As Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada marks 16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women, we’re giving voice to our members’ perspective on gender-based violence. Today, we’re sharing Morgan’s personal story of how she found the confidence and courage to break free from a relationship. We know you’ll be moved by her words.
Once upon a time there was a young girl who grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. As a child she was always quiet and outspoken. She enrolled in Sparks to increase her confidence.
I was always pegged as a little strange, shy, nothing to be worried about. I went to a French Catholic school and the most common thing people said about me was “Elle est gênée,” she’s shy. My poor social skills became easy to hide when I started watching shows about girls in school and reading books on how to survive middle school. It wasn’t until high school my classmates noticed my rigid thinking, fidgets, and strange obsession with My Little Pony and princesses. I landed in hospital for two weeks to observe my mental health and autism was brought to light. It’s my greatest vulnerability.
Middle school bullies forced me out of my school and into the largest high school in the province; there I made friends with my cousin and her friends but I still felt like an outsider among them. I met a boy in my French class who was struggling with his school work. I started helping him and he started helping me socially; we quickly became close friends. As the New Year rolled around we became closer and I found solace in his company, the vibrations from my cell phone stopping my heart with each message from him. After a few weeks he started asking for pictures of me; I became his phone wallpaper.
He let insults slip every now and then with his frustration towards me and my poor social skills but he stood by me. Slowly he convinced me my parents were abusing me and the friends I had made were only using me for my kindness. I began to isolate myself from everyone who loved me and my world revolved around him. He told me what to wear, what to say, where to go, who to meet, what to think, and even in the safety of my home I could still feel his presence looming over me. He demanded I trade sexual favours to him for money, he threw me against walls and tables, he hit me, convinced me he was showing me social skills because I was vulnerable. His text messages still stopped my heart but this time out of fear. His hands were outlined on my body when I looked at my reflection.
One day he left me. I had ruined the relationships I started the year before and found peace in a crowd that would accept anyone. I turned to drugs and alcohol, trespassing and theft; “Sorry officer, it won’t happen again” was my new motto. I started hanging around boys who saw me as an object. My self-respect at an all-time low, I was admitted to hospital. When I left I focused all my energy on recovery from him. I made new, healthy friends, started writing poems and stories, I even went to the United Nations to help stop violence against women for International Day of the Girl.
He reappeared in my life a few weeks later. He offered me his leftover painkillers for one kiss. My Ranger friends found out what had happened and told my Ranger leader. This began my first acts of courage.
Courage is defined as having fear but overcoming it to reach a goal. I always thought courage was being fearless when in reality courage is taking risks to leave your comfort zone. Courage is when I deleted his phone number and blocked him on Facebook even when I feared he would be upset. Courage is breaking free from his chains to realize he was unhealthy for me, and talking to the police. Courage is taking anti-depressants even when you’re worried it’ll erase your personality. Courage is standing in front of a room full of Girl Guides and the Chief Commissioner at the National Conference to tell them about how you fell apart but you’re slowly collecting the pieces from your past self that was shattered.
One of the most courageous things you can do is learning not to fear your vulnerabilities. Being quiet can make you a good listener. Being loud makes you outgoing, your modesty can make you approachable. Vulnerabilities can become your greatest strengths. Thanks to my autism I offer a unique perspective to problem solving situations, thanks to my abusive relationship I can educate girls on the importance of confidence and how to say no.
Today I’m projects coordinator of my provincial Ranger council, friends with three cats, a member of the provincial international trips selection committee, a cactus collector, a Girl Assistant with Brownies, a ukulele player, a Ranger unit president, a science fair judge, an honours student, a writer, a fruit sticker enthusiast, and a survivor of an abusive relationship.
Guest post by Morgan Boyer. Morgan lives in Paradise, NL. Morgan has been a member of Girl Guides of Canada for 13 years and represented Guiding at the 2014 International Day of the Girl conference at the United Nations. Read her previous blog post on this event – Moving Oceans: Working together to stop violence against girls.
Read International Commissioner Sharron Callahan’s post Say No to Violence.
New! GGC’s Say No to Violence Challenge.