You know that life can change in an instant – that without any warning, life can turn upside down and feel impossible to flip back around. For many survivors of gender-based violence, these moments, when everything changes, can affect the entire course of their lives.
But so can having a safe place to turn for help. Like it was for Sue, a confident university student who loved sports. She was successful, optimistic and on track to achieve her dreams. But then she was assaulted, and in that moment, everything changed. Sue explains the many things that changed for her when she was attacked, “I lost myself, my worth, my life. I changed forever after the attack. I immediately felt an extreme sense of loss.”
These feelings didn’t go away, in fact, over time they got worse and more overwhelming. “I was confused. I didn’t understand what had just happened. I couldn’t grasp the idea that I had been so viciously violated. I hated myself. I wanted to die. I did not want to feel anymore, I wanted to be numb,” Sue remembers.
So for almost 30 years, Sue kept her assault buried deep inside, creating a devastating impact on her life. Her goals and dreams faded as she worked to hide the moment her life changed. Struggles with her mental health, relationships, finances and ability to work consumed her. She shares, “I lost so much. I lost me, I lost family members, I lost friends, and I lost my children.” In addition to those important relationships with those closest to her, Sue also found herself unable to work, “ I ended up losing my house, my car – I went bankrupt.”
And then last year, Sue became one of the 305 individuals who reached out to Anova’s Sexual Assault Counselling program, where she found that finding a safe space to talk about her assault was life changing.
The opportunity to reach out, share and start to rebuild from that terrible moment 30 years ago was made possible by donors. Community donations ensure that survivors like Sue can turn to Anova when they’re ready. Sue explains it like this:
“I am free to talk. I am understood. I am not judged, but instead I feel loved and respected. My counsellor has given me the tools to ground myself. With her help, I have managed to gain my confidence back. She reminds me every time that I have value. That I am worthy of love and success. I deserve to move forward with love, compassion and strength. I have found beauty in life again. I have found a strength I never knew I had. And with this strength, I am working hard at living a positive and fulfilling life again.”
Today, thanks to donor support, Sue is finding her goals and dreams again and is surrounded by love and support. But there are many more survivors in our community who need a safe space to be heard; Sue is not alone.
Your generosity truly helps survivors like Sue make new moments where they can dream, rebuild and move forward on a new path for themselves.
In the past year, 8,533 calls were received through Anova’s 24/7 Crisis and Support Line. Truly, having a safe space for survivors to share their stories and find hope has never been more important.
Thank you for your support in helping survivors like Sue make new moments where they can dream, rebuild and move forward on a new path for themselves.
“When I was nine years old, the abuse my mom experienced from her boyfriend landed her in the hospital… it wasn’t long after that she arrived at the shelter with me and my two siblings in tow….” This is the story of Sarah Jansel, who stayed at Anova’s Wellington Road shelter as a child in 1991.
Sarah’s mom was a hardworking single mom of three kids, working three part-time jobs to make ends meet. When she was forced to flee her home for the safety of her and her three children, a hotel or another paid accommodation wasn’t an option. Sarah and her family left with nothing but the clothing on their backs. “To say I was scared and worried about what would happen next is an understatement. I remember feeling powerless, homeless, and I walked around in a fog of disbelief.”
The effects of gender-based violence are significant, both for people who experience violence and for people who witness it. Sarah knows firsthand that for those who have been a part of an experience like hers, those moments and memories change your life forever. “The experience never truly leaves you, but life does go on and it will get easier.” With your gift, you help connect families and children with the resources they need to heal.
“I will never forget the kindness of the staff and other residents, in those three weeks; we were taken care of, in every sense of the word.” Shelter is so much more than a place to stay: it is the first step in rebuilding lives. And it’s made possible by donors like you.
During their stay, Sarah’s mom was given gift cards to purchase clothing for their family. “I vividly remember going shopping with my mom and realizing how incredibly normal I felt for the first time in a long while.” Abusers often control, intimidate, and influence their victims. When you give, you give the gift of dignity and, stability to a family who is looking to regain their agency. “To be given something new in a time like that makes you feel good, appreciated, and like you can go on with the rest of the world – even for a nine-year-old.”
Now more than ever, we’re so grateful for you. At a time when things feel uncertain, knowing that donors like you are here to support people like Sarah encourages us to keep working to end violence. Sarah pays your kindness forward by giving back to Anova, and she hopes her story inspires you to continue to invest in a future without violence. “It brings me a world of joy to think that I’ve gone from being a kid in an Anova shelter to being a business owner in the position to offer someone what Anova offered me – a fresh start, a good feeling, and a fond memory of support when my family needed it most. I am forever grateful for the community and support for the services that Anova offered us at such a challenging time.”
Sarah’s story is one of hope, but there are still many more women and children in our community who are in danger. The pandemic has made intimate partner violence more common – and often more severe. Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner – including a local mother of two in March.
Thank you for your gifts of shelter and support for women and children experiencing violence.
This is the experience of many people Anova supports, but our dedicated Crisis & Support Line volunteers help change this experience for survivors, by creating genuine connections and space for challenging conversations. Hear more about the power of connection from one of our volunteers, Jordan.
These life-saving experiences are made possible by supporters like you. Give today, and help ensure more survivors have access to this powerful service. Together, we can provide hope and safety.
Gender-based violence comes in many forms. When most people hear the word “abuse,” they think of physical or sexual violence. But the truth is, abuse can manifest in many other ways – ways that are difficult to recognize. Sarah was afraid to talk to her husband and she covered up his bad behavior. She felt uncomfortable leaving their children at home with him and always felt better when she was away from him… but he never hit her. As Sarah describes it, she was “living in a fog.”
What Sarah was experiencing in her marriage was abuse, that came in the form of verbal, emotional, psychological and financial manipulation. Then, one night her husband laid his hands on their daughter, and she knew it was time to leave.
Sarah and her two young children left their home, a home mostly bought and paid for by Sarah with nothing but the clothes on their back. They couch surfed for months before finally being introduced to Anova’s Second Stage Housing program. This rent-geared-to-income 25-unit apartment complex offers housing to women and children who require safe, medium security, affordable housing. It’s a frontline response of care and safety that moves beyond emergency support.
Sarah and her children made a home at Second Stage. “Living with other people, you are always on your best behavior, you can’t be yourself. I was worried the kids would break something.” Anova helped Sarah furnish their new apartment and introduced her to the Family Court Support program, a program for folx who are navigating the family court system after leaving an abusive relationship. When Anova sat with Sarah in court and guided her through her separation, she was supported in a system that is inherently unequal and puts undue pressure on survivors.
Thanks to the financial support of donors like you, Sarah was not alone. We know violence is cyclical and that it has a profound effect on children long into their lives. Because of you, Sarah’s children got a fresh start. Because of you, Sarah’s story is a story of hope. Sarah is now living on her own, her children are grown and doing well and Sarah realized that she actually enjoys staying home.
Thank you for your gifts of hope and safety.