As the days get longer and the regrowth of spring begins to blossom all around us, it is a sign to many that Mother’s Day is just around the corner. At North York Women’s Shelter, this is the time of year that we choose to celebrate ALL of the many unsung SHEros at the shelter and in our lives: the mothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, mentors, or friends.
I came to Toronto for school when I was a teenager. I met James* after being in the city for just a couple of weeks and quickly fell in love. After two months of dating we moved in together and after just 6 months, I became pregnant with my first child. I was 18 at the time.
About four months into my pregnancy James changed. He became irritable and increasingly angry towards me. One day when I asked him where he had been after work, out of nowhere he put his hand around my neck and pinned me up against the wall. He threatened to hurt me if I didn’t stop questioning him. I agreed so he would let me go. The next day he apologized. He begged me to forgive him and promised he would never do anything like that again. He told me he loved me and he wanted us to have a family. It was what I wanted too, so I stayed.
When my daughter was born I quit school and lost touch with all of my friends. Over time, James became violent again and I did not have anyone to turn to. We were together for 8 years and we had three children together. He threatened my life and he threatened to hurt our children if I ever tried to leave him. I could care less what he did to me but I was terrified of him hurting my kids.
One day, after an especially brutal evening I decided that my life and the lives of my children were more at risk if I stayed, so when he went to work I packed a bag, took my children out of school and fled.
For the past year I have been working to rebuild my life. It is a struggle to find work because I am physically disabled (as a result of an injury from my ex) and have no work experience. Providing food and clothing to three young, growing children has been challenging. James has a new girlfriend so he is no longer coming after me but he refuses to pay any child support. The cost of housing is alone is leaving me broke every month.
It is only due to the generosity of North York Women’s Shelter that I am able to continue moving forward. They have helped support me with getting furniture, food and clothing for me and my children. They’re also supporting me through counselling and with legal issues. I don’t think I could have continued on if it wasn’t for the incredible people at NYWS. I am so grateful to have found them!
*names changed for safety and privacy
Cara’s story reminds us of the tremendous sacrifices SHEros make to protect those they care about. For Cara, this meant living in a violent, life-threatening situation for 8 years to protect her children. It also meant taking the risk of starting all over again with nothing so that they would be safe and grow up in a home that is filled with love and kindness.
Unfortunately we hear stories like this far too often. It is not uncommon for abusive partners to threaten children. In recent news we have seen how these are not idle threats and children have lost their lives at the hands of a parent. I’m thinking specifically about 11 year-old Riya Rajkumar who was abducted by her father on her birthday and murdered on February 15th this year.
We are so thankful Cara agreed to share her story with you. It is just one example of how your donations are changing lives through our client support services. Client support can be anything from providing gift cards for groceries, helping find suitable housing, providing one to one counselling, or helping women navigate the legal system. NYWS remains responsive to the unique needs of every client, including the unique needs of children. We would not be able to support families like Cara`s without you.
I hope you will join us in celebrating and supporting the many SHEros at North York Women’s Shelter this spring.
To donate, click HERE