There’s one Christmas Day that Melissa will never forget.
It was the early ‘90s, and Melissa, a mother to two young children, received a Christmas gift she had dreamed of for years: to watch her children enjoy a safe and happy Christmas morning.
“Our first experience with The Cridge Centre was Christmas,” she recalls. “The people made us feel so welcome.”
Melissa’s kids spent the day meeting Santa Claus and opening small gifts.
“There were lots of other kids, so they didn’t feel so alone,” she adds. “It was the best Christmas for me. It was the most beautiful experience.”
Melissa and her kids stayed at The Cridge Transition House for Women while rebuilding a life safe from Melissa’s abusive husband. The Cridge Transition House was the first place she stayed as she began to plan out a new future.
Melissa met her husband when she was 19 years old.
“I guess I made up a lot of excuses for some of his unusual behaviour,” she recalls. “He was very jealous and controlling, and over time, I wasn’t allowed to go out with my school friends or anything like that.”
In her early 20s, Melissa was accepted to a prestigious school, but shortly after moving, she learned she was pregnant. Pressured by family, the couple married, and the abuse quickly went from bad to worse.
“I had to call the police a couple of times because he was threatening me or smashing me against walls,” she remembers. “He tried to drown me in the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes. It was horrendous.”
Eventually, they moved to Vancouver Island, where the abuse escalated. Melissa had taken a high-paying job and says the pressure of that transition, and the shifting power dynamics around the family’s money led to more abuse. Her husband went to counselling, but nothing changed.
“He refused to understand that he was abusive,” she says. “Everything was my fault.”
Melissa’s new connections at work gave her strength. Her friends helped her understand that the abuse wasn’t OK and finally, she left for good, taking her kids to The Cridge Transition House, where they received shelter and counselling.
“It was a heart-wrenching and terrifying growth period,” Melissa says. “But at the same time, I saw these glimmers of hope. Like, ‘I can do this.’”
And she did. Melissa started her own company and has since remarried and rebuilt her life. But even 30 years after her time at The Cridge Transition House, Melissa says she’ll never forget the feelings of warmth, support and relief.
“It was a place of safety. I didn’t feel isolated. I didn’t feel like a freak. Didn’t feel weak. Because I was with many other women that were experiencing similar or worse.”
Through therapy, Melissa has found empowerment and confidence.
“With The Cridge Centre, I had a lot of counselling. My children had a lot of counselling, and that helped us significantly grow,” she says. “My children are not going to be abusers. I’m not going to be abused. I’m going to take ownership for where I am and I’m going to grow from here.”
“It made me who I am today.”
The Cridge Transition House for Women is a safe place for women with or without children escaping emotional, psychological or physical abuse in their homes. The Cridge Centre provides safe emergency shelter, supportive counselling, connections to community resources and supports for children. For more information, visit cridge.org/cthw/.
If you are unsure if you are ready to leave but want to know more about available help, call our outreach worker at 250-479-3963.