According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, one of the most common questions people ask is, “Why does she stay?’ The answer is quite simple - ‘Women often stay because the abuser has threatened to kill them if they leave, or to kill himself, or to kill the children.’
Women believe those threats for good reason. Statistics show that the most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she attempts to leave, or leaves her abuser. That is when the risk of increased harm or worse, lethality occurs. Upon leaving, many women will seek a restraining order but can a piece of paper really keep us safe. ‘Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Out of the 83 police-reported intimate partner homicides in 2014, 67 of the victims—over 80%—were women.’
So what happens when a woman decides that her only way out of an abusive relationship is to leave? Most often, women will enter into an emergency shelter for 21 days and then move into community housing, or if safety is an issue, into second stage shelter. This is the case for ‘Maisha’, a Muslim, recent immigrant to Canada, and mother of two children.
Not long after Maisha got married, the abuse started. However, that abuse intensified and increased after she had her two children. When Maisha reached out to her family for support, their response shocked her to the core. Her mother and brothers made it clear that they were taking the side of her abuser. They told her that she was to remain in the relationship, because to leave, would be to bring shame and dishonour to their family. That is the way in many Muslim families.
A few months passed, and Maisha finally took stock of her life; she was completely alone, isolated from her estranged family and therefore, her community as well, and more importantly, afraid for her life and the lives of her children. Leaving the relationship was her only option so Maisha and her children moved into Discovery House. However, leaving her abuser did not put an end to her trauma and suffering. Years of trauma and death threats had made her was so afraid for her life that she found herself constantly checking to see if she had locked her front door, even though she was in the shelter. Discovery House is one of the safest shelters in Calgary complete with security cameras and 24 hour security. Despite this, Maisha found herself waking up in the middle of the night to double check. Her fearful state started to get in the way of everything; she lacked the motivation, stayed at home and refused to meet with her counselor, Dattu. Maisha was stuck in her fears.
The good news is that Dattu, a highly skilled counselor and knowledgeable about the complexities of domestic violence, did not give up on Maisha. She checked in with her regularly, and soon, Maisha felt safe enough to start meeting with her. Dattu made sure she not only had a safety plan, but she reviewed it regularly, to keep her and her children safe in the community.
Maisha has worked really hard to get where she is today. She has moved into stable housing, she is working and has expressed an interest in starting school. In a recent meeting with Dattu, she said, “Without the help of Discovery House, I don’t know where I would be today.” Maisha also shared that she feels safe and she no longer checks to see if she locked her front door.
The road to recovery from a life of abuse is never easy, however, with skilled front line staff like Dattu and generous donors like you, we will change the lives of the women and children who access our services. Thank you for making Maisha and her family feel safe and move from fear to hope and opportunity.