Shelter Awareness  

Rethinking the stereotypes

I don’t fit the stereotype of an abused woman. At least not the one I always carried around in my head.

I’m university educated. A respected professional and busy mom. From the outside looking in, it probably seemed I had it all: A successful husband, a beautiful home, great kids, my own career and interests, and a large network of close friends and family.

But from the inside looking out, my reality was different.

At 22, just out of university, I married the man I loved. Smart and charming, he had a wry wit, sharp conversational abilities and a boyish, fun-loving nature that appealed to my own sense of joie de vivre. He was also a bully; selfish and narcissistic, emotionally immature, quick to anger and even quicker to yank his love and support out from under me if I didn’t perform exactly as he wanted.

As a lifetime over-achiever who still struggles with self-esteem, I felt lucky he had chosen me. I convinced myself when he diminished me, called me names, defined me by my mistakes and listed my many flaws he was trying to help me be a better person. I believed him when he said it was all my fault. That if I would only do or say things differently he wouldn’t be forced to act the way he did.

So I tried harder. I read books. I went to counseling. I planned outings and trips, and tried to focus on meeting his needs and being the wife and mother he needed me to be. “Marriage isn’t easy. You have to work at it,” I told myself after one more night of crying myself to sleep and wondering how the man who supposedly loved me could treat me like so much garbage on the street.

Twenty-one years after I married him, in the midst of yet another uncontrolled rage incident directed at our eldest son, the word “abuse” popped into my head. It was my proverbial light bulb moment. I began researching emotional and verbal abuse, amazed to find my story recounted in article after article, book after book. I was not alone. I was not crazy. And, I decided, I was not going to take it anymore – not for me and not for my children.

The Kelowna Women’s Shelter and its incredible support groups were lifesavers. They provided invaluable advice and a safe place to share my story and fears. When I apologetically volunteered during a group session, “Well, he never actually hit me…” the response was a gentle and understanding, “That can make it even harder, can’t it?”

The Shelter’s team of dedicated staff and volunteers supported me in making the most difficult and life-changing decision of my life, and I am forever grateful. Three years later, I am healthier and happier than I have ever been. I sleep nights and I no longer walk on eggshells in my home. I am a better mom, a better friend and a better person. I am living the life I deserve and discovering each day what true love and joy really are.


Submitted by a former KWS client and current volunteer

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About the Author

April, 2011 marks the 31st anniversary of the day the Kelowna Women’s Shelter opened its’ doors to offer counselling, support and a safe residence for women and children whose lives have been impacted by family violence, abuse and significant crisis. The Kelowna Women’s Shelter is a place of refuge for women who are not safe in their own homes, women who have been beaten, traumatized, threatened, and have fled in terror from a partner. Our staff and volunteers provide services to women and children in the area boundaried by Oyama to the North and Peachland to the South. For more information visit kelownawomensshelter.ca or call 250-763-1040

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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