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‘I wanted something better for myself,’ abuse survivor tells hushed audience (4 photos)

Raffaela Medaglia survived an abusive marriage; shared story at National Day of Remembrance event
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Raffaela Medaglia told a story Wednesday night. A story of severe physical abuse at the hands of an abusive husband.

Medaglia was the guest speaker at a local event held Wednesday at Sault College by Women In Crisis to mark the annual National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Medaglia, a mother and grandmother, told an audience “everywhere you turn there’s violence, and women and children are being killed.”

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is commemorated each Dec. 6 in Canada, the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.

Fourteen women were murdered at the school by an armed male student.

Medaglia said she remembers a time in which she dressed warmly in hot weather, her arms and neck covered, to hide the injuries.

“He’s my husband and I’ve got to give him a chance,” she recalled thinking at the time.

“I buried myself into work, stayed away from my friends and isolated myself from my family, I didn’t want them to see.”

“I painted a smile on my face, I always dressed well and put on a lot of makeup.”

The abuse grew worse and she finally left her husband.

“I had to. I wanted something better for myself. I knew there was something better if I survived,” Medaglia told Wednesday’s audience.

In 1984, Medaglia said she was attacked at work with a knife.

“He took a few minutes to disfigure me, disfigure my face, my right hand was cut to the bone and he gave me one in the chest.”

Medaglia survived, and had to undergo plastic surgery. 

“When I woke up, I only had one wish, to go someplace where I could just die, I didn’t want to be alive.”

“My family was behind me, but I didn’t have the strength to be strong for them. I had to get away,” Medaglia said.

Medaglia said she needed a place to go for support, and was referred to Women In Crisis, a local emergency shelter and place of support services for women, where she received counselling while her physical injuries healed.

“It’s been 33 years and I still tell my story. Every time I come to one of these I cry because I feel like I’m there with them (the Montreal Massacre victims),” Medaglia said.

“My wish is that abuse will stop,” Medaglia said to a hushed room.

“Every year there are more names added to the list of women who have lost their lives within Ontario to domestic violence,” said Sarah Paciocco, a Women In Crisis sexual assault and abuse crisis counsellor, speaking to SooToday.

Those names appeared on a screen throughout Wednesday’s event, which also included lighting of candles and a minute of silence to remember each of the Montreal Massacre victims, the Healing Lodge singers, an Indigenous dance by the Jingle Dress Dancers, a special video presentation and songs performed by Erin and Wade Lodge.

“Women In Crisis teaches there are so many different forms of abuse, apart from physical, and educate the community about what that looks like,” Paciocco said.

Women In Crisis offers safety plans for women and children if they need to leave their homes because of an abusive relationship, finds them safe housing, counselling and other programs so they can break the cycle of living in abuse.

Sharon Reid, Women In Crisis director of community relations and finance, said approximately 2,300 women accessed Women In Crisis services in the last fiscal year.

That said, there is still hope.

“We do have success stories,” said Jennifer Leask, Women In Crisis sexual assault and abuse crisis counsellor.

“We all have hope, and that’s why we go to work every day, and that’s why we do the work we do, and put out that education and awareness,” Leask said.

Women In Crisis, located at 23 Oakland Ave., can be reached at 705-759-1230.

A live operator is available for any woman in crisis who needs help.

Women may also walk in to the Oakland Avenue office and speak to a counsellor with no appointment necessary.

Reid said some women who need help may be afraid to call Women In Crisis or come to the shelter because they think counsellors must call the police. However, Reid said, making that decision is up to the woman, and the agency will support her through that process whether she chooses to involve the police or not. 

There are times, Reid told us, in which some things must be reported to the Children’s Aid Society under duty to report (but not to police).