Cassie Lewchak’s relationship with her former partner started innocently enough.
“It was wonderful in the beginning, that whole falling in love thing,” the Moose Jaw resident said.
However, about a year into the relationship, Lewchak’s partner became increasingly controlling. Ultimately, it escalated to physical violence.
“We got into an argument one day and he grabbed me by the neck and ripped my necklace off. That was the moment where I was like, holy cow, I think I need to get out of this relationship,” she recounted.
“But at the same time he’s the father of my kids and I’d invested so many years in him I felt the need to make it work.”
Lewchaks said her partner had a hidden drug issues. However, she still believes the relationship would have become violent. The drugs only accelerated the abuse.
She stayed with her partner for five years. The relationship came to a violent end after an early morning call from a friend in Alcoholics Anonymous.
“One of my girlfriends from the program called me at about four in the morning because she needed some help,” Lewchak said.
“Before I could even show him the number to show him who it was, that it wasn’t a boyfriend or anything, he grabbed my phone, smashed it against the wall, grabbed my phone cord, wrapped it around my neck and strangled me until I passed out.”
“The last thing before everything went black that I was thinking was I’m never going to see my kids again. This is it. He’s going to kill me this time.”
When Lewchak awoke, she found her former partner crying over her. She gave him two options; leave now, or I call the police. He left, and Lewchak went to the Moose Jaw Transition House.
Her story is far too common in Saskatchewan. Once again the province has the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the country, nearly twice the national average.
For every 100,000 people in Saskatchewan there are 666 instances of police reported intimate partner violence.
Advocate agencies like The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services (PATHS) are pushing for measures like increased public education.
“It’s not just for agencies like to address or our members to address. It’s for everyone in society to address if we really want to end this sort of violence,” Jo-Anne Dusel, PATHS executive director, said.
PATHS believes education is a key factor in this, both through public awareness campaigns and school.
“Starting at a very young age and educating people about what a healthy relationship actually is and isn’t. So that people know that something’s actually gone wrong and when to seek help,” Dusel said.
This education could have benefited Lewchak. Prior to her physically violent partner she was married to a man she described as emotionally abusive.
This left Lewchak with conflicting emotions and questions, such as what attracts her to men like this and why are they attracted to her.
Even now, Lewchak has conflicting emotions surrounding the man who could have killed her.
“This is where we had a lot of happy times. Our twins were born here in this house. We raised them, we planted gardens,” Lewchak said outside of her former home.
“The weird thing, the strange thing is if he were to walk up to me right now I’d probably talk to him, and think that we can be together again. That thought comes into my head and then I have to remind myself of those other times.”
Lewchak and her five children continue to bare the emotional scars of this relationship.
Currently the provincial government is in the process of reviewing the domestic violence laws in an effort to better support victims.
In April, legislation was passed that allows people fleeing domestic violence the ability to break a lease without penalty.
Additional things under consideration include paid and unpaid days off for people dealing with the fallout of these relationships.
This will cover court dates and counselling sessions. Consultation on how to potentially implement this idea is expected to take place over the summer.
The Justice Ministry is also awaiting recommendations from the Domestic Violence Death Review panel for further potential amendments to the domestic violence law.
Lewchak admits that she lost herself in her prior relationships, and that is where the danger lies. It can be a difficult task, but she says people in abusive relationships need to realize they don’t deserve the abusive treatment.
“I think it’s important to just make that switch in your brain that says that I don’t deserve to be treated like this,” she said.
“I’m better than this.”
You can see the rest of Lewchak’s story in the attached video from Focus Saskatchewan