Domestic violence survivor shares her story at Moose Jaw Day of Remembrance event

More than 100 people gathered in Moose Jaw Thursday at Minto United Church to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

'It doesn't matter who you are. Domestic violence can happen to anyone,' says Lani Elliott

Keynote speaker Lani Elliott of Carry the Kettle First Nation told her story of surviving domestic violence to a packed room. (Penny Smoke/CBC)

The packed room fell silent as Lani Elliott, a survivor of domestic violence, began to tell her story.

She survived years of abuse and a savage attack with an aluminum bat that nearly ended her life.

"People asked me why I stayed for so long," said Elliott, originally from Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation in Saskatchewan. 

"I thought he loved me; we were in love."

More than 100 people gathered in Moose Jaw Thursday at Minto United Church to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

The day was established in 1991, and commemorates the Dec. 6, 1989 shooting at the l'École Polytechnique de Montréal, where 14 women were killed by a man who targeted them because they were women.

The event was hosted by the Moose Jaw Transition House, a women's shelter that provide services to those experiencing interpersonal violence and abuse.

Taking away stigma

Executive director Lori Lancaster said events like these are critical to raising awareness "because we want to take that stigma away, so women or anyone aren't afraid to come forward."

Saskatchewan had Canada's highest rate of police-reported intimate partner violence in 2016 among the provinces.

"We invited Lani because of the courage she has to tell her story, and how she got herself out of that situation and built a really strong foundation for others to come forward." 

Candles burn in memory of the 14 women killed on Dec. 6, 1989 at the l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. Their deaths inspired the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. (Penny Smoke/CBC)

The room was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop as Elliott told the gathering how she nearly lost her life at the hand of her husband on the side of a gravel road. With her voice shaking at certain points, Elliott described how she escaped her own situation.

"It doesn't matter what walk of life you come from; it doesn't matter what your financial background is. It doesn't matter what your career path is, your ethnicity or if you are gay or straight," said Elliott.

"It doesn't matter who you are. Domestic violence can happen to anyone."

Educating kids on healthy relationships

Elliott is now a motivational speaker who talks about healthy versus unhealthy relationships.

"If I can make a difference in the life of one person, just one, then everything I have experienced would have been worth it." 

The Saskatchewan government recently introduced a number of initiatives to help those fleeing domestic violence.

Elliott said it's a step in the right direction, but said there is still a long way to go because of the high rates of domestic violence in Saskatchewan.

"Unfortunately a lot of people living in remote communities and on First Nations don't have the same supports as bigger cities," said Elliott.

"I am hoping with this new legislation or new programs, that situation can change."

Elliott's ultimate goal would be to have middle schools teach about healthy relationships in the curriculum.

About the Author

Penny Smoke


Penny Smoke is Cree/Saulteaux and was born and raised in Saskatchewan on the Treaty 4 territory. She currently works with CBC Saskatchewan and has spent time with CBC Indigenous, CBC Storytelling Project as a reporter and as an associate producer with CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition.