Finding her Voice: A Journey to Activism

Special Blog Post Contributed by Jade Deanna

Michele Anew, a single mother, activist, advocate, and survivor of abuse, holds up a book titled "Riding the Waves" which features the stories of survivors of violence in Hamilton, ON.
Michele Anew is a single mother, activist, advocate, and survivor of abuse whose work has supported the creation of "Riding the Waves", a book that shares the stories, voices, and healing journeys of survivors of violence in Hamilton, ON.

It doesn’t matter who you are, abuse can find you. It can happen to anyone.

Michele Anew is a single mother, activist, advocate, and survivor of violence against women. Being a survivor of violence and abuse is a badge Anew wears with pride after many years of torment, hardships, lost relationships and so much more over the course of her life since she was a little girl.

Her journey to activism, and being an advocate, was a long treacherous road that brought her to where she is today. Over the course of 20 years, Anew walked on eggshells around the man she had three baby girls with. She tried to avoid it, she didn’t want to be a part of an abusive relationship, but despite her best efforts, it was happening before her eyes. Anew recognized the signs. She tried many times to get herself out of the toxic home but with children, it didn’t prove to be so easy. But Anew had a plan. She would open a bank account, and start to put money aside to aid in her exit despite being scared for her life.

“I was terrified he would find out,” Anew shuddered, “He put his hands on me in a parking lot, and that was my last straw. I knew I had to get out or fight for my life.”

Her ex-husband tormented her for 7 years after their marriage ended with non-stop court hearings and withholding child support. “My lawyer told me the abuse was irrelevant to the courts because I had no proof,” Anew said. “I didn’t know where to turn. I was fighting a man who had abused me for most of my life and was still in control.”

Those seven years after their marriage ended, Anew described it like she was living in a fog.  Not only was she fighting her ex, but she was fighting the narrative of violence against women: Her friends and family didn’t believe her. “They told me he seemed like such a good man,” Anew said with an exhale, “I was the one suffering and I was the one that was looked down upon.”

She tried to get the help she needed, but the resources just weren’t available. She realized if she wanted to make it through the trauma, she had to start looking for herself, and that’s when she found the Good Shepherd Violence Against Women community counseling program.

A photo featuring a group of people of different ethnicities, genders, and ages, the Good Shepherd logo and the organization's tagline "Faith in people."
The Good Shepherd Violence Against Women community counseling program helped Anew find clarity after years of post-separation abuse from her ex.

Anew attended the program weekly and listened to women and speakers tell their stories and pour their hearts out with no hesitation. The WAVES (Women Against Violence Empowering Survivors) group was among the weekly speakers. When Anew heard them talk about their stories, she was inspired. She couldn’t believe that from abuse blossomed the kind of empowerment the WAVES group emanated. Days after their talk, Anew was gardening when she realized something was different.

“It was like the fog had lifted, a moment of clarity, and then it hit me,” Anew said with a smile, “It all made sense, I finally realized my value.”

She knew right away she wanted to be a part of the WAVES group and was quick to get in contact with the organization to devote her time and energy to survivors of violence against women.

Everything that WAVES stands for, Michele embodied. She is passionate about wanting to make a change and help other women find their voice. Michele doesn’t feel ashamed about what happened to her; she doesn’t hide away from it; she uses it to educate, share resources, and make a difference.

The photo depicts several hands of different skin colours holding other hands in solidarity. Overlaid on the image is the text "Woman Abuse Working Group."
The WAVES (Women Against Violence Empowering Survivors) group is part of the Woman Abuse Working Group (WAWG), which is a coalition of more than twenty agencies in Hamilton, Ontario working to end violence against women.

WAVES is a sub-committee that’s part of the Woman Abuse Working Group (WAWG). Together, they shed light on gender-based violence. Being the advocate she is, Anew dedicates a lot of her time to helping women who went through similar situations as she did.

A colourful painting featuring many different elements, some of which is abstract and some of which is realistic. The painting includes an owl with three syss, many flowers, a bee, a hand, and the text "Keep Growing".
A painting done by Michele Anew in art therapy. This painting displays her hurt and her healing process.

In July 2023, WAWG made an official appeal to City Hall to declare gender-based and intimate partner violence an epidemic. Following  this appeal, Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann announced she will be putting forth a this August to declare the rise of violence against women in Hamilton an epidemic. Together, these actions demonstrate how activist work, be it big or small, can make a difference.

“Working with WAVES has allowed me to find my voice,” Anew said with a grin, “And as long as I have it, I’m not going to stop using it.”


Jade Deanna is a first year journalism student studying at Mohawk College. She is passionate about writing and especially loves to tell people’s stories.