(Picture from OABI)
By Karen Rae Elkins
Putting a number on the number of offenses you will endure from an intimate partner before you attempt to report the abuse, takes my breath away. I was talking to an Ontario Provincial Police Officer, a woman who worked the domestic violence unit. She said studies show a woman does not report the abuse until the 34th offense. Thirty Fourth, 34 x's, Mid-thirties, any way you write it or say it, 34 is 34 times too many. That's like finishing 34th in a tournament of 34 boats.
So what happens between the first violent act and the 34th? A whole bunch of excuses, accusations, and threats that stack up until they cast a shadow over the light of day. Your memory becomes dull so that the pain you feel is replaced with a distant numbness. Your ability to communicate you feelings seems to be under constant attack. You carry the fear of failure because you are, according to the abuser, "A disappointment", "A failure at everything that brings you joy or happiness".
For me, I just got bold and said, no more. It was 2005 when my boat left the Mad Winds of just taking it. The time had come to lay low on a lake somewhere and work through the creeks of right and wrong. I never returned, never considered going back. My disbelief had mushroomed into lying: lying to myself, and lying and others. The proof that he was abusive was there the first time. Each event might have been a different strategy of abuse or a reflection of the older stuff. Like the weather, it changed, like a stretch of domino's my spirit fell, and fell, and fell, until it lay motionless on the floor.
The last time would be just that, the last time. I promised myself I would leave, I didn't like the way I was living. I waited for a change that I would never see. I didn't know at the time that abuse never changes. There will always be a next time, and a time after that time, and a whole bunch of regretted past times.
Who's counting? Are you dwelling in abuse? Have you figured out where you are on this scale? Are you willing to acknowledge the survivor in you? Women just like you and me have survived through the ages. With all honesty, ask yourself, "Will I survive until the 34 th offense? What about the one's who never see the 34th chance to report a crime was committed? Be a part of their voice, share in building a life without violence in their memory.
If this is your time to say no more, seek the advise of professionals in the field. Leaving an abusive relationship is dangerous. The chances of retaliation come swiftly after you leave. Be smart and survive because you want to... Because you can.
Fish steady in all you do. Love from Lake St. Fransis, in the peaceful fishing town of Salaberry de Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada.
One last thought before I fish:
Today is my birthday! My birthday wish for you is that the river of protection flow over you while the call to leave stirs in your soul. Tomorrow, I compete in one of the largest tournaments in Canada, the Berkley B-1. Anglers from 4 provinces and the U. S. compete for the opportunity to B the 1, be the winner. I am fishing with Pro Kasey Fedoriw, my future husband and best friend. If you are reading this note from me, it's not to late to Be The One who wins by leaving your abusive partner. I'm not shooting for 34 th place, anymore. When I left my situation a desire to finish first was born.
Karen Rae Elkins is a survivor of intimate partner violence as well as a professional women's angler. She has always been an inspiration to others, assisting and advising through her advocacy and example.