How to Truly Be a Friend to an Abused and Battered Woman
This is a a story of a battered woman and her son who were lucky they made away from the abusing boyfriend without getting murdered.
- The three of us
- Red Deer, Sydney and Montreal
- Beaten for collecting rocks
- Missing her abusive boyfriend
- The healing process
The three of us
Jillian's character was different from mine and so was her looks. She was 5'10", had long red hair and dressed and looked like a love child straight out of the 1960's from the famous Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco.
Picture us walking down the street, this tall slim hippie lady with me, a short and very fat dark haired woman with an olive skin tone. I am sure we were a sight for sore eyes.
We really didn't have much in common in terms of personalities either. Jillian was the artsy "laissez-faire" type of person and I was the down to earth psychology student who needed to organize and make every second count if I was ever going to make it out of university alive.
Normally Jillian would never have been the type of person whom I would want to create and maintain a meaningful friendship with. It was my dear friend Angie who introduced us. Angie was certain that we would hit it off and in some strange way we did. I loved Jillian on one level and she irritated me on many others.
Now imagine the three of us walking down the street, Jillian the tall redheaded hippie, Angie the 5'7" fiery chubby Italian girl, and me the short fat Anglo. I laugh as I look back at the picture forever embedded in my mind. We could have been cartoon characters - God I miss those days. They were some of the best days of my life
Red Deer, Sydney and Montreal
Putting aside the differences in character, the three of us were friends - "tried and true" and we would do just about anything for each other. Angie had already told me a bit about Jillian's life story even before I had the chance to meet her.
Jillian and her son Kevin (9-years-old) lived alone and had just resettled after surviving an abusive relationship. The women's shelter where she was staying helped find her current apartment for her.
Angie was so impressed with this woman who had survived so much and still continued to battle the odds. Jillian was raising a child on her own while pursuing a university degree. It was for this very reason that Angie wanted me to meet Jillian. She felt we had so much in common. We were at least 15-years-older than Angie and we were both single parents going to university to pursue our dream.
Jillian was an open person and it didn't take her long to confide in me and tell me snippets of her life. She was always the happy wanderer. She came from the very small town of Red Deer, Alberta, but just couldn't stay put. She wanted to travel and experience the world. At the age of 19, she decided out of the blue to leave Red Deer. She moved to Sydney, Australia; sight unseen, with no definite plans and just her dreams to sustain her. She made it though; she forged her own way in life and created her own destiny.
She met and fell in love with an American man while in her late twenties and followed him back to the states. She was 30 years old when she gave birth to Kevin, her only child. The relationship never lasted. Kevin's father was a restless lazy man, who was incapable of holding onto a job and accepting the responsibility of fatherhood. He was too "laissez-faire" even for Jillian.
When he abandoned them, Jillian decided to come back to Canada to raise her child. It was close to 15 years since she lived in her own country. Instead of going back home to Red Deer, she decided she wanted to experience the wonder of a big Canadian city - Montreal.
Jillian was not as open to telling me what went on with the abusive partner she finally settled down with here in Montreal, though I suppose she shared more of that information with Angie. What she did tell me was that he was very controlling and wanted everything his own way. He would of course beat her up at the drop of a hat as well.
Beaten for collecting rocks
She did share one story with me though. She told me that one time they were walking along a country road enjoying the night air. She was very happy. She and Kevin were walking on the opposite side of the road searching for interesting pebbles and rocks, the type of thing that little boys like to do. Her boyfriend was irritated and asked her to come over to his side of the road and walk with him. She told him the more interesting rocks were on the other side and they were just a few feet away from each other anyhow. They could almost reach out and touch each other, figuratively speaking of course. She was beaten after they got home because she disobeyed him.
Now and then she would say little tidbits about him; but not much. She knew neither Angie nor I were very happy with his behaviour nor would we indulge her when she said she missed him.
About a year later Jillian was in a place where she could finally say she was over him and she had moved on. We were so happy for her. She was doing so well. Unfortunately, much to our chagrin, this new Jillian was short-lived as she was about to revert to her old ways.
Missing her abusive boyfriend
One night Jillian decided to go out and have fun for a change. She was tired of working so hard at her studies and felt she needed the break. She met someone who had known her and her abusive boyfriend when they were a couple. Naturally, she inquired about him and was shocked to hear that he had a new girlfriend and had moved on. Jillian was beyond herself. He had found another girlfriend, he had replaced her and she was yet to find someone else!
She told Angie and I all about the meeting. Unfortunately, she reverted back to the old ways from that point onward. Jillian was now talking about how she missed him, still loved him and wanted him back.
I tried to explain to her that this feeling of hers was just a reaction to the news; she did not really love him anymore. She just was not ready to hear that he had another girlfriend and she was now permanently replaced. She argued it was love.
Both Angie and I told her the worst thing she could possible do was go back to him. She had gotten out of that situation once alive, who knew if she would be able to get out of it a second time. She insisted she had failed him and that was why he turned to another woman.
Jillian was hurt and she felt we had betrayed her. Why would we not listen to her feelings? How could we call ourselves her friends?
I answered Jillian very sternly, "How could we call ourselves your friends if we didn't try to stop you. You are not thinking straight. This is a dangerous man and you would not only put your own life in jeopardy again, you would put your son's life in it as well."
She didn't understand; she wouldn't listen. One night she called me in the middle of the night to tell me she finally did it. She phoned her ex abusive boyfriend and agreed to meet him. They met at a neutral place and all the feelings were there as if they never left. She argued that she was meant to be with him. They had a special connection. By now you can guess what I said to her that night.
Shortly after that, she told me that she met the mutual friend again who said that her ex-boyfriend beat up his new girlfriend and she left him. Suddenly Jillian remembered how this was his pattern. This was what he did to woman, this was the reason she left in the first place - not because she didn't love him but because she was afraid of him.
The hysteria began. She was afraid to leave her apartment, afraid that he would show up at her door. Though she claimed she never gave him her phone number or address, she did let slip the area of town she lived in. She was afraid to go to Concordia for classes. He knew she was taking courses there. He would come after her. She was afraid to go to our favourite restaurant with us across the street from the university in case he would come after her there.
Angie wanted me to change our meeting spot for Jillian's sake and I refused. I told Angie as a psychology student, I could not buy into her hysteria, we had to see her through it, but she had to face her demons. This man didn't know where she lived, Concordia University had over 2,000 students in it; he did not know which building she studied at or what her hours were. Furthermore, he did not know we gathered at the restaurant after classes. We were with her at all times. He would not try anything with two other people accompanying her. We had to help her put things into perspective.
So Jillian finally settled down and let go of the hysteria. She came back to the restaurant. He had not tried to communicate with her and life went on, or did it?
The healing process
Unfortunately, this story ends very tragically. Jillian learned that he started to work as a driver for a small grocery store on the other side of town. He barely worked there a month when he got into a fight with a 17-year-old store clerk over a case of beer. He went home very angry after his shift and came back when he knew the young boy would be still be working. He entered the store and knifed the boy to death! The police were called and he was
apprehended on the spot. He is currently serving a life sentence in one of our penitentiaries.
Jillian was devastated. She blamed herself for being stupid enough to trust this man. She couldn't believe that she could find herself loving a cold blooded murderer. She blamed herself for not alerting the police about his aggressive behavior. She blamed herself for the death of that innocent young boy; even though she had no control over his behavior or any way of knowing he would kill somebody.
She did what all abused women do - she took responsibility for the error of this man's ways. As for Angie and I, we did what any friend would do. We supported, loved, and helped her through the healing process.
After Jillian graduated from Concordia University with her bachelors in Fine Arts, she moved back to Alberta, not to Red Deer where her parents still lived, but to Chilliwack, B.C. We lost contact after that. I miss her so much. I hope she is doing well.
All photos taken from the public domain
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