Survived to Live

Last year we holidayed on the sleepy shores of Prince Edward Island. It is the land of Stomping Tom Connors, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne, endless red dirt, and mosquitos that will carry away the tan you didn’t get.

While there, I stumbled on a book about Jane Hurshman, a domestic abuse victim who eventually shot her common law husband Billy, on account of his multiple heinous abuses. Billy was going to go kill her kids — so she killed him instead.

The nation was so shocked at the extent of abuse that Jane endured, though most thought Billy got just exactly what he deserved. Jane served three months, and went from abused woman to advocate for the next ten years. Friends report that Jane was gentle and soft spoken. You’d be too if the soul was raped and beat out of you.

Victim turned victor right?


Jane was found ten years later in her car with a hole in her chest — an apparent suicide. I wonder if she shot where it hurt the most. I wonder if she pulled the trigger at the trauma.

Sarah Hegazi waved a flag in a crowd and was tortured for three months by her country. She sought asylum in mine. Sarah left behind deep family connections, but brought with her trauma that was deeper still. She succumbed to suicide. I wonder if it was worth it.

Virginia Wolfe, an accomplished author, was sexually abused as a child by her step brothers. Lifelong she suffered from ‘“looking glass shame.” She enjoyed literary success and the love of her life, yet one day she put heavy rocks in her pockets and walked into a body of water to sink the body that was betrayed. I wonder if the rocks matched the heaviness in her soul.

I haven’t been able to shake Jane, Sarah, or Virginia. We live in a world where the abused end up surviving long enough to advocate and it sometimes it kills them.

Someone who was sexually abused told me yesterday that she thinks of suicide every week. Every. Single. Week. I understand that. Living half dead is hard. Some days it’s too hard.

She didn’t survive to die. She survived to live. And you did too. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Jane, Sarah, and Virginia proved that’s not true.

You didn’t survive the horrors of abuse just to die — you survived to live.

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