Suzanne Reisler Litwin: The 2020 Spring Series — The More You Know

Welcome to The 2020 Spring Series – The More You Know. In this series you will read about people and situations which will broaden your horizons. We will enter into places and spaces which are not frequented paths. Certainly, what you will come to appreciate is the value of knowing more. This more might be the something which may change your life for the better. Enjoy the journey!

Part 4 – Surviving Violence, Her Voice is Heard

This beautiful young woman survived constant verbal and physical abuse. So badly she contemplated suicide. She was lucky to be saved by her neighbor, whose instincts spoke to her. Her neighbor saw something was very wrong and figured out a way to help Tina. To add, Tina did not speak her neighbor’s language nor had any forms of communicating such as using a phone. However, sometimes there are Angels who live among us.

I had the amazing privilege to speak to Tina, along with the help of a fantastic translator. Although I must admit, Tina’s recent knowledge of communicating in English is far better than she realizes. Firstly, I give her props for trying to speak to me in English and that she communicated with such confidence and amble spirit.

A few years ago, Tina fled to the woman’s shelter, Shield of Athena. She left the only people she knew in Canada. She did not speak English or French. She was a shell of a person. I asked Tina what her life was like before coming to the shelter.

Tina shared, “As a new comer to Canada, I didn’t know anyone and I had no language skills in French or English. I was isolated from the world. My ex-husband did not allow me to communicate with my family. I was not able to share with anyone and all I was doing was crying. I was forced to do housekeeping and cooking without any cooking skills. If the food I prepared what not up to their standards, it was thrown at me. My ex-husband was also verbally and physically abusive.”

I asked Tina to choose words which best described her at that time. She selected, isolated, scared, non-communicative, fear, unconfident, and suicidal.

In such an isolated dire situation, I wondered how Tina found the woman’s shelter, Shield of Athena. My question was, “How did you learn or hear about Shield of Athena?”

Tina’s voice changed as she recapped her experience. “My neighbor noticed that I was crying all the time. She reached out to my then husband and told him I was sick and that I needed some medical help. The neighbor asked him if she could care for me in her home. While I was in her home, she went to visit Shield of Athena and collected information. She gave it to me and encouraged me to make the contact. My neighbor gave me the phone to call and said that someone was able to speak to me in my language.”

Listening to Tina numbed me. I was in shock, then so saddened about her suffering. I listened with such heart ache. I also became very angry. Angry about how much injustice towards woman exists in such a beautiful, rich, equal opportunity country like Canada? How does this happen here and now? The reality is it happens here and everywhere. It is very well hidden. Intimation, control, and power keeps the suffering quiet. Thank goodness for Tina’s Angel neighbor. Thank goodness for those who reach out to help those who don’t have a voice!

Now… there is a brilliantly bright light in Tina as she is a survivor of conjugal violence. A Survivor! We must place stronger focus on the survivor’s journey. From this point, we will learn how bonding together helps others.

I asked Tina what her life has been like since going to the Shield of Athena shelter. She stated, “When I spoke to someone at Shield, I did not have the courage to explain what was happening to me. It took me a few months to open up and gradually I explained the situation. I got help and I got out of the violence. Once I was in the shelter, I felt safe. Now, I feel good. I came out of the situation with the help of Shield. I can see a very bright light and I have a future now. I want to find a job and be part of the work force. I have language skills and I feel more confident. Before, I could not speak to anyone. Now I can speak. I have a voice.”

Tina, a young woman who had no voice, now has a voice. When she spoke of her recovery, her voice was animated. I heard her smile. I heard her giggle. I felt the pain lifting with relief. Her light was shining through my soul. From a woman to another woman, a sisterhood, I felt her success and unlimited future.

I asked Tina what she currently feels today at this moment in time. She said, “Right now I feel very, very good. I had lots of pain in the past. Now, I really feel good and I came out and overcame all the bad experiences in my life. Before, I was always scared. Now, I feel free. Nobody is bothering and hurting me. I can eat. I can sleep. I can do as I want!”

Again, I asked Tina to choose words which best described her feelings today. She selected, self-confidence, owning self, communicative, freedom, life and love.

I felt tears when I heard the word love. Love, such a simple word with so much meaning and value. It’s beautiful for Tina to share that she feels love now.

Tina mentioned that Shield of Athena is where she found her strength. The shelter really helped her navigate through her trauma with full explanation. She mentioned her first awareness was of ‘recognizing herself’. She slowly became aware of herself and her place in her new world of Canada.

I wanted to talk to Tina for hours. I had a bunch of questions to ask her. By the time we finished our interview, she was speaking English mostly without her translator. A true testament of her growing success and strength to learn and overcome. As a teacher, I gave her A+ for effort in language!

My last question was what else do you want our readers to know? With strength and determination in her voice, Tina said, “I’d like to say one thing. All men are given a life with freedom. Why would they make others suffer? Woman and men are equal! Everyone should recognize themselves as equal. Women and men are equal human beings. Why do men think they are superior to woman? We are equal! Women should have equal rights and freedoms.”

The truth is in Canada, woman and men are equals and have equal rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, Tina did not know this as a new person coming to Canada.

Now she knows it and is excited to be part of our free society. Cheers to her future!

Cheers to Tina!

Just a kind reminder, sometimes people need Angels to help them find the help they need. If you are experiencing violence in your personal life or intimate relationships please reach out to:

  • Shield of Athena – Family Services
  • 514-274-8117 – Montreal Center
  • 450-688-6584 – Laval Center
  • 1-800-363-9010 - SOS
  • 911- Police

Many women do not recognize that they are in a violent relationship. It’s about power and control. The abuse can take many forms, as in economic, psychological, verbal, sexual, as it is not always physical. It is insidious, it creeps up on you.

Remember… There is no justification for violence!

For men and other people who are experiencing violence, please reach out to:

  • SAC – 514-384-6296
  • PRO-GAM - 514-270-8462

Once again, don’t be frightened, there is no shame in asking for help.

— Suzanne Reisler Litwin

— AB

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