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September 7, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

St. Paul’s Bloor Street: Finding Her Voice: Jennifer’s Story of Survival

A brave story sent to me in a newsletter and I wanted to share:

Jennifer joined St. Paul’s in 2010, having just escaped an abusive relationship that spanned five years of her life.

“I kept praying for God to show me a way out,” she said. “I knew something wasn’t right and that things were never going to change. Why he chose to do what he did to me is beyond my comprehension.”

Jennifer met John (name changed) in 2005 through a mutual friend at another Toronto church. “I had no reason to believe he wasn’t decent,” she said. “In the beginning everything was really nice – way over the top.”

At first John seemed thoughtful and responsible. He held open doors for Jennifer and appeared to be financially stable. But as their relationship progressed Jennifer noticed increasingly controlling and abusive behaviour.

He manipulated Jennifer into signing her saving over to him, claiming that being on disability meant she wasn’t allowed to have assets. He quickly spent the money.

“Once that was gone, he wanted more,” said Jennifer. “Every month he demanded money, saying he wasn’t getting paid. I barely had enough to care myself, never mind him.”

Eventually John adopted a dog, a Dashshund named Shoe Shine, from an animal shelter for Jennifer. It wasn’t long before he turned, on Shoe Shine, attacking her in a fit of jealousy.

Shoe Shine didn’t recover from her injures.

Many people have asked Jennifer why she stayed, but she still has a hard time finding an answer. “I didn’t think he would continue with that kind of behaviour,” she said. “I could never speak up – I didn’t have a voice. I couldn’t escape it.”

In 2008 Jennifer found herself unexpectedly pregnant. By that time John only came around when he wanted money. “He used to tell me he loved me,” said Jennifer. “But then that stopped. He was cheating on me and I think he was wining and dining her on my dime.”

On August 1, 2008 Jennifer lost her daughter, Ariella Rose, to Intrauterine Growth Retardation. “I had to have labor induced, and of course he wasn’t around,” she said through tears. “He abandoned his own daughter. I buried her by myself. Do you know how hard it is to hold that little box?”

A week later Jennifer suffered a blood clot in her right lung, followed by a second blood clot in her forehead.

“After I lost Ariella things really started to change in the worse way,” said Jennifer. “The last time he beat on me he said the only thing stopping him from killing me was the fact that I was the mother of his child.”

Everyday Jennifer walked on eggshells. “I never knew what kind of mood he would be in when he came home,” she explained. “I would hear the keys in the door and I would worry about how he was going to treat me. He was smart about how he did it though. He did it inside the apartment. It’s a shame no one was around to see or hear what he did to me.”

On April 8, 2010 Jennifer found her voice. A neighbour realized her distress and helped Jennifer contact the police to escort John from her apartment. Thankfully, Jennifer never put his name on her lease.

Though her family was not around to support her, Jennifer found comfort in the St. Paul’s community. “Going to church is what got me through it,” she said.

She became determined to help other women suffering from domestic abuse and began volunteering with a women’s shelter two years ago.

“It’s been a total blessing to have the church understand this need and collect these donations,” she said. “Some people probably doubt that a bottle of shampoo can make a difference, but many of these women come to the shelter with nothing but the clothes on their back.”

Jennifer is currently awaiting acceptance to the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Advocate/ Counsellor Program at George Brown College. “I believe this is my calling,” she said. “I didn’t have a voice but now I’m free. I want to be the voice, the illumination on this subject.

“I’m here to share my story so other people who might be suffering know it’s okay to come forward,” said Jennifer. “There are places that can help you. You can have a voice.”



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