International Women’s day

8 Mar, 2021

As I share this blog today, I write these words with tears in my eyes and tingling skin. In this moment I feel overwhelmed with sadness, rage, empathy and pride for everything that is in this post. I am so grateful for the courage of this human to share her victim impact statement with myself and the readers on this blog. I met Nicole not very long ago but her energy, kindness, and relentless support of survivor led initiatives have kept me connected and our friendship growing.

Nicole Taylor is the Manager of Community Capacity Building Programs at WomenatthecentrE, a survivor-led organization that works to eradicate gender-based violence through research, education, advocacy and support. Her work includes community development, policy analysis, and community activism in the area of gender-based violence. Nicole received her Master of Social Work from Ryerson University in 2019 where she incorporated art and photography into her thesis on embodied representations of women’s resistance and strength within the context of gendered violence. Through this, she learned that art is a powerful tool for resistance and social change.

Below Nicole shares her Victim Impact Statement from a trial after Nicole had been horrendously harassed, stalked and victimized.

I struggled to write this impact statement with the many rules and requirements outlined in the document I was sent, leaving me feeling constrained in a similar way to how I have felt since the morning of June 11th, 2020.
My husband and I had moved to the Cornell community in Markham about 2 years prior to the offense in hopes that we would start our own family in an area that we had originally thought was a safe and friendly neighbourhood. Our dreams seemed to come true on the early morning of June 10th when we first saw a strong, positive sign on a pregnancy test. Little did I know that on the morning of June 11th, this dream would start to crumble in front of me and was the beginning of what felt like the world’s strongest hurricane damaging the best parts of me, and where my conceptualizations of family and safety were dramatically redefined.
From June 11th, 2020 onwards, I have been experiencing a level of anxiety I have never experienced before. I found it difficult to leave my house unless I was with my husband; I could not stay home alone. My initial feelings of safety and security that were once established quickly dissipated, which led us to purchase an expensive security system, but left me feeling only more paranoid while I obsessively focused my time on the camera all day, every day, in fear that you would approach my residence given your dangerously close proximity to my house. To this day, when I see a black SUV (even my husband’s), my stomach begins to turn, and my body begins to shake; I panic and begin to wonder if I will see your face behind the wheel – I won’t ever forget your face and that smirk painted on it, your voice, and the fear they have imposed on my life.
The evening of June 10th was the last night I would sleep well. The emotional trauma I sustained on June 11th has caused me to lose an element of life that is key to success, a key to survival. Every night since, I have gone to bed hoping I would get enough sleep to help me make it through my workday, to help me feel at my best emotionally and physically, to help me feel ‘normal’ again – things I deeply miss. Instead, I lay in my bed in the darkness, replaying the morning my favourite self-care activity was taken from me. Running was something I did daily for 9 years to start my day off just right, to feel energized yet relaxed at the same time. Running made me feel free and powerful. Running was what gave me life and purpose. I have not been on an outdoor run since the day you saw me, and consciously decided to harass and intimidate me.
For weeks after the incident, my mental and physical health began to noticeably decline, something I had not experienced before. I had multiple virtual visits with my family doctor to assess my anxiety and its impacts on my pregnancy, for which I was prescribed an anti-depressant used to treat anxiety. Another few weeks later, my husband and I lost our baby, which landed me a trip to the hospital to be admitted for an emergency procedure. Since this, I have attended multiple sessions with a counsellor to contextualize my experiences and have picked up and moved away from the Cornell community. What I needed was a fresh start, away from the place we once called ‘home’ and now associate with trauma and darkness.
Although this has helped significantly, I continue to feel as though a piece of myself is missing – a piece I cannot get back. While these changes have, indeed, caused substantial financial burden, the most significant impact for me are the things that do not have a price tag, things that cannot be easily reattained – my ability to freely occupy space without the fear of being harassed and intimidated my men in their cars, to run in the area and in the shoes I miss, to sleep soundly; and to just be happy.
By sharing the impact your behaviour has had on me and my community, my hope is not that you will feel sustained guilt and shame, but rather, you will begin a process of accountability that allows you to adequately address the harm you have caused, as well as reflect on and heal from any past hurt you may have endured that has led you to inflict it on others and begin to practice empathy in your day-to-day life. I believe that only then will you begin to truly understand the pain you have caused me and others and begin to transform your behaviour.

Nicole added:
“It is imperative to not only recognize and understand the multiple, intersecting systems that oppress women, but it is equally, if not more important to highlight the ways in which women resist oppression. We need to centre strategies of resistance to create opportunities for survivors to confidently exercise power in ways that shift how people, including themselves, think about gendered violence. My victim impact statement was written not only for the aggressor, but also for myself and for others to see how powerful I am, despite the trauma, I continue to endure.”