by Monica Villanueva, RSW 26 June, 2017
My name is Sandra Monica Villanueva. I have been living in Canada as a Permanent Resident for 15 years. I am writing my sister’s story in hopes that justice will be served against her murderer. I am also writing to share the fatal effects of domestic violence and how both of our lives have been impacted because of it. Violence against women affects women everywhere. This proves that some of us lose our lives because of it.
I was born and raised in Mexico City. I had a wonderful family composed of my dad, my mom and my younger sister Illeana. I came to Canada in 2003 as a foreign student to study tourism in BC. I studied, but I also met and married a Canadian man in 2003. Shortly after marrying, my husband began to abuse me. I was a victim – who became a survivor – of domestic violence. I endured a lot of suffering and physical assaults and psychological abuse for almost 5 years until I decide to leave my abusive husband and take with me my pets and my personal things. During all these years, my parents and sister supported me. This love and support is what gave me strength, resilience and hope to move on. I finally obtained my divorce in 2009.
My family was very close and we loved each other very much. I flew back to Mexico every Christmas to spend time with my family – until the sad year of 2011 when my beloved dad passed away unexpectedly. Since then, I used to worry about my mom and sister back in Mexico. My sister was in a long-term relationship with her partner Cuauhtémoc Valadez who I did not know but strongly influenced my sister’s life, thoughts, and feelings. They lived together in my sister’s condo. I was worried about my mom as she was very lonely since my dad passed away. During this time, my sister tried to help my mom, however, her partner used to be highly manipulative with my sister. My sister used to work hard and had a comfortable life – she bought her own luxury vehicle, penthouse condo (with property title and mortgage documents in her name) and traveled frequently. To everyone on the outside including me, she was successful, but as I have come to know now she was suffering in silence.
In 2013 I was in Canada studying my Diploma of Social Worker from Grant MacEwan University and my mom was planning to attend my graduation. She never made it as she tragically and unexpectedly passed away one month before I graduated. It was a really hard situation for my sister and myself to deal with but we had each other. As the Executor of my mom’s will, my sister had a hard time dealing with the administrative details and disposing of the estate. Meanwhile, I continued living in Canada and looked for a stable job within my field that would allow me to have financial stability. My sister and I continued to be in touch and I started noticing something was not right. She would not tell me what was going on with her relationship as my sister did not want me to worry. My sister was always very reserved and did not want to” bother” me or her friends with her problems. I did not know that my sister was suffering in silence all this time. I came to know too late that she was being abused physically, financially, mentally and sexually by her long term partner.
Having some experience myself with domestic violence, I could sense that my sister was suffering. Many times I asked her if her partner was abusing her. She would say “He only yells at me, we argue but no more than that.” But my gut feeling would tell me something different…