Saskatoon

Sask. woman shares domestic violence experience in hopes of helping others and herself

It's been years since Kendra Weenie left an abusive relationship, but she still bears some of the emotional scars.

Kendra Weenie says gaining self esteem can help heal scars of abuse

Kendra Weenie is a 2020 CBC Future 40 winner. (Submitted to CBC)

It's been years since Kendra Weenie left an abusive relationship, but she still bears some of the emotional scars.

Weenie made headlines seven years ago when she put out a public plea for someone to track down her abuser. She had been beaten by her partner, the father of her baby daughter.

Now she is preparing to host an online conference aimed at helping others in similar situations.

Her journey to regain her health and well-being is an ongoing one.

Weenie, who is from Sweetgrass First Nation, has found helping others in abusive relationships has a healing effect on her. She started a non-profit to help single mothers in Saskatoon track down gently used furniture for their homes.

Last year, she wrote a book called Surviving Domestic Violence and was named to CBC Saskatchewan's Future 40. 

She has also been sharing her story through talks around the province and — since the pandemic began — virtually.

"At the time when I was stuck in that relationship, I felt very alone, very isolated, like I was the only one going through ... domestic abuse," Weenie told Saskatoon Morning's Leisha Grebinski. "After leaving is when I discovered that I'm not alone. I'm not the only one who has gone through it."

Weenie's ordeal began when she met a man on her university graduation night back in 2012.

"I just remember thinking that I had finally met the man of my dreams," Weenie said.

"I've met someone who I was going to spend my life with and have kids with and marry eventually. And he just checked off all my boxes."

How self-esteem plays into relationships. A Cree woman says she learned that lesson far too late in life. Kendra Weenie lives in North Battleford, and shares her story of healing after domestic violence, ahead of a virtual conference she's hosting this weekend. 12:00

She said she fell for him so quickly she ignored warning signs like his drug addiction.

"I kept making excuses for him and I kept letting him back in because initially I did believe his excuses and I did feel sorry for him," she said. 

"The other reason why I ignored those red flags was because up until the age of 24, I had never really experienced a healthy relationship," she said.

Five months into the relationship, Weenie found out she was pregnant. 

"By that point I was being controlled financially and was experiencing some emotional abuse, so I did feel trapped already that early on," she said.

Eventually her partner became violent.

"At eight weeks pregnant was when he first became physical. And I really downplayed what actually happened."

The final straw came when he beat her while drunk/high and was holding their newborn daughter.

"He ended up picking up our little eight-day-old baby. And he started swearing at me, lecturing me. And then he started beating me. And after a while, he threatened to kill me if I left him. And in that moment, I believed him because I was so afraid for my life. And it was actually prayer that that got me out of that situation," she said.

"I prayed really hard for a way out and was able to escape after a while. Fortunately, my daughter was unharmed."

Kendra Weenie with her then-infant daughter. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Her partner was put on electronic monitoring, but he cut off the ankle bracelet. Weenie fled to an interval house in North Battleford.

"What got him put back in jail at the time was my plea for help on Facebook," she said.

Weenie said she still has moments of anxiety and stress years later.

"There are still little triggers that will come up once in a while," she said. "The one thing I remember when I'm going through that trauma memory or just feel like I'm reliving that time a little bit is just to be kind to myself and to remember positive self talk." 

The pandemic brought back some of that anxiety when she had to move back home to her mother's home in Sweetgrass.

"I found that I had really high anxiety every day and I couldn't take control of it," she said. "I had to go back to counselling and seek help."

This weekend, Weenie is hosting a virtual conference called Healing through Trauma. 

She said she hopes conference attendees will see what she's been through and learn they're worthy of a good life. 

"The idea came to me six months ago because victims are stuck at home with their abusive partners so that was going through my mind. I've always wanted to host an event, and was hoping it would be in person but this is the next best thing," she said.

"There are so many other women who were in like 20-year relationships that were abusive in some way. And I thought, well, you know what, I really would have appreciated if another woman going through what I went through was open about their story, was open about getting out and taking better care of themselves and turning their life around."

The conference starts at 10 a.m. CST on Saturday on Zoom.

Access is $25 dollars and can be purchased through https://www.facebook.com/events/2832991633681301 or https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/survivors-virtual-conference-healing-through-trauma-tickets-126624416037.

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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