Black and blue: a survivor’s story

Domestic violence topic of talk

They can start off being perfect, but often, given the right set of circumstances they turn into violent, abusive lovers, husbands and fathers.

Domestic violence is one of the secrets women keep. There is the spectre of embarrassment, the stigma of fault and a feeling of hopelessness.

Savannah’s story is a typical one, unfortunately. She met a man who was just great but within seven months he became verbally abusive, then the pushing and shoving began and then the threats. (“Savannah” is not her real name, it was changed as she is still dealing with the courts.)

Savannah got on the denial train, withdrew her statement to police and got back into the cycle. She would leave, come back after all the promises and then be forced to leave yet again. The violence escalated, as it usually does, resulting in his choking her until she passed out and breaking her wrist. She was powerless to stop it, powerless to leave. In fact she had no power whatsoever and it was this lack that kept her in the abusive relationship until she snapped.

After the threats of kidnapping her young daughter and repeated bouts of counseling, Savannah finally had enough.

“I took back my power, left and never went back,” she said.

She is now the manager of the Sooke Transition House, Annie’s Place, a safe haven for women and their children. At the transition house everything is provided including food, shelter and counseling.

While many people would think the clients who come to the transition house come with black and blue bruises and broken bones — they don’t, said Savannah.

“Many wait a month before coming in. Some are victims of historical abuse some are back in yet another abusive relationship.”

There has been much written about why women stay in violent relationships and even more about how to get out, but they are often hesitant, fearful and poorly equipped for life on their own. There is little or no affordable housing in Sooke. These second-stage residences for battered and abused women and children are scarce and there is none in Sooke. The transition house is set up to help women and their children for up to 30 days, then after that there is no place for them. That is a whole other need in Sooke.

Many of the women who stay at the transition house in Sooke do not come from Sooke. In many ways the small community is just too small. Clients come to stay in Sooke from Victoria, the mainland, up-Island and even the United States.

Any woman who may need help can call Annie’s Place at 250-642-2591 or the pager at 250-480-5461.

On Wednesday, March 30, the Sooke Transition House Society will be hosting an evening with Kamal Dhillon, the author of Black and Blue Sari.

Dhillon’s book is the harrowing tale of the abuse and torment at the hands of her husband. Her story and message is one that will affect, disturb and enrage you and it is guaranteed to open your eyes to the reality and severity of domestic violence.

She is a mother of four, a grandmother and an inspirational speaker and a domestic violence counsellor.

“Women can gain strength and move forward,” said Savannah. “People will see Kamal has come so far. Her strength is unbelievable. I tell a lot of my clients there’s life after this.”

Black and Blue Sari, an evening with Kamal Dhillon takes place at  Edward Milne Community Theatre at 7 p.m., Wed, March 30. A minimum $5 donation will secure your seat for this inspiring evening.

Call 250-642-2544 or email: arees_sths@shawbiz.ca or reserved tickets can be picked up at the door.