by Elissa Bell
I contacted BWSS in October 2012 on the advice of an alcohol and drugs counsellor. I had suddenly become overwhelmed by trauma, intrusive thoughts and I knew I needed help. When I called BWSS, they ensured me they could help but I would need to be put on a waiting list. Six months later, I started a psycho-educational group with BWSS called Awareness, Action and Empowerment. I have since been in two trauma groups and a new Narrative group that is absolutely amazing!
I had never been able to feel for myself, or see anything as “abusive” if it happened to me. Here, at BWSS, that belief is being challenged. As I opened my heart to feel for the women in group, and cried with them, and felt angry for them, I began to see myself differently. This insight is now leading me to have some compassion for myself as well.
I come from a place that having heard so often that “it WAS my fault and didn’t deserve to live”. I believed it at 8 when I first contemplated taking my own life. For the next 7 years, family life just got worse. So at 15, I left home and thus began my goal of trying to get away from myself by partaking in many addictions – all just to get away from the pain and hurt of: sexual molestations; sexual assaults; incest; battery; bullying; group beatings; and spousal abuse. At 49 years old, I had not dealt with any of them. Today, I am a year into working on the physical traumas, I have a great support network set up, I am coming up to 12th years free from substance abuse, 8 years free from suicidal ideation, 10 years from being in a relationship and, I am a non-smoker!!! 4 ½ years now.
I am getting so much help from these women and am so grateful. What I see within myself is a new way of questioning, of challenging the old stories/believes. Who put them there? How are they affecting me? Do I want to take responsibility and do something different? And, because of the supporting, caring environment with BWSS, I plan on sticking around BWSS as long as they’ll have me.
I would want other women to know that it is worth the pain of digging in and finding our truths. It is permitted for us to share what we’ve been told to keep secret. There are people you don’t know yet, that you can help by telling your story and if you can’t tell your story yet, there is so much to gain of giving our time to listen to and validate another woman’s story. There is help. Yes!!! It is hard to ask for and harder still show up to get it, but it is only by doing this, by risking and taking chances that we can change. I don’t like what I’m going through, I cry, make weird honking noises, use my sleeve at times to wipe my nose and the tears away – but I’m ok with that today!!! I can feel for me now, a little, when I never could before.
Last year, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.
Wow!!! I admire your strenght and your courage. Thanks for sharing such an important story. I am sure that many women who have been victims of gendered violence can see themselves in your story andyour story will help them to take action!!!
Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, you are an amazing woman and I’m sure you’ll help lots of women like me to have the strength to do so.
FYI – my abuse was not gender specific. I’d say it was 50-50 females and males.
And thank you so much for your kind words. If my story can help even one woman, then it was worth telling.