Noellee Mowatt is nineteen years old, nine months pregnant, an immigrant to this country and currently in prison in Ontario. Why is she in prison? Because she will not testify against her boyfriend in court.
Yesterday I talked to a recent client of mine who I thought had some things in common with Noellee and asked her for her thoughts on this shocking turn of events.
With her permission, I would like to share some of Lynn’s experiences and thoughts.
Lynn, like Noellee is young. She was the victim of intimate partner abuse in ways that sound very similar to what has happened to Noellee. But here is where the two stories part.
Lynn’s partner was arrested by police and held in custody while he awaited trial. As it turns out, he waited 6 months for trial which gave Lynn time to process her experience, learn about the dynamics of abuse and feel strong enough to face him in court.
When I first met Lynn, she had many mixed emotions about her ex-partner. She was relieved to be free of him but she continuted to feel sorry for him. (Something abusive men are very good at eliciting.) She hoped he would get help and stop being abusive.
But Lynn had access to lots of good resources. The police officers were very understanding and supportive. They were available to her for advice when her ex did things like write her from prison.
She was given a social worker who understood the dynamics of abuse and free trauma counseling from Vicitim Services. She had family members and friends who were supportive and encouraging. She also entered into 20 weeks of Support Group with our program and read our book When Love Hurts.
It took time for Lynn to recover from all the abuse she had experienced. For several weeks she was concerned about her ex’s well being and held herself particially responsible for what had happened. We know these are things that women who have lived with abuse are taught to think by their partners.
But with lots of support, Lynn was able, after several months, to write a powerful impact statement. So powerful that her ex pleaded guilty and she never had to face him in court.
As I talked last night with Lynn about Noellee sitting in a jail her response to me was “that could have been me!”. Lynn instantly realized that if it had not been for all the support and information about the dynamics of abuse, she would have been unable or unwilling to testify. We both also reflected on how much more difficult things must be for Noellee who is 9 month pregnant. How invested she must be in hoping her boyfriend is the person he has told he is and will be the father he has promised to be. The honeymoon part of the Cycle of abuse is very powerful. (see page 10 of book)
It takes the right information, support, affirmation and perhaps most importantly time for victims of woman abuse to make sense of their experience and to free themselves of the entanglements of abuse. It is deeply disturbing that Noellee seems to have received none of these things but is being taught to fear the very “system” that is supposed to be there to help her.