For too long now, from generation to generation, spousal abuse has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy and hidden behind a wall of silence.
I want to share other women’s experiences with you, and also those of older generations, their beliefs, their teachings. And how we have come to face such prejudice from abusive men.
The abuse towards women did not come from the Creator, but came from ourselves. The following is Ann Martin’s story, the first in a series of articles on the subject of wife abuse. I will write about how we have been subdued to become the victims of emotional suffering by our own spouses. I will write about the excuses men have been taught, that women are less than men.
I feel in order to deal with this issue we have to go back to the days of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and find out where in our lives we allowed this abuse to take control of our emotions and of our own beings. So much has changed from the days of our grandmothers. The abuse they faced left them out in the cold, whereas in these days many laws have changed, and women are now being given rights to voice the abuse.
No one has the right to dominate or injure another human being and by working together, by sharing our views on this issue, we can stop this vicious cycle of abuse. If we do not, our children will become abusers and victims of abuse. We can deal with this issue by first looking at ourselves and the pain we have inside and try to heal ourselves. Remember; the abuse will cease to exist if one says no more to the abuse.
This is Ann Martin’s story
Interview and introduction by Marilyn Bearskin Herodier
Ann Martin: My husband and I got together very young. The abuse had already started before we married. Alcohol played a big role in our marriage.
The Nation: Why did you marry him if there was already abuse?
I guess I thought it would stop. He always told me it wouldn’t happen again. But it happened that I lived with the abuse for 10 long years. He abused me only when he was drinking. He had a lot of anger because of what he went through as a child. There was a lot of alcohol in his family, a lot of abuse.
For a longtime, I kept the abuse a secret. I never told my mother or my sisters. I used to think I was the only woman going through this abuse.
Many times when he would come home drunk, I would get abused, he’d turn our house upside down and wake our children. Many nights our children would be woken in the middle of the night by his anger. When I look back, I regret letting my kids see the abuse and how we abused them by teaching them the abuse. I also used to take my anger out on my kids. I see the effects on them now.
I once tried to deal with the abuse by trying to make it stop. I talked to my husband and convinced him to go to A.A. I guess I figured alcohol was to blame. He would go for a while, but he’d start drinking again and the abuse would start again. I used to think to myself when he abused me, “What am I doing wrong?!” I started to drink also. I drank so I wouldn’t feel the pain, the physical and emotional pain. When he wasn’t drinking, he was a completely different person, he was nice. There was always, I guess, hope that things would change.
The alcohol changed him. He would sell our stuff just to get alcohol. I had a lot of anger towards that. This one time when he got angry, he took all my clothing outside and burned them. I didn’t even know he had done that. My neighbour told me. Also, this one time, his brother was staying with us and he came home drunk and started turning our home upside down. And then he started on me. I told his brother to call the police. They finally came, after two phone calls to them. They told me that they couldn’t do anything because it was his house. It didn’t seem to matter that my house was upside down or the kids couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t believe they had to wait for something drastic to happen.
I finally decided I was going to take a step, so I went to a women’s shelter. From there I got my own place. I left for six months. His brother kept calling me, telling me to go back to my husband, for the sake of our kids, and that children need a mother and a father.
My husband used to call me and threaten me, by trying to make me feel guilty, saying that he would kill himself if I didn’t go back.
This one time, he threatened that if I ever left him he would find me and kill me, or beat me up so good, no one would want me. I believed him. I think he was capable of doing something like that.
I went back to him.
I didn’t deal with the abuse the way I should have, and that was by talking about it. My husband died 10 years into our marriage. It is only now that I am really dealing with my abuse. After my husband died, there was no more abuse. The abuse stopped.
But inside me, the pain is still there. I realized that when I was working as the Director of the Women’s Shelter. I was listening to women’s stories and these situations, and I used to feel angry and would ask myself, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” It made me take a look at myself and it made me realize that I had to deal with myself first before I could help anyone else. I worked at the shelter for one year, then I left.
But now I am not afraid to share my abuse. Many times I hear people saying, “It’s her fault,” and, “She asks to be beaten up.” Sometimes this is said right to her face. There is no way a woman deserves to get hit I hear it so many, many times that it’s the woman’s fault. That starts to make her wonder, “Maybe it is my fault?” And this is another reason it makes it harder for the woman to get out of that relationship.
Last but not least, to the victims of spousal abuse: Don’t keep the abuse to yourself. Deal with it by talking about it. Find someone you trust. Don’t think you’re alone. Many, many women are going through this.
The Nation wishes to thank all members of the Cree Local Management Board as well as Charles Rosset and Richard Desrosiers from HRDC for their encouragement and support in making this series of articles possible. Ginscuumdinan.