We should never underestimate the power of words. I never will. It was the words of one person that changed my life and gave me the freedom that my three children and I so desperately needed.
I had just finished a college administrative assistant course and was having very little success at finding a job. I was feeling anxious, desperate, worried that I could not adequately provide for my three young children. But the lack of unemployment was only part of the problem. My partner was becoming increasingly controlling, unpredictable, and abusive. My children were feeling the strain my husband’s anger toward me, and began turning more and more into themselves.
I was fortunate enough to meet with an employment coach at a local agency who helped me to write my resume and practice interview skills. It felt like it was the first time someone took an interest in my future success and this encouragement was the first step of many that got me to where I am today.
I signed up for a training and volunteer program at the agency. I am a very shy person, and with the abuse escalating at home, I began to lose my self-esteem and was worried that I could not do the job well. This was a huge step for me, one of many that put me on a journey toward a better life – I had to do this for myself and my children.
Adding to my anxiety was the tension of my partner not approving me gaining any form of independence and the pressure of him knowing where and what I was doing at all times. At the agency, I fit in immediately. Everyone was so helpful and very understanding. My job related anxiety was gone and I really enjoyed meeting customers; it was a really great feeling when they would stop by and say “hello” and ask how I was. I felt like I was part of a big family and the sense of belonging gave me the strength and opened a tiny door that showed a sliver of hope for a better future.
As my volunteer experience was coming to an end, a job opened up and I was encouraged to apply and sailed through the interview and got the job. Words cannot express how thrilled I was to achieve this accomplishment. I was proud and excited to start my new career. I was also frightened to tell my partner that I got the job, worried the abuse would increase because I was growing more independent.
As I predicted, life at home started getting worse. Every minute of my day was controlled and my partner’s temper was becoming more frequent. My 12 year old was spending more time alone in his room and it became impossible to hide how I was feeling from my coworkers.
On one particular day my boss asked how I was doing. I told her I was fine, but she knew something was wrong. I couldn’t hide it any longer and told her that me and my children lived in constant fear. It was what she said next that changed my life forever. She told me that no one deserves to be treated that way and that I deserved to be treated with respect and kindness. I knew that in my heart, but never believed it for myself. Those words stuck with me, and one day when my partner’s actions made me realize that me and my children’s lives were in danger and we could not go on this way any longer, I turned to my boss and coworkers for help. With their support and the help of Family and Children’s services, we left with the clothes on our backs and moved into the YWCA emergency shelter. A short time after that the YWCA worked to get us into Bethlehem Place to be enrolled in their program and to live in the building.
We moved into a three bedroom apartment at Bethlehem Place, I was very fortunate that the resident before me left all of their furniture as I had nothing. The only thing that I didn’t have was a bed for two of my children, and the Bethlehem staff quickly made arrangements to get one donated to me.
When I got there I met with the Intake Worker who asked questions and assessed my willingness to participate in the program and take the steps needed to start the rebuilding process. They gave me a week to get organized, collect my thoughts and breathe and then I began working with a Transitional Support Worker on what my needs were and a plan and goals.
The thing that’s special about Bethlehem Place is the support me and my children received. I met with my Support Worker on a weekly basis to talk and share updates and was very comfortable doing so. I have a team of people that listen to me, believe in me and have my back.They have advocated for me on many occasions whether it be with community resources or attending court with me, being by my side helping me gain the confidence I need to build a better life for me and my kids.
I am also grateful that they have an Early Learning Centre on-site where on occasions they have watched my children so that I could attend a Life Skills program that is facilitated in the building. The Early Learning Centre Manager has been helping me to understand different techniques to deal with the behavioral issues my children were having as they were trying to cope with their feelings.
I cannot say enough about Bethlehem Place, I knew I had made the right decision. Along with all the support services and programs they provide, the building protocol is safety first – you can’t understand what that means to a woman and her children who escaped an abusive situation unless you’ve gone through it.
We are finally free. After years of being abused and controlled I now recognize that it doesn’t have to be like that. With the words of my boss echoing in my head “We all deserve to be treated with respect”, I am well on my way to rebuild my life and make it better for myself and my children and know that even after I moved out of Bethlehem Place I can rest assure that they will still support me through their services and my support worker. Thank you for helping me to get my life back!