When Lauri Mercer was 18 she felt she couldn’t confront her mom face to face, so she wrote her a short letter.
It outlined how she had been sexually molested at around the age of seven, how that might explain why she was notoriously unhappy in her life at that time, and that she never wanted to speak about it in person.
After that letter, Mercer basically bottled up her abuse and never talked about again until about 20 years later when, in 2013, she received a call from a detective explaining that they had a caught a person in relation to another molestation and that her name and abuse was mentioned in a confession.
She was asked to attend court proceedings in relation to the incident but she says the reality of the abuser being caught, and her healing process, really came to light when the person pleaded guilty to the charges at the trial.
“When that happened, I just put my face into my hands and started crying. It was like, finally, now no one can say I was lying,“ she said.
During the investigation and while giving statements, the police put Mercer in touch with Women in Crisis in the Sault and said she might receive counseling there.
Woman in Crisis provide programs and services, including temporary shelter, for women and children affected by abuse and violence.
Mercer never used their shelter services but, even 29 years after the original incident, Mercer says the organization helped her in so many ways.
Aside from 24-hour access to a counselor – which she's taken advantage of when having panic attacks in the middle of the night – counselors from the organization have been present at all her court dates and lawyer appointments.
She’s considers her two Women In Crisis counselors like the absolute closest of friends.
“I trust them completely. If it wasn’t for WIC I wouldn’t be the person I am today – I wouldn’t be me,” said Mercer, who regularly recommends the group to friends and will talk a person’s ear off on how great they are.
After four years of using the organization's services, Mercer’s life has changed completely.
“She’s received so much help at Woman in Crisis it’s unbelievable. She’s like a totally different person now. She’s not angry all the time. She hasn’t drank in twenty-two months and doesn’t intend to drink again. She doesn’t want to be an angry person. She just wants to be a loving mother to her daughter,” said Mercer’s mom Helen Dupuis.
Dupuis said that when her daughter wrote that letter at 18 there was just no way to convince her to find help - she just didn’t want it – but when the 2013 investigation started Dupuis was much more insistent that her daughter finally deal with her issues.
“(Around the time of the letter) Lauri said she would just deal with it whenever and it took her until she was a mom herself for whenever to come. I don’t know if its easier now, but my opinion, something like that should be taken care of right away. If you don’t it can just snowball out of control and reeks havoc on your life,” said Dupuis. “She’s come a long way. She’s like…its hard for me to explain. With her personality, its like she’s that sweet little girl that I had again …but grown up now. She went through a lot a lot of bad times but now she’s doing good.“
Mercer says the reason she didn’t come forward at 18 is because she had fears of not being believed, of being judged, and of being looked at differently.
“(Also) all I could think about was my grandfather was probably going to kill the person and you don’t want someone you love going to jail over something like this,” she said.
Although Mercer is progressing with her healing now, and her personal and psychological life are more balanced, she’s had one of the hardest years of her life.
She's in a custody battle for her daughter, has a friend in ARCH hospice, her dad passed away in September, her daughter’s other grandfather passed away last week, and in January 2016 her mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“I have people passing away on me left and right, it’s been a very rough year.”
This year, Mercer was the recipient of a Mother’s Day package from some local businesses.
Last year neighbouring business owners Jennifer Russio of Laser Advantage and Kyla Faganely of Fit Minds, Fit Bodies, decided they wanted to give back to the community by offering some of their services to a person from Women in Crisis as a Mother's Day gift.
This year Women and Crisis helped the group choose Mercer as the recipient, largely because of how she is an inspiration for enduring and progressing though all her troubles.
Mercer will be receiving a customized package of services from Russio’s medical spa, Faganely’s fitness center, and work from Pim Street Dental.
“When me and Kyla started doing it we were both mothers who were working hard and we wanted to give back. It’s just to help these women along to feel good about themselves,” said Ruscio.
Ruscio said the plan is to keep doing it every year and possibly to expand it to more people and offer more services.
“Honestly, I’m shocked, nice things like this don’t happen to me normally. I think its sounds like an amazing package. I read said something about yoga, so I’m looking forward to maybe trying that – I hear it’s very good for the mind,” said Mercer talking about the gift.
Mercer said she wants to be an inspiration for others to not bottle up what’s going on and for them to seek help – possibly through Women In Crisis.
“I’m a stronger person for opening up. I faced my biggest fear, and I’m doing it now, with this interview. When this comes out everyone’s going to know. But if I can save one person it might be worth it,” she said.