When 18-year-old Gwen Boyne was stabbed in the back of her head by her boyfriend, she thought she would die. Brad wanted to control, demean, harm and punish her. He had succeeded to do so countless times before. This time Gwen was determined to take back her power and right to be treated with dignity and respect.
A turbulent childhood
At age 14, Gwen was placed in foster care because her father and step-mother couldn’t handle her anymore. A victim of her parents divorce when she was eight, Gwen was bitter and filled with rage. She felt like a throwaway. She attempted suicide several times and abused drugs and alcohol. She despised her stepmother and welcomed any opportunity to leave home.
For two years Gwen was in foster care, group homes and lock-down facilities in hospital psychiatric wards. “At age 16 I moved home,” says Gwen. “Only to be kicked out again four months later. My stepmother and I could not get along.”
Gwen quit school and worked full-time at McDonald’s. After renting various rooms in the neighbourhood she settled in a basement apartment in the home of a Christian family. She was happy. She avoided drugs and alcohol and wasn’t cutting herself. Then she met Brad.
“This was the beginning of yet another downward spiral. This time I hit rock bottom,” says Gwen. “Brad moved in with me. He had been calling the streets home. My
Landlord frowned upon us living together and, following Brad’s several visits from law enforcement to our apartment, we were evicted.
Nowhere to go
Gwen and Brad were forced to deal with the harsh reality of being homeless. “We left York Region for Toronto,” says Gwen. “We shacked up in abandoned houses, parking garages, rundown hotels and homeless shelters. We had no money. Brad physically and mentally abused me. I was held hostage by his threats.”
Eventually Brad received help through an independent living program. They set him up in an apartment in Markham, Ont., helped him find a job and gave him some food. Gwen moved in with him.
A night of terror
“I was physically and emotionally beaten down,” says Gwen. “I was consistently thrown across rooms, threatened with death and told I was worthless. One day I discovered Brad was cheating on me. When I confronted him a yelling match ensued and he told me to pack my bags. I did what I was told.”
Within minutes, Brad came from behind and, with a knife, stabbed Gwen in the head. Blood began to ooze from her scalp. Fearful for her life, trembling and with trepidation, she phoned her father. He came and whisked her off to the local emergency department.
Immediately following the incident, Gwen placed assault charges on Brad and court proceedings began. After several months, Brad was declared not-guilty.
Sutton Youth Shelter
Gwen moved home for a brief time after the vicious attack. She then moved in with a friend and her daughter, but before long they were evicted. Homeless again, Gwen sought out The Salvation Army’s Sutton Youth Shelter for help.
“There aren’t many shelters in York Region who help young girls,” says Gwen. “I stayed there for six months. For the first time in years I felt safe and cared for.
“I was cutting again. I was convinced I deserved the attack and had accepted my abuse as a sign of love. It was NOT. Counselling at the shelter helped me understand that I wasn’t to blame, that no one deserves abuse, that I am a special person and deserve to be safe.
“Through structured programs I learned how to budget, completed my general education diploma and learned the skills I needed to be contributing member of society.”
Today, 20-year-old Gwen is gainfully employed and in a healthy relationship. “The shelter saved my life,” says Gwen. “They do a lot for young people with no hope. They get us out of whatever hole we have gotten ourselves into.”