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Strength, beauty and the goddess within
At the age of 18, Holly Forrester found herself in an abusive relationship and caring for an infant son. The fear, however, made her feel leaving was not an option.
Three years later, the terror took a terrible turn when her partner started choking her to the point of not being able to breathe. She was saved by her three-year-old running for help.
A year after that, Forrester attempted suicide, but after waking up in hospital she finally left him. Two years later, though, her self-esteem had once again plummeted and she got involved in another abusive relationship.
“I was stuck in the trap again,” recalls Forrester, now 35.
Eventually, though, she worked up the courage to leave him as well. After seven years of counseling and support in her home town of Edmonton, she headed west almost three years ago and now resides at Elizabeth Fry’s facility in New Westminster.
This past February, Christine Stover posted a notice at EFry for Sunday evening seminars called The Goddess Within You, and Forrester showed up for the first one. It’s helped change her so much, that she now wants to share her story to help others. She feels as someone who has been through it before she can have more of an impact when supporting others victims of abuse.
“I was tired of hearing people telling me I’ve got to leave him. I was scared to leave him. Finally, I overcame the fear and I left both of them,” says Forrester.
At Sapperton Park on Sunday, from 3 to 6 p.m., Stover and Forrester will be looking to expand their reach in the community with an event where the eventual goal is to help women “unleash” their inner strength and beauty.
Stover knows what Forrester has been through. She married at age 20 expecting a dream marriage. Instead, she got a nightmare of an abusive husband.
In 2003, she took her daughters, age 3 and 7 at the time, and left him because it was an environment she didn’t want her children to be raised in.
“It was quite difficult. I had a lot of support from my family. I made up my mind I’m going to make it in this world with my daughters,” says Stover.
Beyond the support of her family, Stover says she had to look hard for help. She took child and family courses at Douglas College and began volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society. She worked at their drop-in centre for three years before giving birth to twins with her second husband.
But despite having her hands full with her family, she couldn’t stop thinking about wanting to help women and their children who have suffered abuse.
“This passion started getting deeper and deeper,” says Stover.
So in January, she approached EFry about doing something uplifting, positive and inspiring without dwelling on the negative. Her idea was to use candles, music, tea, yoga, movies, makeup and anything else she could think of to provide a relaxing—almost spa-like atmosphere—to get the participants to relax.
“The first couple of times they would just sit there and relax and just be,” says Stover.
There were about five to 10 regulars every Sunday evening and after a few weeks they began opening up and sharing their stories.
“I saw a huge change. I was in awe. They’ve been through so much, but they have so much within themselves. We have so much beauty within,” says Stover. “I was just amazed how much they have.”
Forrester has been there from the beginning.
“It helped me find out I’m stronger than I think I am. If I can leave two abusive relationships, then I”m stronger than I led myself to believe,” she says.
A turning point for Forrester came in a session on affirmation. Forrester came into it that Sunday evening feeling depressed. She was upset and crying until she looked down and saw one of the cards that read: I’m strong, I’m free, and I’m independent.”
“I realized that was me. I’m strong, I’m free and I’m independent,” says Forrester.
By providing a relaxing environment the women seemed to be taken back to simpler times.
“Their childhood was taken away from them,” says Stover. “That’s what I’m bringing back to them. Finding that little girl in you can show that you can do anything you want. You’re fearless.”
Sunday’s event at Sapperton Park will have women like Forrester telling their stories. There will also be makeovers, music, and a photographer.
What: I Am a Goddess
What’s happening: Women telling their stories to help others unleash their inner strength and beauty; there will be music, makeovers, a photographer and more
Where: Sapperton Park
When: Sunday, Sept. 9, 3 to 6 p.m.
Info: Christine Stover, firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-644-4382