The thought of having my second child taken from me left me feeling such profound pain and desperation, that I considered ending my life. I decided to go to church first. This is when the priest gave me the number of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic and turned my fate around completely. 

Ester, Schlifer Clinic client

This story has a happy ending. One in which a mother’s life is completely turned around. 

Ester and Victor immigrated to Canada as a young couple in 2000. At first, they lived with Victor’s elder brother and his family. Victor became emotionally and physically abusive to Ester, which escalated when he drank. Their relationship deteriorated as his need to control her increased. Ester cleaned, cooked, and cared for her in-laws’ children, but was not allowed to talk to her family back home, leave the house on her own, or establish personal relationships outside of the immediate family. She knew no English and was not permitted the opportunity to learn. 

Ester and Victor’s first daughter was born in June 2004. The new family rented a separate apartment in the same building. After delivery, Ester began displaying signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. She was under observation by a social worker, who, suspecting abuse requested an assessment. During the social worker’s visits, Victor pretended to be a considerate husband and father, and the file was closed. The abuse continued. 

Their older daughter, who witnessed the abuse of her mother, frequently acted out. Her tantrums intensified after her sister’s birth in 2012. A visiting public health nurse alerted authorities about the family’s home environment. Victor convinced Ester to let him explain their situation. Convincing the investigators that Ester had mental health issues and was an unfit mother, the older child was placed in foster care, and after the parents’ separation, custody was granted to the father.  

With no income, a history of depression and already considered to be an unfit mother, Ester was under serious threat of losing her second child. Having lost all hope, she questioned the value of her life without her children.  

At the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, Ester was able to work directly with a transitional and housing support counsellor in her own language. She was able to recount, in her own words, the unrelenting physical and emotional abuse she endured and the impact it had on herself and her family. The Barbra Schlifer Clinic trusted her account of what happened and advocated on her behalf. With the help of Clinic counsellors, lawyers and interpreters, Ester and her younger daughter can now enjoy a second chance at life. This time it is a life full of love, joy and free of violence.