VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – She experienced and witnessed unspeakable abuse as a child, spent two decades in a violent marriage, and not only lived to tell the tale, but now helps other victims too.
News1130’s series of Courage To Come Back profiles continues with a look at Brenda Gardiner, the winner in the social adversity category.
“The trauma of seeing my father kill my mother kind of overtook everything else,” she admits.
The 55-year-old from Quesnel was just four-and-a-half years old when she witnessed an event so unspeakable, it repressed an earlier memory of being molested by an older cousin.
It would be years, decades even, before she would remember it again.
An episode of Oprah triggered something in her mind, causing the memories to come rushing back.
“It was just like a mirror had broken in my head. I then knew when it happened, who did it, and where it happened.”
Her husband at the time was less than understanding.
“He came into the living room and he just looked at me and said, ‘You just need to get over it. It happened a long time ago,'” she recalls.
The marriage was an unhappy one and Brenda admits she stayed seven years longer than she should have, putting up with the abuse for two decades only for the sake of her five children.
“After his mother died, it was like something snapped in him. From that point on, there was the drinking and the violence and it was turmoil and abuse on many levels,” she explains.
The mental and physical abuse went on for years, with his fuse getting shorter each time.
“Dishes were smashed; a pot of food was sprayed all over the kitchen because I didn’t turn around and answer his question,” she tells us.
“I was trying to portray this perfect little life and I thought that I had everybody fooled.”
She did eventually leave; today, she counsels other First Nations women as well as runs various programs benefiting abuse victims.
In her current role with the North Cariboo Aboriginal Family Program Society, Brenda also helps elders stay in their homes as they age.
“I’ve always been called a role model by a lot of people just because I don’t give up. I make things happen.”
Brenda is a fighter, earning her name she wears proudly to this day. “I got the name of ‘Warrior Woman’ from a gentleman that was watching me do what I was doing. And I just went with it.”
“The fact that people think of me as that… I’m… I’m honoured.”
News1130 is a proud sponsor of the Courage To Come Back Awards, which will be handed out May 8th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.