Shaylene Wilson started off the New Year having the Jaws of Life pry her out of a car wreck that could have killed her.
After getting into an argument with her on-again boyfriend, Wilson told the Winnipeg Free Press she was thrown into his car against her will, repeatedly beaten until finally the car was driven sideways into a parked semi-trailer, crushing the passenger side where she sat.
Police said they believe this was intentionally done to her.
“I was the stupid girl who took her abuser back. Which very well good have ended my life last night (sic),” Wilson wrote on Facebook following the accident.
A few days later, she posted again saying she was surprised by the amount of people blaming her for what happened. People don’t truly understand the cycle unless they’ve experienced it, she wrote.
Wilson was alive and able to speak out about her experience, but many are not.
Selena Rose Keeper, who was found bleeding to death on Flora Avenue last October, was stuck in this abuse cycle. She died shortly after being found. Police allege her boyfriend murdered her.
Keeper’s sister, Chelsea Baptiste, told CBC Keeper second-guessed the relationship, saying she was fine — but was also afraid to leave.
This cycle of abuse is very common and often misunderstood, a Winnipeg family violence counselor says.
“Sometimes there’s actually more risk when the relationship ends,” said Kara Neustaedter, of Winnipeg’s Evolve program at Klinic Community Health.
“It can instigate more threats of violence or acts of violence, and the victim might be afraid and feel safer by going home.”
Neustaedter has worked with abuse victims — and abusers — since 2007.
There were 90,300 victims of domestic abuse reported in 2013, according to Statistics Canada. Women accounted for almost 80 per cent of all victims.
Manitoba has the second highest rate of intimate partner violence in Canada, at 832.9 victims per 100,000 population.
Neustaedter said a victim going back to the arms of their abuser is very common. Sometimes they have to leave several times before being successful, she said.
“There’s no one clear answer as to why people go back. They might go back for financial reasons, because they have children with the person, they have mixed feelings…it’s natural for someone to have conflicting feelings for someone they may love who’s acting badly,” Neustaedter said.
Unfortunately, the public backlash Wilson described in her Facebook post is common as well. Neustaedter said she thinks it’s due to a combination of society’s tendency to victim-blame and people having simplistic views of relationships.
“What ends up happening (when victims return to their abusers) is friends and family can get very frustrated and sometimes can no longer feel like they can support them, which is really tragic,” Neustaedter said. When a person is secluded in an abusive relationship, Neustaedter said it allows the abuse to grow.
“Isolation allows abuse to flourish,” Neustaedter said. “It’s important to have friends as sounding boards, to have people to go to they can trust, and be getting reality checks on what is normal.
“It’s easy for people to get tricked into thinking certain behaviours are normal or to believe they are at fault,” she said.
Even if the victim does take the step to go to court and obtain a protection order, like Keeper did, Neustaedter said the order is only as good as the people who are required to respect it.
“There is extra responsibility put on the victim to document if there is attempted contact, they have to be vigilant in documenting … it can be exhausting for people who have been victimized,” Neustaedter said.
Camille Runke took full responsibility for her safety after getting a protection order against her estranged husband last July. Her sister, Maddie Laberge, told CBC Runke was diligent in keeping records and police commended her for doing everything right.
Police said Runke filed 22 complaints over a three-month period about her husband harassing her. On Oct. 31, Runke was shot and killed outside her workplace in St. Boniface. Police believe her husband killed her and then committed suicide.
Following Runke’s killing, Laberge put out a call to action asking the public to contact their elected officials and push for tougher legislation to protect domestic violence victims.
The province proposed new legislation in November to make firearm bans part of all protection orders and streamline the application process to make it easier for victims to get them. Expanding GPS monitoring to track alleged and convicted abusers is also being considered.
Because of the complexities surrounding abuse, Neustaedter said it’s important for all victims to know it’s not their fault and for friends and family to be supportive.
“Even if their decisions don’t make sense to you, stick with them,” Neustaedter said.
“Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship and I don’t think we hear that enough.”