My name is Tasha Lynn Chartrand and I was born on January 18th, 1984.
I am twenty-eight years old. I would like to give you a brief summary of my childhood to shed light on some of the effects of abuse and living within the foster care system and the justice system.
Every day a woman or child is abused and it needs to stop. I want my story to give you a firsthand glimpse of what it was like, and how I have coped with the aftermath. I want people to know what is actually going on out there and what we can do to stop it. With that being said, here is a brief summary of the life I lead.
I was the oldest of three, born to a single mother. When I was still a baby, my mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and refused to acknowledge her frailties. I was physically, sexually, and mentally abused from the age of six weeks, not only by my mother but also by the people she associated with. Consequently, I was in and out of the foster care system, having to experience over 50 moves and around 20 different foster homes. At the age of thirteen, I was deemed a ward of the government, meaning my mother had no more responsibility for me and that the government was my new parent. I didn’t like that so much. When I was sixteen I was given the choice to go to school, or to be placed in an independent group home.
I chose school and went to the University of Saskatchewan for theatre production as soon as I graduated from high school. On my twenty-first birthday, I was called up by my social worker who told me my funding was being cut for school. I had my tuition cut off and was no longer a student. Only a few credits away from my degree, I had no choice but to drop out. I had no money, and felt insecure about living in society without my clutch. I had my tuition, books, rent, food and clothing paid for all through University. I had to go from being completely taken care of to being utterly alone. I applied for student loans and welfare, but was denied. I started to work crappy jobs to make ends meet. I went from relationship to relationship, depending on someone else. I eventually ended up in Vancouver working odd jobs in theatre, coffee shops, and musical gigs. I continued to be with boyfriends who were no good for me, and who were probably chosen because of what I was used to, abuse. Two years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which causes connective tissue and muscle pain. It’s like your nervous system starts to break down because of being tense all the time, so your cells stop communicating properly and don’t tell the brain that your body is in pain. There are a number of possible causes. In my case, I gather it was from being in a constant state of stress and anxiety through most of my life. I was constantly in fear growing up when the next beating or move would be coming. I suffer from memory loss, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, weakness, insomnia, and depression. I have now learned that many women who have experienced childhood, ongoing trauma suffer from the same stresses throughout everyday life. It depresses me to think that at age twenty-six, I live with this condition. I feel sometimes as though life is unfair, wondering “why me”? However, I can’t let myself get into that way of thinking or I get too down. I just try and manage my way of life. I try to exercise, eat right, to rest when needed, and to be thankful for the strength I do have.
Unfortunately, quite recently, I was in a very abusive relationship where I felt like my every move was being monitored and I had no right to speak. The relationship was imbalanced and I did not receive the respect which I deserved. It went on to the court system where I was wrongfully charged with assault by my abuser and put through trial. Imagine, I was put through a criminal trial from accusations my abuser stated, which the police and Crown ate up without blinking an eye at the fact that I was the one with the physical injuries and history of abuse from this guy.
If I were talking to a person who is going through abuse right now, I would tell them, “Love yourself, know there is help out there, and you are not alone.” Tasha Lynn Chartrand
Eventually, after six months of waiting, I was proven not guilty, and yet he was not held accountable for his actions. I am filing a complaint against the Vancouver Police Department and the officer in charge, who lied on the stand for my ex. That I won’t stand for. When the last altercation took place, I was thrown down a set of stairs by my neck. I had obvious bruises and injuries, and had my guitar broken by him. I felt helpless and completely alone and even suicidal. I had a girlfriend suggest a helpline whereupon I was directed to the Battered Women’s Support Services. They helped me a great deal. It led to me finding a great lawyer and joining the Empowering Women’s Employment Program that opened my eyes to self-respect. It is a six month program designed to open doors to the future, and instills independence and love.
Abuse is very hard to live with.
A scar will always remain, but it’s how you live with that scar that matters. I could cry and cry about my past, but what good does it do if it only drags me down and leaves little room for love – love for myself, and passion to do what I love? Without love for myself, I wouldn’t be achieving my innermost ambitions as we speak. One thing that keeps me here is that I don’t let my past define who I am. All of these things that have happened to me have nothing to do with where I am going or my internal spirit. I am capable of anything I desire. I am currently in college working towards a theatre production diploma and I play some of the finest music you could ever hear! Not to brag, but I do enjoy what I do. I have my own accomplishments to be proud of, just like anyone else. I’ve worked as chef for a few reputable establishments, stagemanaged plays I’ve been proud of, and even played my guitar for an audience of 3,000. These things were accomplished because I had the hope and strength to see out of my situation. In BWSS I learned that it’s okay to be angry – one has a right – and that it’s okay to cry. I learned my strengths and my weaknesses, and how to balance the two. I learned to love myself first, and to take care of myself more. I learned that I wasn’t alone and that there are many other women out there who have gone through a lot of the same circumstances. I learned that there is help out there for people like me, who have been abused, and for people who are currently being abused.