Leaving my abusive partner was hell but I overcame the system and found freedom


This first-person play is by Gayle Bryce, a writer living in Regina. She has survived two abusive relationships and says the words of a counselor at a shelter kept her from entering a third. For more information on CBC Opinion Sectionplease consult the FAQs.

WARNING: This article contains details about intimate partner violence.


I was stuck in an abusive relationship with no one to help me. My abuser had taken control of all the money, severed my relationships with my friends, and my family offered no support. Things in the relationship kept getting worse and I knew he was going to kill me eventually.

Then I woke up one morning and thought, “I can’t live like this anymore. I go out. I had no idea then how cool hell it would take.

It should have been easy, but it’s not because the freedom of victims of abuse comes at a price. The price is having to forge a system that seems designed to protect the abuser, who suffers from social ignorance and who has to fight for his rights as a human being. It’s a battle where the odds are – for the most part – stacked against you. I never imagined it would be so hard. It was a trial by fire that I barely survived.

That was decades ago, and I’ve savored every moment of my freedom since. Some things haven’t changed for the unfortunates still stuck in the system. They still have to walk through that fire to gain their freedom.

There are laws in place to protect the “rights” of the abuser, which means their victims have to fight harder to be set free. They relax in the warm glow of their rights as their victims struggle.

Barriers made it difficult to release

Once I called the police after a particularly violent incident. When the police arrived they could clearly see the evidence of the abuse and my then partner even admitted to what he had done.

Nevertheless, they refused to charge him. They said I should go to the police station the next day and file the charges myself. I had no way of getting to the police station on my own to lay the charges – he had the car keys and all the money.

Later, during our legal separation, the court did not listen to my accusations of violence because there was no police report. It was enough to make me feel like a victim again. I had to remind myself that being treated fairly was not the priority – freedom was.

On another occasion, after he was so terrified that I locked him out of the house in a desperate attempt to protect me and my child, he called the police and they ordered me to let him in. They told me unequivocally that I had no right to lock him out of the house, although I told them that I feared for our safety.

I got so sick of hearing, “Well, if it was so bad, then why didn’t you leave?”

The answer to this is not simple. We tend to think of abusers as dumb monsters, but they’re actually sneaky. They know how to bleed your freedom until they have complete control over every aspect of your life.

They do this by isolating you from friends and family and taking control of all the money. They usually do it so gradually that you don’t even realize it until it’s too late. At that time, there is nowhere to go and no way to get there. “Just leaving” is no longer an easy option.

Accept violence and abuse as the norm

Dealing with social stigma can also be difficult. People consider you an idiot if you admit you are being abused and you are still living with the abuser.

I think there is a gross lack of understanding of the victim psyche from people who have always enjoyed independence. Why would anyone give up that independence? Why would anyone tolerate an abuser? These questions are understandable.

Violence becomes a preconditioned state of mind. Abused people don’t see themselves as victims – it’s just their normal life. They don’t like being abused, but they don’t recognize it as abuse and don’t know why they feel so angry and resentful.

It is tragic that in addition to dealing with abuse, victims face a system that makes leaving an emotional and psychological nightmare of gigantic proportions, especially if one has children and custody becomes an issue. of discord.

I will never forget the time I found myself in a women’s shelter. One of the workers told me that many women would end up in violent situations. These words echoed in my head. I promised myself that I wouldn’t be one of them.

Breaking free from an abuser can bring fear of repercussions. I was tired of being scared, so I took martial arts lessons. They helped restore my confidence. When my ex unexpectedly visited and caught me, he got an unexpected surprise when my workout started. I reacted out of pure instinct, warning him never to touch me again.

It was the last time he did.

Even though it’s been many years since I left my abusive partners, I don’t see much changed in the system.

I am no longer a victim; I’m a survivor. I had to go through the fires of hell to get here. It shouldn’t have been like this.

To anyone walking through this fire right now, just remember there is freedom on the other side.


Support is available for anyone affected by domestic violence. You can access support services and local resources in Canada by visit this site. If your situation is urgent, please contact the emergency services in your area.

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