Out of the Darkness and Into the Light: Tracy’s Story
Today we introduce Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, a regular feature on our blog. Each month, we will share a story from a woman who has come to the Centre in a state of crisis or distress and found the support she needs to move her life forward. We start with Tracy's story.
"I died at fourteen," says Tracy. That was the age she met her future husband and became entangled in a web of abuse at his hands and the hands of his father.
Soon after she started dating her boyfriend, she was sexually molested by his father. She also witnessed this man molest his own daughter.
She was just a kid and was shell-shocked. She didn’t know what to do. She told her boyfriend, his sister, and her own sister and brother, but none of them knew what to do either. In that era, people just didn’t talk about this kind of thing. Her boyfriend didn’t care, and told her not to say anything to anyone.
Fourteen was also the age that Tracy lost all of her friends because of her boyfriend’s possessiveness. At the same age, she experienced what would be the first of countless incidents of abuse when her boyfriend beat her after she had gone to a party without him. During their relationship, he kept her out late at night to the point that her parents could no longer handle her way of life and kicked her out of her house. She was 15 and had to quit school, although she had been a straight-A student. At this point, her boyfriend took over her life.
When she was nineteen, they got married. She did not want the marriage but it was set up and paid for, and she felt she had no choice.
The abuse she endured during her marriage took many forms. Her husband would cut up her clothes when he didn’t like what she was wearing. If another man looked at her, he would start a fight. He would take all the money she earned and give her only a small amount. He called her a bitch. He told her she was fat and ugly. He told lies about her to make it seem like she caused the problems in their marriage.
If she was five minutes late getting home from work he would come after her. She started working shifts opposite to him to get away from him as much as possible, but he would be in the parking lot watching her, even when she was on her break. He accused her of cheating on him. If another man talked to her, he would take it out on her, behind closed doors at home. He would hit her, break down doors, and even once strangled her and left her for dead. He locked her in rooms. When she tried to leave he would chase her and try to drive her off the road. He forced her to have sex, make pornographic films and pictures, and do "the most degrading things." He stomped on her feet to the point that she lost her toenails. But he did everything behind closed doors so no one would know.
She didn’t know any time she walked in the door whether she was going to get hit, cut, or thrown against a wall.
Once Tracy escaped and got to a town three hours away, but he went to her place of work, learned where she was, and found her within five hours of her leaving. He threatened to kill her and the man who helped her escape.
During their marriage, her husband forced her to have an abortion. He hit her when she was pregnant, and she suffered three miscarriages. One child survived, a daughter, whom Tracy calls her "miracle baby." Her daughter didn’t see the abuse, but she heard it on occasion.
Her husband later became addicted to a prescription painkiller and the abuse intensified. When she saw her husband hit her daughter, Tracy knew she had to take action.
During one beating, Tracy was wearing her Bluetooth earpiece. It was hidden by her hair so her husband did not know it was there, nor that it was turned on. On the other end, Tracy’s close friend—her "hero"—was listening to everything that happened. This friend made a video statement. On the basis of that evidence, Tracy’s husband was arrested and later convicted of assault and uttering threats, but he continued to harass and stalk her.
After her husband was arrested for assaulting her, Tracy tried making a compromise and sharing the house with him for the sake of her daughter, but when she started going out on her own, he started stalking her.
Eventually she relocated to another city, on the advice of police. Her husband pleaded guilty to the charges against him, and because it was his first offense, he was able to avoid a jail term.
Out on parole, he took everything Tracy had in the house they had shared. With no money and nothing to her name, Tracy and her daughter had to move into a shelter. The house is hers but he won’t settle their divorce. He has borrowed against their line of credit, so she is in debt. He pays no support for her or her daughter.
Even when the marriage ended, the abuse did not. Her ex-husband and his family stalked her because she had gone to the police about her father-in-law’s abuse. She had to relocate several times to avoid him and his family, but they always found her. Her ex-husband now lives in the same community as her and has even sought counselling in the same place as Tracy and her daughter. He has harassed her by text message and driven by her house to try and scare her. Although they are stalking her, her ex-husband and family keep the mandated distance away from her, so there is nothing the police can do.
Yet, because of the Women’s Centre, Tracy feels hopeful.
Tracy came to the Centre after a stay at a women’s shelter. The people at the shelter told her she had a lot of trigger points to deal with. She had to overcome moments of doubt, when she blamed herself, thinking she was "stupid" to stay in the relationship so long. She also, at times, thought that it would be easier to go back because she would then have her house, food, her clothes—everything she had before.
But the Centre has kept her focused and kept her strong enough to realize that she cannot go back. Tracy says, "Without them, I never would have made it...The Women’s Centre has pulled me through all of this. They’ve let me know that it’s not my fault. They’ve let me know that I have to stay strong. They tell me, ‘Please don’t go back to him.’" And Tracy now knows that she will never return to her ex-husband.
The Centre became a safety zone for Tracy, so much so that she would come an hour or so early for her appointments just to enjoy the sense of calm she felt there. The Centre continues to be a lifeline for Tracy: "You can call the Centre and they’re there for you. Any volunteer will pick up that phone and say, ‘Let me help you.’" And, says Tracy, "you know what, ten minutes later, you’ve got that strength right back."
Now she has a mission in life: to make sure nobody suffers like she did. She had a dream of recording the song "Only Women Bleed" by Alice Cooper. She obtained his permission, recorded the song, and plans to sell it to raise funds for the Centre.
Tracy used to be afraid to tell her story, but she believes that the pain she experienced can be helpful to others; that it can inspire them to make positive changes in their own lives. She wants to speak for The Women’s Centre, especially in high schools. She can see herself using her story to help young women recognize the signs of abuse and take action to stop it.
She would like to raise awareness of the legal loopholes that have caused her to be stalked to this day, forced her to relocate when she was not guilty of any crime, and allowed her ex-husband to avoid jail time.
Tracy wants people to know the value of a tool like Bluetooth, which saved her life. Being heard was the most important thing because, in abusive relationships, it’s often a "he said/she said" situation. A woman can say she’s being abused but she cannot necessarily prove it. Technology like this can give her the evidence she needs.
She also plans to publish a book about her experiences that will give other abuse victims hope and show them that there is help available. She wants people to read her book and say, "She did it, and I can too."
Most of all, Tracy is looking forward. She has goals and she now has the courage and strength to achieve them.