On Monday, the Hiatus House kicked off their annual Shine the Light Tree Lighting Ceremony honouring survivors of domestic abuse for Women's Abuse Prevention Month.
Due to COVID restrictions, the event happened virtually on The Shine the Light Facebook page and YouTube. The event featured virtual performances and speeches from Theresa Sims, Nokomis Theresa, and Indigenous Culture and Language specialists from Ska, along with this year's two honourees Brittany Genovese and Udona Desjardins. The campaign focused on spreading awareness about women's abuse in Ontario and Windsor's available resources for shelter and help.
Brittany Genovese, honouree, survivor, nurse, and mother of four, described leaving an abuser was like getting off a drug; you must cut yourself off entirely from your abuser.
"It was the day that I dreaded and dreamed of at the same time," Genovese explained. "The anxiety of what people, my friends, my family and my children would think of me and not knowing what would happen next."
Genovese shared that the day she left her abuser, she experienced an unexplainable fear.
"It was gut-wrenching and paralyzing; I was going to start my new life," Genovese said. "Thoughts of fear, guilt and failure ran through my head."
Genovese said that making that first phone call to the Hiatus House was the hardest thing she had to do, but she was thankful she did it.
"Walking through the doors of the Hiatus House was extremely scary; what would it be like, where would my children and I sleep and eat, what other kinds of people would be there," Genovese said. "The Hiatus House was exceptional, 24 hours a day, front line staff was there to counsel me through every emotion; they were there to talk or just sit quietly."
Genovese said the Hiatus House was her saving grace and hoped her words could help someone else going through something similar.
"What I can say to other women going through a similar thing as I did is just do it, stop making excuses," Genovese says. "People don't realize sometimes whose going through this; my abuse was mostly mental and emotional, so I didn't have a lot of bruises, you know it wasn't visible."
Genovese explained that all of her abuse were invisible, even if the bruises and pain go away, the thoughts never go out.
"I still, two years later, am fighting them; I've moved on, and I'm happy in a relationship, I have my children, but something comes up every day and makes me have to stop and think how am I going to get through this today."
Brittany Genovese is one of many stories of violence and abuse towards women. If you know someone who is experiencing violence or abuse, reach out to the Hiatus House or contact their 24/7 help line (519) 252-7781.