My Sister’s Nightmare

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…

 

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Alberta Legal Information Society would like your feedback

The Alberta Legal Information Society would like your feedback about the family violence section of theLegalAve.ca website. We are currently working to add video and visual enhancements to the family violence pages. We want to ensure that we highlight the legal information that will be most useful to victims of family violence.

If you have a moment to provide your feedback, we would be very grateful! We would love to hear your thoughts about things like:

  • What legal information victims need the most at the outset
  • What confuses or overwhelms victims about their legal matters
  • What input you have about the style of the videos/images that will allow for the best communication with victims of family violence (for example, images to avoid or how to make communication easier to retain)

In addition to the general questions above, we welcome specific feedback about which areas of our information pages you would want to highlight for your clients. We could then promote them in the videos or images as something important to read and learn about. Here are links to two of the pages related to family violence:

  • Family Violence & the Legal Process – an overview of things to consider/expect when navigating the legal system as a victim of family violence
  • Protective Orders – an overview of civil and criminal protective order options in Alberta (including forms and directions on the Process tab)

If you are interested, there are several more family violence topics on LegalAve. Those can be found here.

If you have any comments or feedback to provide, please contact Marsha Guthrie at marsha@albertalegalinformationsociety.ca or by phone at 780.756.9822.

Feedback would be appreciated by Friday, June 2, 2017.

Thanks in advance for your help in making LegalAve more accessible and helpful for victims of family violence.

Marsha Guthrie

Executive Director

Homeward Trust Edmonton Reports

From Homeward Trust

Together with our partners at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta and the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension, Homeward Trust is pleased to announce the release of two reports that highlight the roles that housing providers can play in supporting families affected by domestic violence:

Domestic Violence: Roles of Landlords and Property Managers is a report on research conducted by the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta and the Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta.  The report explores the key roles that front line staff currently play, and what they need to be even more effective. It was funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy through Homeward Trust’s Community Research Projects funding program. This report is available at http://www.cplea.ca/research/

Homeward Trust Domestic Violence Forum 2016 Final report captures the robust discussion prompted by the remarks by Ms. Helevuo-Burnet, Senior Business Partner (Domestic Abuse) with Peabody UK, at the Homeward Trust Domestic Violence and Housing Forum held in Edmonton in October 2016. Landlords, property managers, and domestic violence service providers urged better communication and more training resources to assist front line staff in helping their tenants. The report is available at http://homewardtrust.ca/what-weve-learned/publications/