may blame themselves or may blame the victim as they struggle to form explanations for what has happened.
Children who have difficulty after there has been violence in their homes need to have their experiences acknowledged. They need the opportunity to understand the impact on themselves and to explore new ways of coping. Y’s Kids is a program providing group and individual interventions for children and youth who have been exposed to violence in the home. (YWCA Regina)
Family Service Regina
#200 1440 Broadway Ave
Regina, SK S4P 1E2