Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence, Abuse, Rape, Suicide. Please Reach out if you need help.

Resources are available – Scroll to the bottom of the page to get help.

*Names have been changed to keep anonymity

When I was in High school and thought about what University away from home would be like, I pictured myself loading my backpack with multi-coloured pens, fresh binders full of empty pages waiting to be filled, and of course the type of dorm décor I could find on amazon. I was 18. I had just accepted my offer to my dream University, a few hours away from my hometown, and my biggest concern was finding a duvet that matched my pre-purchased pillow cases. I wanted to get good grades, have some fun, experience a whole new social world. This was the coming of my adulthood! But just under one year later, I sat directly across from a Victim
Services Police Officer during a two-hour interrogation explaining what he did to me with tears in my eyes and a very broken soul, recalling events from the past year. I never pictured this. “Do you remember the details of the first time he put his hands on you?” the officer had empathy in her eyes, noticing I had no emotion left in me. “Can we take a break please?” Of course, I remembered the first time, and I also remembered the second time, and the third, and the fourth, and every time after that.

I met Nate* when I was 13. We were actually very good friends in High School and spoke often. He was always a very good friend and talked me through a lot of my teenage problems. So, I was flattered when Nate asked me on a date after high school graduation. He was a good friend, seemed very kind, tall, handsome…. all the boxes were checked for me. I gave it a shot, and we became very close as a couple that summer, we planned on trying to be in a long-distance relationship when I left for school because he was staying in our hometown.

At first it went great, Nate came to visit me on weekends, I came home for holidays, it worked really well. But the ‘honeymoon’ phase was soon over, and Nate showed his true colours and the trail of Red Flags he owned. He refused to introduce me to his family even though he had met all of mine, wouldn’t speak of them very often, began asking for money from me, refused to pay his bus tickets to come visit me on weekends but got angry when I couldn’t afford it solely, required my GPS location on my phone to always be accessible to him so he could see where I was, didn’t allow me to go to parties or hang with friends, and regularly went through my phone. It didn’t take long for my parents to mention some of these behaviors to me and I tried to make excuses for them and ignore it.

Unfortunately for Nate, he was born into an abusive childhood and went through a lot between many custody battles, Children’s Aid Society house visits, and two teen parents who weren’t prepared nor responsible enough to raise a family. He went through a lot having a drug addict mother and an alcoholic father. While I was aware he went through this, it was obvious he never got the help he needed, which reflected his own drug use and him as a person overall as an Adult man. This was not something I was ever exposed to because my family was the polar opposite. I had two loving parents, who always gave me what they could, made me feel safe and loved, and I never experienced any sort of drug exposure or abuse as a child. I wanted so badly to fix Nate, or help him get the help he needed, I loved him. Our relationship was obviously going to be a challenge but I wanted to get past it, I thought I could. But the help Nate needed was so far out of what I could provide as an 18-year-old student with absolutely no experience in this sort of situation.

Just after six months of dating, Nate was visiting me for the weekend when I just finished my class and my part time job as a server when he wanted to have sex, I said no, trying to explain I just had a long day and wanted to go to sleep. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and pushed me into saying “okay fine” because he wouldn’t stop talking about it and how I practically owed him. I laid on the bed stiff as a board, with tears streaming down my cheeks, and he didn’t stop, and then didn’t say anything to me when he was done. He went to sleep, and I stayed awake all night with absolutely no thoughts. This was the first time I came to the realization that I was in
trouble. I was no longer safe, I was under his complete control, and I couldn’t escape.

As months went by, Nate decided to move to my school town so that we didn’t have to do long distance anymore. We planned on living in different houses because I wasn’t ready to live with a partner yet, but he soon moved into my house with my co-worker and her boyfriend, and he began working a decent job. I had no idea that majority of the money he was making was
actually being used to pay for his drug addiction. The first month of us living together was the first time he put his hands on me. It was very normal for Nate to lock me in rooms, not allow me to move, and even tell me what I wasn’t allowed to wear to work. By the end of the first month
in the same house, majority of the doors and walls were damaged due to his outrageous temper rages.

Shortly after, he became very dependent on me, and quit his job. I paid all of the bills, rent, phones, credit cards, all while trying to save for school. I had to pick up a second full-time job in order to make ends meet, and that still wasn’t enough. At the end of my sometimes 18 hours of working, I would come home and he would tell me I had to make him something to eat, or have sex…even when I didn’t want to. Nate took me to the police station and ordered a No-Contact order on my family, this meant my family was not allowed to contact him, or me. I was officially his puppet.

I was so tired all of the time that I didn’t even realize that I was sick. I was taken to the hospital after having breathing troubles, only to be told I had developed a chest infection which was neglected for so long that I had to stay in the hospital to receive oxygen, and steroid injections to calm the swelling. I had to go right back to work the day after getting out of the hospital while on heavy prescription pain killers and antibiotics, so that I could continue paying the bills.

Between paying for two people to live and Nate using my credit card whenever he maxed out his, there was no way I would have enough money to return to school, so I decided to take one year off.

I received a call in October that my Dad had been in a life-threatening accident and I needed to come “just in case.” I felt awful the entire 8-hour trip home that I could potentially be going to say my goodbyes to my Dad after not speaking with him for over 6 months. Nate demanded to come with me, and also demanded me to stay at his family members house, but then locked me outside the very first night we got there at 3 am for two hours. Since I was going to see my mom the following day I was hoping maybe this was my chance. Maybe I could tell her that I was trapped, being abused, being forced into sex, working my body to the ground. But I couldn’t. I was too scared, ashamed, tired, broken. How do you tell someone that this is happening to you? How do you tell them that you’re nothing but a statistic? I returned to my school town and decided I needed to move back to my hometown. Considering I wasn’t in school, I had no reason to be at my school town. I missed my family. I missed my old life, before becoming Nate’s puppet. My landlord was kind enough to allow me out of the lease, and we began to prepare to move halfway across the province. My landlord was coming over to do a final inspection of the house before we left, and Nate was helping me clean up. He came across my journal, and I quickly grabbed it from him. My journal was the only safe place I had, and I didn’t want Nate to take that from me, too. When I wouldn’t let him read it, he snapped. Worse than I have ever seen him before. Glass was broken, doors were ripped off hinges, holes punched in the wall. I was sort of used to this by now and stayed silent and calm, as I had learned to do during these episodes.

What Nate did next is something I wish I could un-see. He grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and began pacing my bedroom. I really thought to myself, “this is it. This is when he hurts me, this is when he takes it too far.”

He told me to stay on my bed and not move. I listened. Then he explained that he was going to lock the bedroom door, and kill himself in front of me. That it was my fault, and that there was nothing I could do to save him. I reached for my phone and frantically dialed 911. I screamed my address over and over and over. “Does he have a weapon?” asked the operator. “YES.” I screamed. The 911 operator was trying her best to calm me down, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like my lungs were giving up on me. “Stay calm honey, lock yourself in the bathroom if you can. Help is on the way. Stay on the phone with me. Let’s count backwards from 60 together. You’re okay” It was the longest four and a half minutes I have ever experienced. Three officers run into my house, with their guns drawn, pointing at him. Three more officers waited on the driveway, along with a mental health crisis worker.

The next bit is kind of a blur. I remember being taken to the hospital, the police officers keeping me in a small room and guarding the doorway, in case he tried to find me. They told me he was cuffed to a bed but I was still scared. I didn’t know what he was capable of anymore. I was not allowed to go on my phone, I just sat there. The officers told me he was not going to be admitted, and that’s when I broke down. If he wasn’t going to be admitted, he would be able to leave the hospital and hurt me.

They took me to the police station, which is where I began a very long two-hour interrogation. I called my parents, who cried with me, spoke on the phone with the amazing team of about 5 or so officers in the domestic unit who supported me so well all night. They put Nate and I in a room, with 4 officers standing between us, and a 20-foot table. I sat on one end and he sat on the other. His face was blank, as if he had no remorse for what he had just done. I told him I didn’t want to hear from him again and that he needed to leave me alone now. Although he was escorted out of the town, the officers advised me to pack my things and they arranged for me to sleep somewhere else for a few days. I only called 911 to save his life, not to get him in trouble. Either way, it didn’t matter anymore. He was gone.

I moved back in to my parents’ house just one week later. I was so broken that I felt incapable of feeling emotion. They arranged for me to begin seeing a therapist twice a week who was very well known for working with domestic abuse victims. I stayed at home most of the day doing activities that made me feel good, and focused on working on relationships with the people around me.

Within 6 weeks of moving home, I got a part-time job, was going to counselling and doing really well, and started to put some thought into my plan moving forward.

I had to make some life changes in order to protect me and my family. I couldn’t contact anyone who was associated with him, mutual friends included. I couldn’t go in public alone, and I always had to have a GPS tracker available on my phone that my friends/family could access. I had to come off social media for a while, and not use my full name on any profiles (still to this day I wont). My workplace had to be aware of the situation so that he would not be allowed to come into my workplace, and I had to avoid certain parts of my hometown that he was known to frequent.

It wasn’t a piece of cake though, because I still had awful night terrors, random anxiety attacks, and inability to trust anyone. I would go 48 hours without sleeping, because the nightmares were too much for me. It was hard, because even when my sister would drop a cup, the loud noise it made would send me into sheer panic. I would lock myself in the bathroom in my basement because it was the only place I felt safe. If anyone raised their voice at all, I felt like my lungs were going to collapse and I would panic. I couldn’t talk about my situation with anyone, and even got weary with my counsellor, who was amazing at helping me get passed those challenges. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, I decided that I could choose to be a victim for the rest of my life, or I could choose to be a survivor. I chose to be a survivor.

I decided that I still had a lot to work through even though I was progressing, and determined with my parents and therapist that staying home for school in September was a good choice for me. I applied to a few programs and was accepted into the most competitive one I applied for which is what I feel my true calling is. I can now officially say that I’m going to school to be an Assaulted Women’s Councillor.

It’s been six months since I’ve moved back and started a new chapter of my life. I still have a councillor, I still have bad days, I still have bad dreams sometimes, but I’ve made huge changes. Everything has fallen in to place with the help of my family, friends, therapist, and everyone in between.

I am so excited to help other women and bring awareness to these situations as a career. I have learned so much and already feel like I have been able to spread awareness and help teach others how to identify what is healthy in a relationship vs what is not. For now, I spend most of my free time doing things that make me feel good and I’m still focusing 100% on myself.

I’ve learned how to give myself grace. Every day I am learning, and coping with this life changing experience, but I am so thankful to have the opportunity to use my journey to educate others, and even myself for when I am ready to get in a relationship again.

You’ve got this. You are more than a statistic, you are more than a victim, you are more than a puppet. If you are struggling, visit your local health departments website for a list of resourceful numbers that you can contact for immediate help. Talk to someone. You are capable, you are strong, you still have a voice. I am with you! – Lauren

If you need HELP – Please access one of many of these resources below to get the assistance you deserve – You are NOT alone!

Distress Centre Durham
24 hour telephone counselling, crisis and suicide intervention and referral.
905.430.2522 or 1.800.452.0688

Durham Region Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault Care Centre (Lakeridge Health)
24 hour crisis line. Counselling and referrals for male/female sexual assault victims, all ages.

Durham Rape Crisis Centre
24 hour counselling and support groups for recent or past abuse.

Herizon House – Ajax-Pickering
Women’s Centre 24 hour crisis line.

The Denise House (Shelter) – Oshawa
24 hour crisis line for abused women, counselling, children’s programs.
905.728.7311 or 1.800.263.3725

Bethesda House (Shelter) – Bowmanville
24 hour crisis line
905.623.6050 or 1.800.338.3397

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