One of the hardest and bravest things a person can do is to seek help when they need it. This is even truer when those hurting them are the people they are closest to—their family.
Sonya is the mother of three children and a wife of over twenty years. Once she had kids, being a stay-at-home mom became her full-time job. She spent her days taking her children to pre-school, kindergarten, then grade-school. She attended meetings with teachers to keep informed about their education. On top of that, she drove them to and attended their after-school programs while her husband travelled, worked and collected certificates to upgrade his status. He supported their family and helped out her sister and parents as well—it was the best financial freedom she had ever had in her life. She depended on him entirely, and their family was everything to her.
When their kids were finally in school full-time, Sonya tried rejoining the workforce to regain some independence. “One day he said to me, “Who’s going to hire you?” and then looked at me like I was nothing,” Sonya said, her voice cracking. “He is controlling and abusing me. This has come in many forms: mental, physical, financial, verbal and psychological abuse,” she listed.
Recently, Sonya was told by an employment staffing agency that they don’t have time to write a letter for her, causing her even more anxiety and stress in trying to become independent.
“All the abuse has definitely affected my self-esteem. I can’t seem to gain confidence to even go out to interviews. I’ve been looking for a job for over a year.”
Due to the couple’s problems, they stopped being in the same room together in 2012. In their home, they live on separate floors. To make matters worse, the children took his side. They often go out for dinner and functions and leave Sonya at home.
“I’m basically treated like a doormat,” she said. “This was the last thing I thought would happen to me.”
Prior to her marriage falling apart, Sonya suggested the family go to counselling many times, but was ignored. Counselling is expensive and even harder for those without insurances or other aid. A session with a Registered Clinical Counsellor or Registered Therapist is generally upwards of $115 per hour. B.C.’s Medical Services Plan does not provide coverage for services of counsellors or psychologists. It was something Sonya could not afford on her own.
When the summer of 2013 came around, Sonya began to notice behavioural changes in herself. “I was walking around in a panic. I started to really feel like I was going to go insane,” Sonya said between sobs. She felt trapped because her spouse didn’t want to file for divorce, regardless of the fact that he had the funds to do it. She immediately contacted her doctor and started on a prescription for anxiety, lack of sleep and stress. But, she knew she had to seek help beyond medications.
Gathering herself, Sonya again went to see her doctor for advice. She then began going to counselling at the Delta-North Mental Health Office. When she reached their limit, they referred her to Sources Women’s Place.
“I didn’t know Sources Women’s Place existed before and thank goodness it does because it’s helped me tremendously,” she said.
Sonya registered in the Trauma Counselling Program for Women. She has been benefitting from the free counselling and has taken several free workshops focusing on Self-Esteem, Trauma, Anxiety, Coping Skills and Boundaries. “I’m waiting for one more that I want to take, which is Assertiveness for Women,” Sonya said. Since this interview, Sonya has completed that workshop.
“I couldn’t afford to pay for counselling and I needed counselling so desperately. Sources has been so helpful to me in many ways,” Sonya said.
The staff at Sources Women’s Place also directed Sonya to Sources Newton Resource Centre where she took a 9-week Empowerment Program. Through them, she learned about the Sources Legal Advocacy Program and sought their help. “I saw a legal advocate there. She gave me information I was looking for, printed out many forms for me, directed me to legal counsel and after two months, I was able to file for divorce with her help,” Sonya said.
All of that was more than a year ago. Today, Sonya is still trying to finalize her divorce, but she also has good things going for her. She is an active volunteer for an arts society, through which she’s rekindled her passion for writing and is thinking about making it her career.
“I think I’ve known all along that I want to be a writer, but it’s never really come clear to me before,” Sonya said. “During the time I was still together with my husband, I lost myself by putting everyone else first. My kids were everything to me while my husband was at work and took control of the finances. I put my life on hold for all of them and I wasn’t valued for what I did. Through all the help I received from Sources, the volunteering, various involvements and the on-going research I continue to do, I’m now finally finding who I am again and I know it will all lead me to a lot more.”
Sources Women’s Place provides free short-term and long-term resources, support and professional individual and group counselling in a safe and confidential environment for women who are coping with violence and/or poverty issues. Support for Sources Women’s Place comes from government funded contracts, memberships, donations, community fundraising, local service clubs, foundations, Community Gaming Grants and the United Way of the Lower Mainland. It is with thanks to the support of our funders that all our groups and services are free. Learn more about Sources Women’s Place.