The Many Faces of Abuse

Every International Women’s Day, I think of a teacher I once had and I’m reminded why such a day needs to exist.

Here’s a story I need to tell.

Growing up, I had a teacher and a mentor I was extremely close with. With only ten years between us, as an adult, our friendship strengthened and we have remained connected throughout my life. Although I spent much of my twenties traveling and living abroad, our friendship never waned. She was that friend who always got the call from the labour and delivery room when I had a new baby, whose daughter was my flower girl, and who is the Godmother of my youngest daughter.

Almost two years ago, she seemed to disappear. I never thought much of it – everyone gets busy and consumed in daily life. I never questioned it because our friendship has stood the test of time and circumstance. I got a little curious when she cancelled a trip we had planned. Next, she skipped my daughter’s (her God-daughter’s) birthday and finally, she didn’t turn up for our little girl’s First Communion. I certainly thought it was odd and she didn’t offer any real excuses, but I’m not a grudge-holder and never questioned her love for me or my family.

Shortly after the missed events, she turned up at my house one night after the kids were tucked into bed. She looked emaciated, having lost a ridiculous amount of weight since I last saw her. Her face was pale and her eyes looked lifeless.  At that moment I truly thought that she was coming to tell me she was sick and dying.

I was wrong. Even though she looked completely vacant and she had lost a part of herself, she was not dying. Over the next several months, we spent nearly every night together talking through the end of her 31 year marriage. I discovered why she had become the shell of the vibrant and spirited woman she once was as she admitted to enduring years of financial, psychological, and emotional spousal abuse. These soul-destroying acts had taken a terrible toll on her.

A couple of years later, and after countless hours of abuse counseling and group therapy, my determined friend has faced her situation with bravery. Not only is she committed to her own successful recovery, she is passionate about advocating women empowerment for others who are living the same nightmare. This is her message of strength and hope that she will share with the world.

This International Women’s Day is a good time to remember that women like my friend are everywhere. They are living among us. They are us. And they’ll only share their stories when we are prepared to listen.



Julie Cole

Author: Julie Cole

Julie Cole is the co-founding vice-president of award-winning children’s label manufacturer Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless entrepreneur awards. Cole is a regular television contributor, an influential and syndicated blogger and a mother of six. Follow her on twitter @juliecole and Instagram @cole.julie

6 thoughts

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. Abuse can be silent or loud – either way, the voice must be heard. Your friend is all of our friends. Her courage is a testament to the power of choice and the strength of will. Best to her on the journey forward.

  2. Sadly I can understand why these women didn’t come forth. There is a real fear culture around abuse. I had a very abusive boyfriend in my early teen years. It is amazing to me (in retrospect) how manipulative and controlling the abuser can be – making sure to isolate and create fear and insecurity. It’s more than just a physical crime – it is emotionally damaging. My heart goes out to these women but I hope that they can look around now and see that there is strength in numbers on this issue and they are not alone.

  3. Abuse does not always show as bruises and black eyes. It can show in the dead lifeless eyes of a person that has been worn down and mentaly grieving. But it’s still something to hide and be ashamed of, even though the sufferer doesn’t want to or project those experiences and emotions. Being a great friend and kind ear is the best medicine. Holding a grudge for missed get togethers will not solve anything. You are a great friend Julie and always take the moment to put yourself in the other persons shoes and then you walk a mile in them. Not many people do that.

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