Domestic violence, love for those lost to it, and how to come out of it were all parts of 'Her Story'.

Her Story was an event held last Saturday at the Living Sky Casino, centred around Abby Speir and her tragic death caused by domestic violence. 
Abby was murdered by her partner back in April of 2017. Southwest Crisis Services was able to bring together Abby's family in her younger sister Lorell McDonald Linke, her mother Joan McDoanld, and her twin sister Leah McDonald Perrault, to tell 'Her Story', and their experiences surrounding the events that transpired.
Becky Walker, the executive director for Southwest Crisis Services, was amongst the many others who were moved by the stories shared. For her, spreading awareness of domestic violence like that which tore Abby's life apart is a huge part of her work and mission.
"I hope that it inspires people to talk," said Walker. "I hope it inspires people to speak out when they need help. I hope it inspires people to listen more carefully. I hope people can now hear the signs when someone's in danger that they might not have acknowledged before ask a few more questions, and listen a little bit harder. We did this in the spirit of prevention."
Each of Abby's family members spoke about their relationship with their cherished family member. Details about growing up, what she was like, and how she dazzled them, frustrated them at times, and how much brighter their lives were with her in them.
While the happy stories were full of laughter and fondness, her story ultimately is tragic. Her twin, Leah, spoke about how Abby had a black eye prior to her murder. She jokingly asked if her partner had done it, to which Abby lied and said she had fainted in the bathroom, knocking her head.
She spoke at length about paying close attention to those things now, after what happened to her sister. Their efforts now, in Abby's memory, are about preventing similar outcomes in abusive situations. They encourage people to reach out in kindness, to not judge preemptively, and to offer a friend and or family member to confide in, and to help when possible.
"If we can help people see the signs before someone is killed, before someone is harmed, before someone's mental health deteriorates to the point where they can't function, we would like to get to people sooner," said Walker. "The big push is on prevention."
Another big part of the speeches given was about survivor's guilt. While there were signs, nobody predicted this tragic outcome. Abby herself stated that she wasn't scared of her partner, even while actively leaving. Sadly, a lot of guilt was brought upon her family afterwards, who felt they should have perhaps acted on the fears they had on behalf of Abby.
It was the kind words of one of the police officers working with them during the aftermath that left a mark on Leah. She was told that the only person that could have stopped Abby's murder, was the murderer themselves.
It was not Abby's fault, not her family's, or anyone else aside from the murderer.
"I think there probably are people that cannot be reached," said Walker. "I do believe that, but I do think again, preventatively, if we can get into homes and get into schools, we can teach young boys, young men, that there are different realities out there."
Southwest Crisis Services actively works with around 80 women at any point. Overall, Walker estimated that they work with close to 1,000 individuals through the course of the working year. Providing shelter to those with nowhere else to go is a big part of what they do.
"There's no access to a lot of second-stage housing where people can move to a safe space," said Walker. "We'd love to have second-stage housing where they can move to a safe home for a year. We don't have access to that in this area. We're really trying to bridge the gap and keep people a little bit longer so that they are set up financially."
A big part of the abuse in domestic situations is financial dependence. When the victim tries to leave, the abuser says they will have nowhere to go, no money, no car, and even threaten the safety of the kids or themselves, using self-harm as a short leash to hold them with.
These kinds of manipulative behaviours are almost always prevalent in such cases.
"We have the safe shelter itself where we're seeing about 80 individuals, and some of them stay three to four months with us because we're working to incorporate a model of the trauma-informed approach," said Walker. "We're keeping people longer and trying to get them set up with supports."
The 'Her Story' event was able to highlight Abby and other examples, to a crowd of hundreds of women. This emotional and educational lesson on domestic violence will hopefully open their eyes to the signs, the resources, and the encouragement to take steps when needed.
If anyone would like to learn more about what they can do if they are in an abusive relationship, or suspect someone is suffering from domestic violence, they can reach out to Southwest Crisis Services.