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PHOENIX – Jeni

Thank you for following the Phoenix Campaign by ADVAS. This week, on our Facebook and Instagram pages, we met Jeni.

Jeni is enjoying living her “beautiful life” with an “amazing man.” They do everything together, and Jeni can see a real future there. But there are moments when it’s clear that Jeni’s boyfriend does not have the same hopes as she does, and he is starting to struggle with his alcohol addiction.

About 80% of Canadians over 15 years of age consume alcohol and about 25% of Canadians over 15 years old drink heavily (source). Used in moderation, alcohol can be safe for most adults. Problematic alcohol use impacts all aspects of a person’s life, including health, finance, relationships, and more (details).

Help is available for those struggling with alcohol use. Call Health Link at 811, or click here for other resources.

Stressed by her full scheduled of classes and her troubled relationship with her boyfriend, Jeni is realizing that she has been focusing on her own health as much as normal. She has missed a few cycles, and after taking an at-home pregnancy test and visiting her doctor, she knows that she is almost 12 weeks pregnant.

Jeni has gone from being elated to share a home with her boyfriend, to not being sure how to share some really big news with him. His alcohol addiction has hurt the trust that allowed them to communicate openly, and she is not sure if he will be excited by her big news.

Instead of telling her boyfriend first, Jeni calls her Mom.

According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, there are more than 180,000 unintended pregnancies annually in Canada. There are many resources available to you, and the best place to start is by checking on you and your health. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, please see a medical doctor.

Jeni is happy to be pregnant, but she knows that her boyfriend is struggling with addiction and hasn’t been talking much about their future lately. This has made Jeni worry about how he might take the news of her pregnancy, but she is determined to tell him. “I had this thought in my head that without a baby, we were probably going to break up because of his drinking. I don’t think that I was planning to stay, but something inside of me thought that if she had this new responsibility he would wake up the next day and realize that he needed to change.”

After carefully planning how she was going to share the big news, Jeni does her best to bring joy and excitement to their evening. “I was so scared that he was just going to look at me and not say anything, so I had this full speech planned where I was going to tell him how much I loved him and how I knew he was going to be a good father.”

The evening doesn’t go as planned. “As soon as I told him, he snapped. He just kept saying it wasn’t his and I wasn’t going to have the baby. We started yelling at each other, and we both went straight for the weak spots. We said the most awful things.”

When Jeni realizes that she is not going to be able to end the verbal assaults, she goes to leave the room.

It was at this moment that her then boyfriend pushed her down the stairs.

Emotional abuse, like what was used against Jeni when she shared her news, hurts. It can impact relationships, health, finances, and more. Help is available.

Domestic violence, including assaults like Jeni experienced, are criminal acts that also hurt the victim. Help is available to the people who are victims.

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional or physical abuse, please reach out for help.

Jeni has survived an assault, but she is injured. Replaying the events in her mind over and over again, she is not sure she wants to say what happened to anyone. Jeni tells the paramedics that she tripped down the stairs.

At the hospital, Jeni learns that the attack has left her with broken bones and a dislocated shoulder. The worst injury, though, is the loss of Jeni’s pregnancy.

It’s this devastating news that instantly breaks Jeni’s heart, and causes her to open up and share her story. “I felt like I was going to throw up, like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I told the doctor everything, and there was a nurse in the doorway who looked really pale before she grabbed a phone to call for the police.”

Jeni was interviewed that night in the hospital, and her ex-boyfriend was arrested without incident at his home.

Pregnancy Loss hurts. There are supports available. Close to home, there is a program at the Foothills Medical Centre for Pregnancy and Infant Loss – Grief Support.

It is normal for people who are the victim of a crime to not know what to say about their experience. They have survived a trauma, and telling their story can be traumatic.

Many people also worry about the possible repercussions or consequences of sharing their true stories.

By making sure that people who are victims know that they are safe, ADVAS helps people to share their true stories so that they can get the help they need to heal.

After surviving a violent domestic assault that caused her to lose her pregnancy, Jeni stayed with her parents while she worked with her ADVAS Advocate to arrange for all of the support that she needed. She sustained physical and emotional injuries that required clinical support to heal.

Jeni wanted to know where she fits in the court case that followed her ex-boyfriend’s arrest, and the most important thing that she wanted from this awful experience was to be heard. Her ADVAS Advocate listened to her and provided guidance and advice on how she could be heard by the offender. “Courtroom dramas don’t really show how the whole process works, and the day that I addressed the court was nothing like TV. It was calm, quiet, and slow-moving. I’m glad I knew what was going to happen because I would have expected something totally different.”

After the assault, Jeni felt like she was to blame. With counseling arranged by her Advocate, Jeni realized that she was not to blame and that she was the victim. “I thought that I did something to make him angry. It was what I said, or the fact that I told my mom before him. I said it was his drinking – this wasn’t him. But at the end of the day, it was his hand on my back. It was his muscles that gave the power, not mine. It doesn’t matter if he chose this or if he was too drunk to choose, the fact is that the assault was all him.”

We also learned that Jeni took time to recover – stepping back from her university classes while she worked with her team to build a plan for the life that she wanted.

After taking time to heal, Jeni chose her path and built a life for herself. She has moved on from the attack and the loss, but notes, “You never fully heal. I love my husband dearly, and my kids are my world – and none of that is diminished by me being hurt or wondering what could have been. I have learned to live with how those scars feel with every breath I take, and I know that the pain I carry doesn’t stop me from giving all that I have to the people who I love.”

Jeni attributes her successful healing to her counselors, her Advocate, and of course – her parents.

Incidents of domestic violence are far too common in our community.

People who have experienced or who are experiencing domestic violence can get answers to questions and access some supports without first calling the police. We can help keep you safe while you heal.

It is important to take the time to heal. Just like you shouldn’t play tennis with a broken arm, a person who has experienced domestic violence needs to take the time to allow their injuries to heal. If you know someone, or employ someone, who has experienced domestic violence – please be gracious and kind in your expectations of how quickly they will return to normal. Everyone heals differently, and they need your support.