Woman taking part in Charlottetown march against family violence recalls her own terrible story

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 17, 2016

More than 100 people took part in the walk in silence in Charlottetown on Wednesday. The annual trek from Province House to City Hall is a demonstration of support for people who are affected by family violence.

©Heather Taweel/The Guardian

It was a walk in silence, but Sharon O’Brien wanted to share her story.

She was one of about 100 people who walked from Province House to City Hall in Charlottetown on Wednesday in a demonstration of support for people who are affected by family violence.

O’Brien said she was surrounded by violence for the first five years of her life, violence that didn’t stop when she was put into foster care “in middle class suburbia’’.

“It was the foster uncle who sent everything on the kitchen table flying because his wife forgot to put ketchup on the table. No one was allowed to have dinner,’’ O’Brien said following the walk.

“Another time the same man threw the ironing board across the room at his wife because she ironed his shirt collar wrong. Their seven-year-old daughter froze with fear and peed herself.’’

She also talked about another family with seven children who lived down the street. The father would regularly beat his wife. O’Brien remembers that wife showing up at her doorstep with at least one child, asking them if they could keep an eye on the child until the husband cooled down.

Ann Sherman, chairwoman of the premier’s action committee on family violence prevention, said the annual silent walk in Charlottetown is about sending a message.

“It lets families and people experiencing family violence know that other Islanders care about them,’’ Sherman said, “and want to do what they can to prevent violence from happening and to support families in which it has happened.’’

Premier Wade MacLauchlan took part in the walk as did other MLAs. Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee and members of city council and staff also took part, as did members of Charlottetown Police Services and the RCMP.

“It’s an event that shows Islanders recognize family violence has no boundaries,’’ said MacLauchlan.

Tina Mundy, minister of family and human services, didn’t mince words.

“Today, we walk together to take a stand against family violence,’’ Mundy said.

Sherman said everyone has been affected by family violence or knows someone who has, either in terms of physical, mental or financial abuse.

She said it’s no longer something that happens behind shuttered curtain windows and locked doors.

O’Brien said it’s an existence that creates a climate of constant fear.

“Your fear for yourself and for everyone around you; your siblings, your parents. You hope the police will come and afraid they will. You always fear what comes next,’’ O’Brien said.

Part of the answer lies in conversation. People need to talk about it, to raise awareness, to break down the barriers of fear.

“It doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you make. We must raise awareness and protect our families.’’