I love rainy Sundays, sleeping in, having zucchini bread and tea for breakfast. I’ve been cooking a lot this week while stuck at home, I’d forgotten how good a simple broccoli & cheese baked potato is! That was my favourite at Wendy’s growing up, with one packet of hot sauce.

I found this poem while organizing, that I’d picked up among a handful at the writer’s festival this year:

to my sisters walking alone at night, i hope you hear my prayers. feel my fingers entwined with yours. grip tight. you are not alone.
to my houseless friends, when i walk past without a stare or glare, i hope you feel my love. arms wrapped tight around your torsos. you are not alone.
to my youth wondering where you’ll end up in the world, i hope you hear my words.
travel galaxies and end up where you belong.

you are not alone
– machiinegunfunkk

So pretty. I’m going to tuck it in one of the books that I’m dropping off at the little free library – maybe the person that finds it will glean something from the words. It is true that the right words come to you when you need them.

Friday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I dug through my emails and found a ‘message in a bottle’ document that Gosia had sent me in 2014, detailing what she’d been through, and how an international law against child kidnapping (The Hague Convention) had been used against her.

The Hague convention does not determine custody rights. But inadvertently it does. How does one remain in the life of ones child if they have no status in the country that the Judge is ordering the child to return to? I have spent almost a year in Toronto, trying to find a means by which I would be allowed to remain in the life of my son. In the end the relentless court proceedings which were bringing me dismal results and too much heartache for my parents to handle, forced me to sign an agreement which unless one was under duress, one would never sign. I didn’t have the stamina to continue fighting. When I signed the agreement it was with the hope that I would be able to get status in Canada through a Humanitarian appeal, as it turns out I don’t meet any of the criteria. I have no family here, I have not been here illegally for an extended period of time. And my child has a living caretaker meaning his father. I am utterly dispensable.
So I send this to you, my message in a bottle, please help us. I don’t know what you could do, but I know that prayers are answered and so I pray to you. What I do know is that there are many women in my situation, and that his law must change.

– Gosia Cholodecki

The judge (a female!!) had even written that the abuse was not bad enough to warrant escaping to a safe space. It is up to the accused to convince the judge of “Grave Risk” in the case. I did uncover a hopeful initiative called The Hague Domestic Violence Project by the American Bar Association that “was formed to help battered mothers, attorneys, judges, and advocates incorporate child exposure to domestic violence as a defence to prevent the otherwise required return of the child to her or his home country, and to a potentially abusive parent.”

I also found a Queen’s Law article examining grave risk under the Hague Convention. It states that the term ‘domestic violence’ has been rightfully expanded to include a range of behaviour: Many definitions recognize that the harm of domestic violence arises not only from physical assaults, but also from emotional, sexual and financial abuse, and social control of an intimate partner.

Under this definition, it is no doubt that countless women are currently experiencing domestic violence, and the biggest sign of hope is that countless women are coming forward to share their stories. Gosia said to me once, “Mita, what if we all just spoke our truth. You spoke yours, I spoke mine, and one by one each person spoke their truth.”

It’s a simple yet revolutionary path to freedom. Instead of the tendency to prevaricate, which takes all kinds of energy – just speak words you know to be true. How quickly we would uncover that we are all broken, yet all so strong too.

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