Maritza Stinson was trapped in a toxic relationship for nine years.
Originally from Guatemala, she moved to Lethbridge in 1992. It was not until she arrived in Canada that she even recognized the emotional and psychological abuse she was living with everyday.
“You feel very hopeless,” said Stinson. “He did not want me to be in contact with my family, he was watching me all the time and I could not go to bed before 10 p.m., because I would have to wait for him.”
After only a couple of months in the country, she decided to leave her spouse. With the help of family, she took her two daughters and escaped to the YWCA women’s shelter, Harbour House.
However, she returned to her partner shortly after, on the promise that he would change. Instead, the abuse got worse, as he began to physically assault Stinson and her children.
“I said, ‘no, this is going to end badly and it is not going to be with me’,” she said.
With the help of the YWCA, she was able to leave her partner for good.
“I felt freedom and it was beautiful. I felt so happy that I could make decisions on my own.”
Stinson decided to go back to school, completing her diploma in Lethbridge College’s child and youth care program. She eventually got a job at the place which helped her at her darkest time, the YWCA.
Working as an outreach counsellor, she helps women leave relationships affected by domestic violence.
“When things are down, she is going to hold your hand and help you pick yourself up again,” added co-worker Sandra Vonk. “She is a fighter and she is a role model to all women.”
Stinson and her two daughters have moved on; she has remarried and has two grandchildren. After all the chaos she has lived through, she has finally reached true happiness.
“It’s been 23 years and it’s been a long journey, but I had a lot of rewards for me at the end,” she said.