Never underestimate the power of your story! As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and intimate partner violence, I have had my own share of pain and discouragement when I had my truth dismissed, ignored, minimized, and mocked. For decades, I was unprofessionally guided or counseled by those in positions of authority who ought to have known better. Even my faith in God was used and misused to control and wear me down. Hope was a word that made no sense to me in the senselessness of broken family relationships.
I began to realize that if I did not confront the demons from my past I would be continuing to rob the precious lives of my four children, not just my own life. Leaving domestic violence is only the beginning of the process to freedom.
To really WORK through the tough places of pain and woundedness buried deep in my heart took time. I connected with an amazing trauma counselor at Klinic in Winnipeg. Healing for me also meant looking beyond my own needs to become aware of and involved in the lives of others. My first introduction to immigrant circles happened when I studied English as a Second Language (ESL).
I learned that to settle in Canada, immigrants and refugees need to feel more and more comfortable in their new environment and culture. This happens by meeting and becoming friends with long-time Winnipeggers, learning the language and understanding expressions, knowing the laws and important customs in your new surroundings, finding a way to pursue your education dreams or to re-establish your work skills and experience to continue your career choice. Unresolved war and flight trauma, homesickness, financial pressures, sickness in the family, may influence how quickly a person expects to settle into Canadian society. Some couples and extended families begin to experience cracks in their relationships due to pressure caused by the clash between cultures, customs, and laws.
Episodes of abuse begin small and usually increase in frequency and intensity. This is known as the cycle of abuse. There is a build-up of stress, the abuse takes place, then a making-up period (* the abuse may be ignored, minimized, or it may involve promises not to ever do it again, gift-giving, etc.) follows. This is true no matter who experiences abuse and who is committing the abuse.
In December 2012, a number of years after being granted a divorce by the Court of Queen's Bench, I received the vision of SHADE in the middle of the night – the gentle yet persistent voice of God impressing on me the urgency to provide a safe and stable place for immigrant women and their children to come to, to leave their abusive situation, heal, regain confidence, become empowered and regain community connections.
Why me? I often ask myself. Then I am reminded that I know what it feels, looks, and sounds like to be abused. I suffered in silence – alone – far too long. I was afraid to reach out for help. When I did tell someone, I was terrified to act. Along the years, I have also made tremendous friendships from many different countries and/or mentored women who have lived in abuse. I have watched them rise up again as strong, resilient, capable and daring women who are changing their families to healthy, positive ones for their children and grandchildren.
Leaving abuse does not happen in isolation; it happens in a community. To have one’s story heard by another – without judgment – is an act of tremendous kindness and a lifeline to women isolated and living in abuse.
SHADE is a community of passionate and skilled people working together for and with immigrant women and their children to reclaim the birthright to live free from abuse. It is a community that supports immigrant women and their children as they reshape their destiny through healing work, family bonding, and the re-building of healthy relationships with one another.
SHADE became a registered non-profit in January 2014. We are currently working diligently behind the scenes to secure a safe location to welcome and house our first residents. We look forward to partnering with you for change! Your support and contributions, whether financially, through volunteerism, or in-kind donations will make the urgent need of addressing domestic violence against women and their children, a reality.
A poem by Sherrie
Like a sliver of the moon’s visible outline
unmistakable, so I can trace and define
moments from my personal journey that’ve shaped
willingness, readiness, the urgency to create
a refuge for Newcomer women and children
safe from the hell of domestic abuse ‘til a time when
wrapped around in compassion and guided with care
each knows who she is – valued; who knows what she’ll dare!
‘cuz when her story’s heard, she finds strength to express
truth, forgiveness, a way of being with another to bless
old ‘n new generations healing in community
impacts of our efforts known into eternity