Kathleen knows exactly what has driven her along her life path – her innate resilient spirit. Taking on different forms, it sometimes feels like God, she reflects, or perhaps the blood of her ancestors flowing through her veins. This powerful inner force is always, and has always been there. "It's something in me that makes me know I am worthy and I deserve better," she says.
Her inherent self-value stands strong, despite a lifetime of trials that was punctuated by a sexual assault four-and-a-half years ago. It's a night she now refers to as "the roofie incident," because it’s too difficult to say the word, ‘rape.’ Enjoying the first night of a Cuban vacation, she had a few drinks and headed to the ladies room. She remembers thinking 'I can't get up those stairs.' The next thing she recalls is waking up alone in her hotel room, her bruised face almost unrecognizable in the mirror. Her nose was broken and she had been raped. "I was devastated. There were so many questions. I was unbelieving, but knew it happened. I was in shock." A couple told her they'd found her on the hotel grounds the night before and escorted her to her room.
Surrounded by tourists at her resort, she'd never felt more alone as she endured the rest of her holiday.
In crisis upon returning home, Kathleen sought help immediately, eventually landing at Surrey Women's Centre. The rape was devastating in itself, but unearthed sexual and physical abuse she'd faced in her past. She'd grown up in an environment rife with alcoholism, mental health issues, incest, physical and sexual abuse. Surrounded by often-unthinkable circumstances, she never doubted that she deserved a better life. Following the birth of her son, her conviction grew. She didn't want him to face the same hurt and committed to getting counseling and working through her trauma. "It's not nirvana. When you start to get help, it's tough and it's painful…but it's worth it."
These days, Kathleen draws ongoing strength in sharing her journey. She carries no shame. "I'm proud to talk to people," she says. "I'm proud that whatever it is, is in me, and thank the universe because it's brought me through." She tells other victims of abuse they can re-discover the joy in their lives once they find the pieces of themselves they have lost. She knows because she's lived it. "Be more than a survivor, be a thriver. Never give up on yourself," she advises.
As for her own resilience, that inexplicable inner spirit remains steadfast. "My best days are still in front of me. I feel like I've got a great life ahead."