TORONTO — For 29 years, Judy, now in her late 50s, lived what appeared to be an idyllic life.
Wife of a dentist, Judy (not her real name) had two sons, a beautiful home, and was able to travel a good deal.
About five years ago, however, she read a CJN article about domestic violence, and identified with the woman in the article. “I recognized myself,” she said in an interview.
Judy, now divorced, is part of the speakers bureau co-ordinated by Act to End Violence Against Women and made up of women survivors and professionals in the Toronto area.
The goal of the speakers bureau is to educate the public about the widespread incidence of violence against women and to underline its impact by sharing real life, personal stories told by survivors of violence.
Judy said that from early on in her marriage, her husband blamed her for everything. “He made me the person responsible for all his actions. He swore at me and called me names.
“He manipulated me, and my self-esteem began to erode. He made me feel guilty, and I kept having to defend myself.”
After reading the article, she said, she began to respond differently to his behaviour, “and his abuse increased. When he began intercepting my e-mail, though, that was the last straw.”
Judy said that until she met Penny Krowitz, executive director of Act to End Violence Against Women, Judy did not consider herself abused. “Like many people, I thought abuse had to be physical. I didn’t realize there is all kinds of abuse.”
Krowitz, whose organization offers workshops, educational materials and programs on dating abuse and violence against women, said that people do not recognize the subtle nature of abuse and how it affects psyches. “Abuse can be verbal, sexual, financial, emotional – abuse is abuse, and no group is immune.”
Abuse is an imbalance of power, she said, and it is unjust. “[Our mandate] is to help women live safe and secure lives.”
Judy said she joined the organization’s speakers bureau because she wanted to put a face on abuse. “It’s a disease that can affect anyone. Penny validated me, and gave me a place to talk. It is a powerful way to spread the word. When someone hears me, they say, ‘It could be me.’
“I am one of the lucky ones who got out. My lifestyle changed drastically, but I have peace. It feels like 29 years were wiped out of my life, and I do get lonely sometimes, but no one yells at me anymore. I have no regrets.”