Stories of Hope:

My Niece

A girl was raped and I knew her

A girl was choked and I felt it

A girl was made weaker by the minute

A girl was not treated like a human being

Yeah she was unseen

And unsung

But I never tried to correct the

Insanity of some religions

I thought I’d do better to escape it

I thought I could never be strong enough

Strong enough

But oh baby, baby

Your eyes are closed

Softly, softly breathing with your button nose

And oh baby, baby, it hurts to know

This world does not deserve you

This world does not deserve you

‘Cause you’re an angel

This world won’t see

Your every little feature will be critiqued

No matter how meager, no matter how meager

And when the teardrops flow

From your eyes

And all that comes out are sighs

In my heart I’ll realize

I should have done more than hide

To prevent the cries

I need to do more than sing…

Lullabies

SRKM

 

Forgiving & Forgetting

I keep on forgiving

I forgive every day

So why am I not happy?

Maybe you’ll understand someday

Every day I’m a victim again

Every day I am reminded of who I am

I am a girl who was raped

I am that nude woman being videotaped

I am that underpaid waitress

Who purges to increase her wages

I am that woman being hit

I am that woman who solely raises her kids

I am that woman on the T.V. screen

Who’s objectified and personality’s unseen

Every day there is something new

To prove to me this culture’s skewed

Every day I become enraged

Every day I am reminded of him, in a way

Yesterday, I forgave

Today I forgive

Tomorrow I pray will be the day

I can finally forget

SRKM

 

You look to the stars in a summer night’s sky,

If your heart throbs when you’ve made someone cry,

If a child’s eyes sparkling make you laugh out loud,

If you’ve ever seen rays shining through a cloud,

If you’ve ever returned a smile to an elderly stranger,

If you’ve ever thought ahead to keep friends from danger,

If knowing there’s suffering breaks you down inside,

If you detest malice and hatred and pride,

If you’ve ever sent best wishes or said you’re sorry,

If you’ve written a happy ending to your story,

If simple acts of kindness make you tremble and glow,

If you can slow down just to watch a river flow,

Then you’re a beautiful person, despite what they might say,

Know this, and remember it, day after day,

Use it to empower you to make all things right

And look to the stars each clear summer’s night.

Chrim

 

Intake

Pitch black, north wind whipping my face,

venturing out while others sleep.  Why?

Redirecting lives shredded through aggression;

or worse yet, the evils of oppression.

What happened in darkness of night

but cries for help across the wires?

Scared, isolated, overtaken by fear.

“Come in,” we say, “you are both welcome here.”

Heartbreak found a home in child’s eyes.

Exhausted, mother herds him back

to a room he’ll call Home till emotions heal

And trust, once again, they begin to feel.

He’s back.  “I’m hungry.”  Mom concedes.

Dark eyes widen with choice, devour

my offerings.  Drifting slowly to sleep now

He dreams, “How did this happen to me?  How?”

Child witness, exposed to the pain

of Abuse again… and again.

“Intimidation works,” surmising with stealth.

“I guess that’s what you do – just help yourself.”

He’s young.  There’s a window to teach

about:  tolerance; acceptance;

Empathy; compassion; respect…dignity.

New skills.  A second chance.  New beginning.

He’ll come to know the difference

between compromise and control:

Do I stay composed, negotiate, let loose?

Assertiveness is a choice he could choose.

“Follow Father’s footsteps,” he thought

but he has options, he now knows.

“Look around you.  Look inside, what’s in your heart?

What can you live with?  Love?  Tearing apart?”

Time will tell if help was engaged:

Freedom from agony and pain

of abandonment, neglect, substance misuse;

Or repeating the cycle of abuse.

Phone rings.  Another cry for help…

That’s why.

Written By:  Barb Kwasnicia,

Front-Line Worker at the Rainy River District

Women’s Shelter of Hope

 

My Soul

Not an empty soul…

but a frustrated illusion of days gone by…

I wonder of the sun and shade of tomorrow…

will this shadow of myself remain…

or will it fade away with the dew of the morning…

will I one day be able to step out in the sun of many

tomorrows…

or will I fade away unknowingly…

I change daily…

sometimes these shadows close in on me…

and I shrink into myself for refuge…

sometimes I stand tall and unyielding…

hoping I never again must watch myself disappear….

Where is that courage to pick up my faded impression

of myself…

and let the sunlight cast rays of hope…

As the sun dies into the night…

I wonder of this thing we call tomorrow…

will it be clouded over or will the stars be close

enough to wish upon…

Will my shadow illuminate or deflect my image of

myself…

my soul…my being…

Written By:  Tamy Haney

June 1986

 

2nd Stage Housing

One Tenant’s Perspective

It ain’t 24 Sussex, but it’ll do.

Welcome to the confidential zone:  limited access.  We are a unique group.  Our backgrounds are as diverse as could be, and yet hauntingly most of us share the same experiences.  Living here is like a meshing of a sorority house and a European hostel.  We meet some very interesting people, and experience some pretty profound events.  We deal with some serious business becoming a support network for the sisterhood we’ve become.  We share some horrendous secrets, fears, and memories in our healing; but we laugh heartily as well and have many riotous adventures.

Not all of our excitement comes from flashbacks, near brushes with high risk abusers or “in house” differences of opinion.

Last week was my turn.  You’d think that having resided in this community long enough to become a respected grandmother I would be the last hotbed of issue…but there I was, the center of attention.  The confidentiality of this building holds my anonymity but it seems I’m offensive.  When I moved in, for my own reasons, I hung the stars and stripes on a side wall in my sunroom.

Some peeping tom has taken offence to what I hang on my walls and complained.

Who was the complaint directed to?  Sponsors and staff of our local Women’s Shelter/Safe Housing Organization where I live.  Go figure:  his sensibilities are not offended peering into my windows, but they are so offended by what he sees, he’ll complain about my decorating tastes.  Who’s the offender?
Wait until he sees what I put on the other wall…

M.T.

Tenant in 2nd Stage Housing

Written in Response to a Complaint passed on to

the Executive Director by the Mayor of the Township

after receiving a complaint from a local resident

 

2nd Stage Housing

One Tenant’s Perspective on Keys
It ain’t 24 Sussex; but we call it home.  Welcome to the confidential zone.  The sisterhood is an interesting place.  There’s rarely a dull moment.  And when there is, we find new ways to amuse ourselves. One evening we decided to come up with a “Top 10” list for our complex.  There’s only one thing:  The “Top 10” things most heard in our complex is:  “Has anyone seen my keys”? times 10. Keys are important, and upon moving in we are each handed our own small bundle of freedom that immediately becomes the be all and end all of the universe.  Each one of us in turn has had to face the dilemma of being locked out of the building.  It’s not uncommon when I answer my buzzer to find a neighbour.  The first question is, “Have YOU seen my keys?”

At first it wasn’t much to look at, a couple of large brass keys and a little “swipey dealy”; standard issue.  Small and unassuming, it was easy enough to set them down, and not see them again for days. To alleviate the problem, my neighbour finally added an extra key chain to make them more conspicuous and easier to hang.  First she attached colour codes to identify door from garbage room, and then the collection began.  First she added a leather and bead tag when her set ran away for a week.  After having to send out a search party, she agreed they had to be tied up.  The tag was like a tail to make them easier to find.  After they hid for several more days and the expedition grew looking for them, she got serious.

It was becoming insanity; human vs. keys.  The keys had a mind of their own and enjoyed all the attention, so they continued to run away or hide.  They became more imaginative, hiding under clean laundry in couch cushions, even in a borrowed jacket one time…

At the rate of incidents we decided one evening to get an accurate description in case we some day need to pin up missing posters.  The keys:  there’s a rubber chicken, more like a Cornish game hen, a rubber cookie, rubber cheese, a rubber pickle (we think), a flashing orange pilon, a flashlight, a lypsyl, a bottle opener, a tourist memento, a “gag” tag with a cute saying, and a pink mirror.  They disappeared again!  So we attached her journal appointment book after checking to see if her keys were even still there…
After dragging it a day and a half, she broke down and got a purse.  We thought this would be the start of “Where’s my purse?” but the keys and the purse had a falling out, the purse got lost – and my neighbour has now attached a car, so the next time her keys leave, they can drive themselves home.

MT

A tenant, 2nd Stage Housing

 

A Story About A Lady

There was a lady I knew,

Who was happy in every way.

She smiled and laughed out loud,

She held her head high, she was proud.

She was pretty in every way,

And looked forward to each and every day.

Her feelings were good, her head was clear,

She had no worries, nothing to fear.

Then she met a man and she fell in love.

He promised her the moon and the stars above.

He took her out to dinner and dancing,

She thought she was blessed with all this romancing.

And when he proposed, and asked her to be his wife,

She said yes, believing she had the best of life.

Then came the day when at the altar they stood together,

Taking their vows, promising to love and honour forever.

But not long after that, things began to fall apart.

This wasn’t the same man as he was in the start.

He was no longer the prince she thought him to be,

Because of his charm, the truth she did not see.

At first he just got angry and would yell,

But little did she know, it was the beginning of hell.

She forgave him and made excuses for what he had done,

Because he promised he’d change and things would be fun.

But the promise was broken the very next day,

And little by little, she felt happiness slipping away.

When the hitting started, she didn’t know what to do,

This couldn’t be happening, it couldn’t be true.

But the reflection in the mirror that shows the black eye,

Gives her the truth that she can no longer deny.

There was no longer a smile upon her pretty face,

Instead, bruises and sadness took its place.

She was no longer her own person she used to be,

For he controlled everything she did and who she could see.

She had been pregnant twice but these babies were never born,

Because he hit her too hard and left her feeling empty and forlorn.

He acts like he’s done nothing wrong and he isn’t sorry,

Because seeing her miserable is his real glory.

After he beats her he feels like a man,

Thinking it’s right and he can do it again.

She feels so beaten down, worthless and lost,

And starts to think of what all this abuse has cost.

She’s ashamed of what people would think if they knew,

Feeling like no one will understand what she’s going through.

She thinks about leaving but she is full of fears,

Because she’s had no life of her own over the years.

So she stays and things still remain the same,

He continues to beat her and says she’s to blame.

But he beat her so badly he almost took her life,

And it’s then that she realizes she can no longer be his wife.

Laying in the hospital bed, beaten and battered,

She knows now that her safety is all that mattered.

Her husband has been charged and jailed,

But that doesn’t take away the hurt or the feeling that she failed.

Released from the hospital, she’s now on her own,

Realizing their house, she’ll never again call home.

Now she is faced with a new future and what it will bring,

Hoping she will make it and do the right thing.

She seeks counselling to help her get back on her feet,

But still afraid all of her efforts will end in defeat.

She knows now that she wasn’t the only one abused as a wife,

And that it wasn’t her fault, she has a right to a good life.

With the support of others who have gone through the same,

She learns to move on and that she wasn’t to blame.

Little by little she feels good about herself again,

Not doing it all at once but only what she can.

Facing things as they come she feels sure,

Step by step she walks further into her future.

Knowing that it’s alright to live alone,

‘Cause being by yourself you can still make a home.

It’s been a while now and she’s come a long way,

Once again looking forward to each new day.

Looking in the mirror she smiles and sees a pretty face,

No more lady with sad eyes or filled with disgrace.

She no longer holds her head down in shame,

No more guilt of feeling she was to blame.

She once again walks through life strong and proud,

Knowing all this happiness for herself is allowed.

Through all that has happened, she’s learned a lot,

That love is not always as beautiful as she thought.

There is good love and there is bad love too,

And if it turns ugly, it’s no good for you.

She learned abuse can happen to anyone of any race,

It can happen anywhere or any place.

It has taken time to learn this and to heal,

But now she knows better and her happiness is real!

I know this lady,

Who is happy and never blue.

She smiles and laughs out loud,

She holds her head up high and is proud.

She is pretty in every way,

And now looks forward to every day.

Her feelings are good and her head is clear.

She has no worries and she has no fear!

Written By:

Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope Client

February 1997

Words From a Women’s Shelter Client

Hi there, everybody.  The first time I came here, I had to leave in a hurry for safety reasons.  I called the Shelter again.  They were so helpful.  They paid my way here.  They help me out in so many ways, like counselling, and are always there for me when I came back again.  Nobody else wanted to help me.  I called about three Shelters.  They aren’t so helpful but Atikokan was there.  The staff are so supportive and always willing to listen.  They are nice people.  They always support my decisions whatever I decide to do.  The people at Atikokan are so nice people and say hi to us.  I just want to thank Atikokan for being there for me.  It’s good to know someone cares for me and my boys.  Thanks again.

Written By:

KAK, Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope Client

(She knew we were asking clients for any creative writing they might have done for inclusion in an anthology we were compiling.  She wanted to be sure that we included her words of kindness.)

He Told Me…

He told me he would hurt himself

That he’d never let me go

Promises he always made

I would always have to know.

He always had his ways

Had me thinking I was loved

Promises always broken

I’d be hit, choked, or shoved.

I always took him back

His apologies always made

Gazing at the spot

Where I once have laid.

Again he told me he would hurt himself

He would never let me go

More promises were made

But I’d always have to know.

Lying on the floor again

Drenched in blood and tears

Crying out loud this time

Hoping no one hears.

Starting to think it was me,

That I was the one to blame,

Maybe if I did it different,

It wouldn’t be the same.

Again he told me he would hurt himself

He would never let me go

Even more promises were made

But I still just had to know.

The fighting just got worse

I was almost dead

That night changed my life

So he went to jail instead

That night led me here

To a freeness I once craved

This place is a work of God

‘Cause I truly have been saved.

Written By:

TLC, Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope Client

and Tenant of 2nd Stage Housing

April 2006