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Helping Jennifer to Safety

ADVAS has assisted thousands of women and children who were the victims of domestic violence and coercive control. We have sat with members of our community who are in dangerous situations, who are physically and mentally hurting, and who are hurting because domestic violence has taken their loved one’s life.

We are available every hour of every day for every member of our community.

For almost 30 years, we have served people in this community – including “Jennifer”.

Jennifer was in her mid-thirties when she moved to Airdrie from Atlantic Canada. Her husband had an opportunity to work in the energy sector. The move had the potential to give them a lot more financial stability than if they stayed in their home province.

Within a few months of moving, Jennifer’s husband was demanding that she stay home to prepare meals and do chores around the house. He was checking her emails and looking at the call logs on her cell phone bill. What once felt like a loving and supportive relationship was starting to feel lonely and controlling. He was cold, and his words were cutting. It hurt her emotionally to be with her husband.

As more time passed, Jennifer’s husband became more controlling and dangerous. At first, he would break things or throw things to scare her into doing what he wanted. And then, after a while, he started hurting her physically.

Jennifer hid her bruises. And she was afraid every day when she heard the garage door opening. Was he going to be kind tonight, or was she going to need to make sure that she had ice ready to bring down the swelling?

Fast forward a few years and Jennifer’s life is feeling unbearable. Every day is loud with words that hurt. To Jennifer, the hurt is so deep she feels it in her bones all day, every day. And every day is lonely, because even though Jennifer has lived here for a long time, she has no close friends. In these moments she feels fully isolated, and she is scared.

Jennifer spends a lot of time thinking about how to get herself out of her situation, and even thinks about taking her own life.

One day while her husband is at work and she is buying groceries, she uses a payphone to call us for advice – she saw our brochure in her doctor’s office. We understand how important and scary this is for Jennifer, and we do everything we can to give her the most critical information that she needs in the hopes that she will remember a few key points.

Jennifer goes home and ponders her call with our team but doesn’t feel ready to act just yet.

Months pass, and one Wednesday morning when Jennifer texts her husband that she is driving to get groceries she instead drives toward the RCMP detachment. She parks and feels numb with fear and pain. Walking the 50 steps from her car to the door feels like the longest walk ever, and the weight of the heavy doors that now protect her are almost too much.

As Jennifer approaches the counter her hands and feet feel like they are tingling. Her lips feel cold, and her heart feels like it’s going to burst. The stress is so heavy that she wants to sit down on the floor. The last few steps to the window, her feet are as heavy as the weight that she has been carrying all these years.

The voice comes from behind the glass, “Hi! How can I help today?”

Jennifer is silent. She hadn’t planned this part. Her mind is racing and she is afraid of saying the wrong thing. She is terrified of saying nothing.

“Do you need help?” says the voice.

Jennifer’s eyes fill with tears as she speaks, “yes.”

Jennifer is assigned a member of the RCMP who helps her to make her statement. Realizing that Jennifer needs additional assistance, the member comes to our office – which is conveniently and safely located in the RCMP detachment in Airdrie – to ask for help. (We work in all corners of every community we serve, and this detachment is where one of us puts the coffee on every morning.)

Within a couple of hours, we had Jennifer set up with a safe place to stay and the basic necessities to be healthy and safe for the next while. This part of her life story was just beginning, and we always make sure that people who are victims of crime and tragedy have access to the resources they need to make it through these critical chapters.

Fast forward again a couple of years, and Jennifer is flying back into the city to present her victim impact statement at her ex-husband’s trial. With our help, Jennifer has stayed connected to this case. We have helped her understand how the process works in Alberta, and she knows how much her powerful words will mean to the proceedings.

Walking into the court room, Jennifer is a different person than the woman we met on the phone years ago. We provided Jennifer with resources and assistance to be healthy, but Jennifer provided the will and the determination to be this person in this moment. She is strong. She is powerful. She is the person who she told us she wanted to be.

This is a big moment for Jennifer, and it’s the first time that she has had to face her ex-husband in a long while. She reads from her prepared statement. The weight of the pain that was inflicted onto Jennifer is carried by her words, and lands on the shoulders of the defendant.

Before catching her flight back to Atlantic Canada, Jennifer makes a point of talking with her ADVAS Advocate and Court Coordinator. She lets us know how grateful she is for our help. Hugs are exchanged, and Jennifer leaves.

To Jennifer and the thousands of women who we have assisted, we are glad you are safe. And we agree, ADVAS Advocates and Team members are amazing people.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or coercive control, call for help. If someone is at risk of harm right now, call 911. If you have time to talk and plan, call our office at 403.945.7290 or send us a message.