Growing up in an abusive environment, Georgina Doumont vowed she would never make the same mistake her mother did.
It was a promise she could not keep.
Her first marriage of 25 years and a second relationship that lasted 10 years both involved some form of abuse by her partners.
In the last situation she literally found herself out on the street with no money, nowhere to live and with no friends or family to help.
“At that stage you just get to the point where there is no you anymore and you wake up one morning and you say, oh my God I’m living my mothers life,” recalled the 61-year-old Penticton woman. “The thing is, is in this circumstance it was disguised as love but it was verbally and mentally very abusive and controlling.”
Today the 61-year-old Penticton resident is happy, successful and most importantly, not living every day in fear.
Her world changed that day, when, with nowhere else to turn, she reached out to the South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS) and moved in the transition house.
Doumont shared her story Thursday afternoon with those attending the SOWINS Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser and awareness event.
“I learned being someone who was abused, that’s not my shame I didn’t do that to myself,” she said. “I really don’t know where I would be without them (SOWINS). I am a survivor, we are all survivors. SOWINS gave me the strength to go to school, and they gave me the confidence to get out and network and meet other women and find myself a good paying job and now I own a condo and have no debts and I’m doing really well.
“I think we owe it to the rest of the world, to the women that are in third world countries that are being raped and maimed murdered, we’re their hope, we’re the only hope they have. Living in a free society, seeing if they fight and they support each other, they can make a change.”
According to SOWINS executive director Debbie Scarborough, Doumont’s case is far too common.
“I’ve worked in the anti violence sector and the criminal justice system for over 30 years and I’ve worked with a lot of women who have been shot, stabbed, had broken bones, were threatened, that have died of homicide and have died of suicide. No, her story is not isolated,” said Scarborough. “I think all the service providers and the agencies have done and are doing a great job getting the message out there that you do not have to tolerate abuse and that there are options but are we eradicating abuse? No.
“I understand why women stay (in abusive relationships) and I get why some of them will opt for suicide at the end of the day because they can’t get away, they can’t get away.”
A key aspect of the awareness aspect is to let women understand who are still in those shoes, there is help.
“Our clients are going to be out there today,” said Scarborough. “The women and children we serve, they’re going to be watching and it’s really important that they understand all those people believe that no one should be living in fear, that we support them in their journey whether they’re still living in abuse, returning to abuse or clear and living with the impact, that we’re there to support them and we’re not going to judge them. That’s what I hope to accomplish today.
Doumont stressed that too was the most important part of her message to those at Thursday’s rally.
“If you think there is no place to go, there is. If you think there’s no one that cares, they do. And if you think there is no hope, take a look around you right now,” she said.