Nova Scotia

'You're strong enough': Victim of domestic violence encourages others to speak out

A Sydney woman is sharing her experience with domestic violence in the hopes of encouraging others to speak out. 

WARNING: This story contains graphic and disturbing content

Kerry Moules was assaulted by her boyfriend in Sydney in March 2018. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

A Sydney woman is sharing her story about domestic violence in order to encourage other victims to come forward.

In March 2018, life took a dramatic shift for Kerry Moules. Her boyfriend of six weeks attacked her while she was sleeping.

"I had a glass smashed over my head," she said. "I was punched in the face five times and then I was dragged by my hair and I had my head smashed off the floor to the point where I lost count. It was over 15 times."

Her boyfriend at the time attacked her in her bedroom. Her two children were home.

This is Family Violence Prevention Week in Cape Breton. Moules said women must speak out, both to heal and to help prevent similar incidents.

Moules said following the assault, her assailant broke her phone. 

"He cracked it in his hands and threw it against the wall and said, 'Good luck now, bitch.'"

She managed to get her daughter's phone and call 911. 

Her attacker was charged with assault. 

She went to court numerous times as his case moved through the justice system. She said the process was arduous.

"You feel like a victim the whole way, until the very end when justice is served," said Moules. 

'Feels intimidating' 

Moules said three police officers and paramedics with Emergency Health Services responded to her call on the night she was attacked.

She said the police didn't do anything wrong, but she would have preferred if a female officer had been present. 

"I had three male officers who were there of course to protect me, but after being beaten by a man, you're scared and it feels intimidating," she said. "The police officers were great, don't get me wrong, but how I felt at the time, it was tough." 

The man who attacked Kerry Moules was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to assault. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Police say it is their practice to make a female officer available when requested.

"This is not always possible, because there might not be a female officer on duty at the time," said police spokesperson Desiree Magnus. "But we make every effort to accommodate these requests." 

Moules said it took her a week after the attack before she told her family and friends what had happened. 

"I guess embarrassed, just ashamed," she said, explaining the delay.

But now she said she knows the importance of getting help, even when it's difficult to ask.

"I think any woman who is going through this needs to reach out, needs to ask for help and know that there are so many resources to help, there really is."

Difficult first step

Coming forward and talking about abuse is a often a difficult first step to take, according to the head of a women's shelter in Sydney.

Helen Morrison, the executive director of the Cape Breton Transition House, said victims are often asked why they didn't leave sooner or why they didn't report the offence to somebody.

"It's a complicated issue and there's a lot of shame attached, and so shame is quite often a motivator for them to remain silent," she said.

She said women get trapped in a seemingly unbreakable loop of abuse. 

Helen Morrison is the executive director of transition house in Sydney, N.S. (CBC)

"When you're in a domestic violence situation, your abuser is in control of that whole situation and quite often that happens without you even recognizing it's happening," said Morrison.

"One of the things we try to help women recognize and embrace is taking their own power back in their own lives."

She said at the root of that power is self-esteem, which is usually diminished by the layers of abuse. 

She said restoring self-esteem can't be rushed.

"It's a process and it takes a long time to regain your power and who you are, your understanding of who you are and your worth in society." 

Moules's assailant initially pleaded not guilty, then changed his plea to guilty. He was sentenced last month to a year of probation and was ordered into addictions and career counselling.

"The judge, Anne Marie MacInnes, was incredible," said Moules. "She gave him a pretty hard time at sentencing, which I think made me feel really good just because even though it's not a huge sentence for him, she really stressed how much of a violent crime it was." 

'Move forward'

Moules said she's doing better now. She continues to receive counselling and is grateful to her friends and family and for all the services she's been able to access.

Her advice for other women living with abuse?

"You're strong enough, even if they made you feel weak," she said. "And if you do go forward and talk about it, think about someone else you're helping … on top of helping yourself. "

"That's the biggest thing is to move forward and get away from that. Because no one deserves that. Nobody. A dog doesn't deserve that."

About the Author

From people around the corner to those around the world, Norma Jean MacPhee has more than a decade of experience telling their stories on the radio, TV and online. Reach Norma Jean at norma.jean.macphee@cbc.ca