A Winnipeg mother whose children were abducted and taken to Mexico nine years ago is sharing her story of sexual abuse and exploitation for the first time in hopes of helping other victims of domestic violence.
Emily Cablek is still healing from the trauma she suffered while living with her former partner Kevin Maryk, who abducted their two children, Abby and Dominic, in August 2008.
Maryk was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of child abduction in 2014.
"It's definitely been hard — I mean every day is hard still, but I think if I can speak out about it I can help people," Cablek told CBC News.
The story of the children's abduction made national headlines.
Abby and Dominic were just five and seven years old when they went missing while on a court-approved visit with their father. Maryk never returned the children to Cablek, who had legal custody.
Since she was reunited with her children five years ago, "We've become really close and I wouldn't change that for anything," she said.
Cablek says it hasn't been an easy adjustment at home but she's now happier than she's been in a long time: "It's just the three of us. We're family and we're really good with that."
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Cablek says she's had a lot of time to reflect on how things went wrong in her relationship with Maryk.
"I didn't have an easy time growing up, and I went through a lot before I met Kevin, and I have struggled with a lot of different things," Cablek said.
Memoir out next year
It's those struggles that she plans to document in a memoir about her life, which is due to be published next summer.
The book will include stories about her personal struggles as a teen and her alleged sexual exploitation by her then partner Maryk, as well as the events that led to the abduction of her kids who went missing for four years in Mexico.
"When I sit down to write, it is challenging to go through everything again," she said. "I would like to help people now. I think that's my biggest goal right now is to be able to do that."
Cablek, who is originally from Ontario, said some of the details surrounding her abuse are difficult to talk about, but she alleges she was sexually exploited by Maryk when she was 17.
"I came here to Winnipeg by myself when I was 17 and so that's how I ended up meeting Kevin."
Cablek says she began dating him, and while her relationship lasted for years it was a "very scary" time of her life.
"When you're abused your choices become very limited," she said. "It's especially hard when somebody asks, 'Why you would let someone do that to you?'
"Well you don't let them, that's why it's called abuse. A lot of the things I went through weren't choices I made."
Maryk was already serving time for the abduction of his children when he pleaded guilty in May 2016 to sexually assaulting Cablek between Jan.1, 2002 and May, 30, 2006 before he abducted his kids.
During the 2016 sentencing hearing Crown attorney Debbie Buors told the court that Maryk engaged in "violent behaviour" with the victim and that the assaults took place on many occasions for about a year. "On some occasions she would be choked," Buors said.
A publication ban was put in place to protect Cablek's identity at the time, but that ban was lifted by the courts last week at the request of Cablek and Buors.
Maryk was sentenced to four years behind bars for sexual assault but given credit of two years for time served. He was also charged with living off the avails of prostitution, but those charges were dropped.
'We give life, we have babies, we're mothers, so why are we always brought down in our time of need? Why aren't we raised up?' - Emily Cablek
Cablek says she's started writing a blog to let other victims of domestic violence know they are not alone.
"I think women are cast down for any kind of wrongdoing in their life, whether it's a choice they made or whether that choice was made for them," she said.
"And it's hard to get help when you feel like you don't deserve it, and when you feel like nobody really wants to help you anyway."
'The system is broken'
Cablek says she struggled with depression and anxiety after the abduction of her kids, and it took years to get the help she needed.
She says after reuniting with her kids in Winnipeg she struggled financially and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which prevented her from working.
"The system is broken — even just going through the system and having people that were in positions of authority that treated you like you were no good, like you deserved everything that was coming at you."
Cablek says she was in a custody battle with Maryk when her children were abducted. She says it took a long time for her to tell authorities about the abuse because she felt like nobody would believe her at the time.
"When a person is abused they should feel comfortable going and reporting that abuse, they shouldn't be scared that they're not going to be believed," she said.
Cablek says changes need to be made so victims of abuse aren't afraid to come forward.
'The kids were behind for the four years they were gone — they weren't in school — but they got caught up quickly. They're doing amazing, they are amazing!" - Emily Cablek
"I'm not even sure if it's more of anything that needs to be there. I think it's the quality of what is already there that needs to change."
She says she felt judged by the public when media reports surfaced about her drug addiction and her time being sexually exploited.
"We give life, we have babies, we're mothers, so why are we always brought down in our time of need? Why aren't we raised up?"
However, Cablek also points out she did get some support, such as the detective in her missing children's case whom she still keeps in touch with, and the friends who took her in when she was in financial distress.
She's also thankful for the many donations from the public in recent years.
"You know, I don't want to speak bad of everybody in the system because there were so many wonderful people, it's just harder to find," she said.
"When I was going through everything I didn't want to be treated like I was different. I felt like I was the bad person. That was a difficult thing to go through."
Cablek says she's moved on. She now works for an accounting company doing administrative work, and also hopes to start a company for public speaking events in the future.
'They're doing amazing'
Cablek says her children, who are now 15 and 16, are doing very well but admits it took a lot of hard work to get them where they are today.
"The kids were behind for the four years they were gone — they weren't in school — but they got caught up quickly," Cablek said. "They're doing amazing. They are amazing!"
Cablek gives credit to the school division and teachers for helping her kids succeed over the last few years.
"Abby loves volleyball and my son, he's interested in cars now, so auto-mechanics," she said with a smile. "I've been trying very hard to be happy. I take it one day at a time. I enjoy my children and I feel so blessed."
Cablek says the family is now preparing for Christmas and looking forward to the holidays.
Maryk eligible for early release
Maryk is eligible for early release from prison in January.
During his sentencing hearing for the abduction of his children, defence lawyer Todd Bourcier said Maryk made a mistake and that he was worried the children's mother was returning to a life of prostitution. He said there was no chance Maryk would attempt to abduct Dominic or Abby again.
Cablek says she's not sure she will ever have justice, but she just wants to focus on the future.
"I don't want to live in fear now," Cablek said. "But I hope that by helping others I can at least feel like everything has been worth it, what I went through.
"And I don't want him to ever be part of my life again."
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