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Bill C16, and the Lack of Empathy for Survivors

My ex almost killed me. I know how much single-sex spaces matter.

J.L. Kushneryk
J.L. Kushneryk

I am a survivor of domestic violence by an ex fiancé and father of the one and only child I had given birth to, and gave up for adoption. When I was three and a half months pregnant, he nearly took my life. That fateful morning, his hands around my throat and seeing the morning sun shining through the living room window go dark, I thought it was going to be the last of my life on this earth. As luck would have it, he let go of my neck at that moment. The memory after that is fuzzy, but I remember going to the bedroom, quietly getting dressed and carefully waiting to see him get immersed in whatever was on TV.

I quietly walked into the kitchen, trying to find my cats, but couldn’t see them. I think they were hiding, after what had just happened. I realized that this was the moment and that I had to go. I was terrified of leaving the animals there, yet, I didn’t know what would happen if I tried to gather them up and he caught me doing so. I was so scared. I quietly walked down the stairs and walked out the door. I walked down the street, scared to look behind me and not looking over my shoulder until I walked around the first corner towards my parents’ house. I walked there feeling a little bit of relief but cautious, until I walked up the stairs and sat down at their kitchen table.

They were not up yet. When my Mom came out of the bedroom, I told her what happened. When my Dad came out, he started yelling at me about how my now ex had called him in the middle of the night, until my Mom stopped him and told him that I left him.

"When my ex was stalking me, I knew that he could be kicked out of a women’s washroom."


I called the police to see if I could get help recovering my dog and two cats. My brother came into the house, heard what had happened and immediately left to go over there. We got off the phone right after to meet the police there. I’m not sure why there was no effort to legally pursue any action against him. I think I just wanted it over with, so all the police could really do was provide me assistance to allow me to pick up the animals and any personal items. My brother came out of the house and told us that my ex was calm and had packed his things and that the animals were all OK. The police showed up right after, went to the door to talk with my ex. A few moments later, he stepped out of the house with his duffel bag, and left with the dog. I went in and got my cats, a couple personal things and went back to my parents.

The next day, I received a call from the hotel to let me know that my dog was walking around loose outside, so I drove down and picked him up. The next few months were full of difficult moments, having to move out of the house quickly because he broke back into it and caused damage. I had to give away the pets, and then find a family for my unborn. I had to sneak away when I realized my ex was stalking me, move to my other brother’s place two hours away, and somehow in the middle of it all, I ended up meeting the person I was truly meant to find happiness with.

I remember moments wondering whether it was safest to consider abortion, wondering if I should disappear so that no one could find me, feeling just a little solace in the privacy of a woman’s bathroom when out in public, in case he walked in to the restaurant that I was in, and feeling like I had to always look over my shoulder for at least a couple years after. It took me years to let go of it all and move forward with my life. No one can truly know what all of that feels like, unless you have been through it.

Seven years later, I saw a tall man with a long dark ponytail in line at Home Depot, and my body became numb with momentary fear, until I realized it wasn’t my ex. All I saw was that person’s size and same hair, and I was frozen in fear, seven years later.

So, when people can’t understand a shelter’s need to protect that sense of safety for biological women who seek refuge there, I know they don’t realize how important that is to a survivor.

"All I saw was that person’s size and same hair, and I was frozen in fear, seven years later."


Someone who has just left needs that feeling of safety more than anyone. Almost no biological woman presents a physical sense of threat to another woman. The same cannot be said of a biological male. Rationally, women know “not all men,” or that many trans-identifying males are not a threat. The problem is, we have no way of knowing who is. "Self ID" only makes that question mark larger.

When my ex was stalking me, I knew that he could be kicked out of a women’s washroom. If I hadn’t lived close to my family, I would have needed a shelter, and back then I would have known that there was no way my ex could come into that shelter legally. That security is now gone in Canada, thanks to Bill C16; because if anyone asks, all he has to say is that he is a "trans woman."

Thankfully, for me personally, it’s now been so many years, I doubt my ex would recognize me. The physical effects are still a reminder, though. Of course, I have stretch marks from the pregnancy. That’s a scar I am proud to carry. The one that reminds me of the painful past, though, is that to this day, I still get pain in my neck if I cry, talk loudly & my voice is not always stable, sometimes unexpectedly squeaking or going raspy, thirty years after the incident.

So I ask, what about other women out there leaving a violent relationship? Their protection in public spaces, as fragile as it was, is now gone in Canada. Don’t women, going through trauma, deserve a bit of consideration?

Another woman in the situation that I was in may not seek the help that she needs, if she can’t be certain that her ex couldn’t self-identify his way into that shelter. We need to stand up to the trans rights activists & their allies, because the policies they are pushing are what is really dangerous. If I survived a six feet tall, 250 lb man choking me, then we can all stand up to a bully in a dress.

Male Violencedomestic violencemen in women's spacesCanada

J.L. Kushneryk

I’m a working class country girl. I am weaving my way through life, just as the elders before me did. As I become an elder, I have begun to write, to pass along what I know to be true.