Heartbreaking stories face staff at Kelowna Women's Shelter
Contributed by by Laura Banman
The phone rings and a voice, bordering on tears, says hesitantly “I was wondering if I could talk to someone.” She hastens to add “I don’t want to waste your time if you’re busy. It’s not like I’m being abused or anything, I just have a few questions.”
This is a common beginning to a call to the Kelowna Women’s Shelter. Gentle exploration reveals that last night there was an incident. Her partner was angry. “Yes, he’s often angry” and “he was yelling and calling me names and saying how stupid and useless I am”, and…”well, he grabbed me and then he pushed me. I tripped and fell back against the corner of the counter.” She is quick to explain, “It wasn’t his fault. Like he says, I’m just so clumsy. Anyway, He didn’t mean to hurt me, and it wasn’t like he hit me or anything, but I have a big bruise.” She pauses, then admits “I’m really kind of afraid, because it’s not the first time it’s happened. He’s always sorry and he says it won’t happen again and things are always great for a while, but then it does happen again and it just seems to get worse every time. He says if I didn’t make him so angry… and I really try not to. Sometimes I just feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time, trying to keep him from getting upset.”
The tears have begun and for a moment she is unable to go on. “But really, the worst thing is what he says to me. He just calls me such terrible names, and says I never do anything right, and that I’m a lousy mom and no one else would put up with me, and I just feel so awful.”
This caller, like many other women in our community, is being abused by her partner. Abuse is not just physical violence. Abuse may be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or financial, and may include a range of tactics used by an abusive partner to gain and maintain power and control within a relationship. Verbal and emotional abuse including raging, name-calling, put-downs and insults, blaming, belittling, humiliating, threats and intimidation are common, and generally precede or accompany other forms of abuse or incidents of physical violence.
An abusive partner generally also attempts to isolate their partner from family, friends and other supports, either by creating physical distance or by limiting and controlling opportunities for contact and/or actively working to destroy relationships. In conjunction with this, abusive partners tend to be pathologically and unreasoningly jealous, constantly accusing their partner of being, or wanting to be, unfaithful to them.
Any form of abuse within a relationship is damaging to the quality of the relationship, to children who may witness the abusive behaviours and ultimately to both partners. If you are living in an abusive relationship, either as a victim or perpetrator of abuse, it is important to know that there is always an alternative to living with abuse or to behaving abusively. Help is available.
Abuse is never okay…asking for help is.
The Kelowna Women’s Shelter provides free counselling and support services, including a safe place to stay, for women and children whose lives are impacted by family violence and abuse or other significant crisis. Call 250 763-1040 to access services.