Marie is a survivor in every sense of the word.
She was abused by her mother’s boyfriend for ten years. He threated to hurt her mother and sister if she told anyone about the violence. Marie bravely came forward because she feared that he would hurt her younger sister, or someone else.
She’s using her experience to support survivors of violence.
“From the beginning I knew I wanted to make a difference. I’m strong enough to make it through, and to make a positive change for others.”
Today Marie speaks about her past with poise and wisdom. She’s committed to sharing her story so that others can benefit from her experience. Her journey wasn’t easy, though.
“I came to Surrey Women’s Centre very fragile,” Marie says, “I didn’t love myself. I didn’t care what happened to me.” That changed when she met Bridgid, a counsellor at Surrey Women’s Centre. Bridgid encouraged Marie to recognize her self-worth; “I’ve come to such a good place where I love and respect myself.” Marie found strength in Bridgid and others at Surrey Women’s Centre. “I have a team. I have people behind me.”
Her team also included a court support worker who helped Marie navigate a long and complex court process step-by-step.
At times, Marie felt that she wasn’t being heard, and that her case wasn’t being given the attention it deserved. “My case kept being reassigned to different prosecutors,” she explains. Marie felt disrespected and disregarded. She worried that coming forward about the abuse had been a mistake. This is when she met Winston, Crown Counsel. Winston promised Marie that her case was his to keep, and that he would do everything in his power to see it through. Winston kept his promise. His support was steady and enduring. “He believed me. He knew I was telling the truth, and that we’d get through it. That reassurance is key.”
After testifying in court, Marie’s abuser was found guilty of sexual assault, sexual interference and touching a minor, and sexual exploitation. He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. Her strength and resiliency didn’t end there.
Today Marie is sharing her experience to build a better response for other survivors of violence. Moving forward, she is speaking out about the changes she would like to see.
She understands the challenge for many of the prosecutors whom she worked with. “I think that for their jobs they have to be really shut off emotionally to do it every day. It’s a tough job, and we come to them so fragile.” Marie’s advice: “Just be gentle. Give us your belief, your time, your support and build us up.”
In the beginning of the court process, Marie explains, “I didn’t know what to expect, or how to write my statement. It was just one thing after another and I didn’t know how to go through it.” She’s is compiling everything she learned during the process in a ‘survival guide’. It will include tips on how to make a statement, what to expect in court, even recipes to help de-stress.
It is clear to anyone who meets Marie that she has come through her experience of violence stronger. She didn’t just survive – she is thriving.