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Family violence ‘can be hard for victims to recognize’

A Yellowknife resident who suffered abuse as a teenager says realizing you’re a victim can be harder than people think.

Family Violence Awareness Week runs all week in the Northwest Territories, with many communities hosting related events.

In Yellowknife, a legal roundtable takes place at the Status of Women office above Javaroma from 2pm on Tuesday. Women who have experienced family violence will talk about going through the legal process and some of the issues they faced.

On Wednesday, Aurora College hosts a workshop for people who witness family violence from 6pm. On Friday, the Take Back the Night march starts at the same time at City Hall, and on Saturday the Tree of Peace hosts a Men Choose Respect conference.

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On the Hay River Reserve, activities take place throughout Wednesday: a prayer circle at 11:30am, followed by a community walk, lunch and video screening.

In full: Event details across the NWT

The theme of the week’s events is choosing respect, not abuse.

“It’s about how we can have respectful approaches to dealing with victims and perpetrators, how things can improve by being respectful,” said Lorraine Phaneuf, executive director of the Status of Women Council of the NWT.

One Yellowknife woman, who asked not to be identified, says she believes many victims share a common struggle: realizing they are being abused, and finding help to deal with that.

She shared her story with Moose FM.

I met him and he was a knight in shining armour to me – the most amazing person I’d ever met. For six months, it was a dream. I was around 13 or 14.

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When we had sex for the first time, it became very, very rough. I said stop, and he didn’t. He continued, which was a form of rape – which I didn’t realize at the time.

From that day forward, I was his property. He was always there. It was like he was constantly stalking me, but I didn’t know that it was a problem and this wasn’t the way love was supposed to be. He was so great at the beginning and I thought I was just doing something wrong, and I needed to do better.

Every time I did better, he would treat me nicer, so – obviously – it was my fault. I didn’t know being hit, constant name-calling and berating was wrong. I thought he loved me and the jealousy he showed was love.

I lost pretty much all my friends because he was very overbearing. I thought he really, really loved me and wanted to make sure I was taken care of, and he made me feel like I was the one that wasn’t doing it right. My life became all-consumed about this person because he was so great at the beginning and I loved him so much.

I never really told everybody the extent of everything that happened. I felt ashamed at not being able to control it. My father’s intervention was what stopped that. I’d be dead today if he hadn’t done something.

I feel like a lot of people don’t know when they’re in those situations, or you don’t understand that ‘that’s me, I’m actually experiencing that’. People that love you don’t treat you that way, and I don’t think people know that.

It’s very easy to say, ‘Oh, he hit me once but he loves me, he cares for me. We can move on.’ But if it keeps happening and you’re starting to be isolated from people, there’s a problem there. And I think people don’t talk about that.

You don’t have to be ashamed to go and learn more about what family violence is. There are professionals out there who can help you. There are materials you can read, websites you can go to, spaces that are safe where you can talk to people who won’t be judgmental. There are people that understand now.

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