By David F. Rooney
Domestic abuse — physical, emotional and psychological — is an issue that is rarely discussed openly in Revelstoke.
Some people even imagine that it’s a curse our community is free of, but the sad fact is we are not.
“There have been as many 94 women and 33 children (at the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter) in a one-year period,” says Nelli Richardson,
executive director of the facility. “At a quick glance, the average would be around 65 women and 25 children per year.”
That’s about one per cent of Revelstoke’s entire population and it is probably just the tip of the iceberg as it doesn’t include men who are sometimes also the victims of domestic violence and abuse. That may come as a surprise to many people but when you think about it, it’s really not that unusual. Anybody or any age and either gender can be abused in an unhealthy relationship.
How do you know if your relationship with a man, or woman, is healthy or unhealthy? Sometimes it’s impossible to tell until something fractures.
Megan, a young woman from Revelstoke then living in Edmonton, found out how hard that can be. Her 25-year-old boyfriend Zachary Holland a fourth-year political science student at that city’s Grant MacEwan University with plans to go to law school.
There had been hints of odd behaviour but no danger signs that Megan recognized as such until last March when he came to her apartment after a night out. Megan was home watching TV and wanted to be alone and that’s when Holland snapped.
“He choked me, them took out a knife and told me if I didn’t get in the car he’d slit my throat and let me watch myself bleed out and die,” she said in an interview.
The pretty young woman said that at one point when she tried to get out of the vehicle, Holland grabbed her by the hair and, with the vehicle still moving, dragged her more than two kilometers along a city road.
“I don’t remember a lot,” she said.
Fifteen people witnessed portions of the assault and called police who responded in time to save her life.
As it was she was left with a broken ankle, pelvis and collar bone and required more than 100 stitches, scores of staples in her face, head and legs. The road rash on portions of her body was appalling; whole swatches of her skin were rubbed off. Megan spent 40 days in hospital and required two operations to correct some of her injuries. And although she now appears, at first glance, to be completely healed, she still needs two more operations and now suffers from a lack of trust in people she doesn’t know.
Holland was arrested and charged with kidnapping, assault and other offences — but not attempted murder — and was released on $1,500 bail, Megan said.
Shortly after that he assaulted a transgendered girl, hitting her over the head with the lid of a toilet tank and setting her apartment on fire. The young woman was suffered burns to 25 per cent of her body. Holland didn’t waste any time dropping out of sight. He is currently on the run and is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for attempted murder, arson and raft of other charges, including the aggravated assault, kidnapping and charges laid after what he did to Megan. He has not yet been captured
Megan is trying hard not to let this incident warp her life, but it has coloured her perceptions. But she knows she is lucky. She escaped with her life.
According to the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women “over a quarter (29%) of Canadian women have been assaulted by a spouse. Forty-five percent of women assaulted by a male partner suffered physical injury. Injuries included bruising, cuts, scratches, burns, broken bones, fractures, internal injuries and miscarriages.
“In Canada, four out of five people murdered by their spouses are women murdered by men. In 1998, 67 women were killed by a current or ex-spouse, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. That’s one to two women per week. In 6 out of 10 spousal murders, police were already aware that violence characterized the relationship.”
And she wasn’t married to him or have children by him. If she had borne his children they, too, could have been victimized by him or used to maintain a hold of her.
Calgary Author Mckenzie Brown understands what Megan went through. She has written a book, Walking on Eggshells: Living with Psychological Abuse and Codependency, about her experiences with a violent and abusive boyfriend. She will be speaking about that at the Alliance Church this evening (Tuesday, September 18) at 7 pm.