Sexual assault survivor calls for more supports 13 years later

A Calgary woman who survived a horrific attack and sexual assault 13 years ago is fighting to get more support for victims of major crimes.

Despite more than a decade of time passing, trauma has not loosened its grip on Liz Hadley. Her hands tremble as she recounts the night her life was forever altered.

“He took everything from me that night. Everything,” said Hadley. “I tried to build it back, but it will never be the same.”

In late August 2009, Hadley left a friend’s place near Redwood Meadows when she said a man in old pick-up truck stopped and offered her a ride and a cigarette. She admits she probably had too much to drink and was a smoker at the time, and decided to get in.

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“He reached down and grabbed a pack of smokes, and then I could see something coming at my head and that was the last thing I remember,” she said. “I woke up hours later on the side of the road, wrapped around a (road  marker), my clothes torn off.

“Everything was gone: my cell phone, my purse was gone.”

Hadley flagged down a car and was eventually taken to hospital by ambulance where she said she underwent a full forensic analysis. It confirmed she had been sexually assaulted.

She has no memories of those haunting moments where she was left for dead.

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“I thank God everyday,” she said. “I don’t want to remember.”

But her nervous system has not forgotten — the triggers are everywhere. She suffered a fracture in her back, but it’s the deeply set wounds proving to be unrelenting.

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“They said the way my back was fractured, he probably didn’t even open the door. He probably just dumped me out of the truck and left me for dead.”

Hadley applied for victim financial support three years after the attack but was denied because of a two year time limit at that time to apply. She said she did get support and therapy sessions thanks to other non-governmental organizations, but there wasn’t enough session to quell the trauma she relives daily.

“I was a single lady at the time. l had to work, a son to support,” she said. “Life doesn’t stop, but I needed time to heal, actually heal.”

She’s been lobbying the provincial government for change since and is hoping the issue doesn’t fall through the cracks on the campaign trail. Organizations like Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse are also hoping parties focus on support for victims in their platforms.

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In early April the United Conservative Party announced CCASA would be getting $637,000 to ease the growing waiting lists for care. It fell substantially short of the $6 million CCAS was hoping for.

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“The road’s end was not what we wanted, but we have to live with money that is only for one year,” said CCAS CEO Danielle Aubrey. “It’s created a lot of complication for a lot of people across the province, but we’ll do the best that we can to serve people.”

Aubrey said waiting lists are improving temporarily thanks in part to the funding, but it doesn’t solve the problem in the long-term. She said as many as 75 people will wait up to four months to get counselling.

Hadley said she only received seven sessions. But Aubry said they now offer 14 and will soon offer 24, though Aubrey admitted even that many may not be enough for some.

The RCMP spent years trying to find the person who attacked Hadley. While the investigation is still open, a spokeswoman for the RCMP said it had “exhausted all investigative avenues.”

It’s a terrifying reality for Hadley, who worries about other potential victims.

As her attacker remains free she feels locked up in fear.

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