When Li first immigrated to Canada, She was filled with optimism and hope for the life she was pursuing in a promising new country. She came here for love—to be with her husband in joy and prosperity. But she quickly learned that she was not getting the life she signed up for.
Instead of feeling happy and cared for, Li was isolated, abused, and living in secrecy. She and her husband lived in a small town where she was unable to communicate with the English-speaking community. She seldom got a chance to interact with others at all as her husband kept her secluded in their home. He wanted to keep his reputation untarnished by the truth of how he’d been treating his new wife. At home, Li was lonely and caught up in mind-spinning arguments with her husband over the smallest of things. She discovered that the man who was supposed to support her and help her achieve success in Canada had no intention of doing so.
Li had no family or friends nearby, nor did she have a job or hobby to connect her with others. She began looking desperately for a way out and that’s when she discovered Interval House. At her first opportunity, Li made her escape, leaving behind her life of sadness and shame.
At the shelter, Li found a community of people who would stand in as her family, her friends, her support network. With the full backing of the Interval House team, Li began to heal from the emotional trauma she endured while living with her husband’s threats and broken promises. She learned that none of it was her fault and that no one ever deserves to be abused. The encouragement she was given helped her truly start over.
The counsellors at Interval House helped Li access English classes to improve her communication skills and job prospects in Canada. And with those skills, she is now giving back by providing volunteer translation services to newcomers that need help establishing themselves in their communities.
The counsellors helped Li find housing and now she has a safe place to live, happily. “I got so much help, I couldn’t have imagined it,” Li said. “And even now, I still think I live in a great dream.”
Now a certified nutritionist, Li is making it her life mission to help others through her work. She was inspired by the support she received at Interval House and wants to pay it forward to give others a chance at a better life too.
Stories like Li’s illustrate the significant toll that abuse takes on the lives of innocent people. Li has touched so many lives in a positive way since finding her way to safety and self-sufficiency.
Imagine the loss it would have been had she never freed herself from a life of violence and isolation. Her life would have been a shell of what it is now. Li would have lived only to serve her abusive husband’s ends and would have lost all self-confidence and determination. Living that life, she never would have had the chance to help others through her translation work and her nutrition counselling. Thankfully, Li escaped the nightmare she was in and came to Interval House, where she was encouraged to achieve everything she wanted to.
Sadly there are many women who have not yet escaped their lives of violence and it’s up to all of us to reach them, to show them they can have better lives, and to boost them up so that they can prosper. There is no peace as long as there is violence against women and girls. There is no justice as long as abusers go unchallenged. And when a woman’s agency is taken from her, it impacts the entire community around her. We are all connected, and we all have a role in ending gender-based violence for a better tomorrow.
If we all do away with apathy and realize that there are ways—big and small—in which we can all help, we’ll be so much closer to living in a harmonious world that honours the equality of all. In our communities, we must watch out for sexist and misogynistic behaviour and educate others about the micro-aggressions they may be committing that contribute to a culture permissive of violence against women. We can begin educating people about consent and respecting boundaries at a young age so that the old adage that “no means yes” can really be a trope of the past. We can stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming when women are assaulted or abused and we can spread the understanding that nothing a woman does or wears renders her deserving of any kind of abuse. We can endorse artists and businesses that empower women and divest from those that don’t. We can support organizations that provide services that help women by donating, volunteering and spreading the word. We can make more spaces welcoming to women, girls, LGBTQ+ folks, people of colour, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty so that their voices are always included, never shut out.
If a woman like Li has the power to rebuild her life from scratch, imagine the power you have to help make stories like Li’s a thing of the past.