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Anchoring domestic violence survivors with hope, love in Innisfail

Victims and allies offer powerful presentations at second annual Innisfail March Against Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse

INNISFAIL – When Kari Lotzien was in Grade 10, she had the same dreams just like any other teenager.

High on the list was finding true love, a young partner she could trust and feel safe.

But the dream turned into a nightmare. But Lotzien survived, but it never left her soul.

Twenty years later her daughter had a similar ordeal.

The awful memories and feelings of the past returned. But hope arrived.

“The big takeaway for me is that I had met a beautiful human being named Papa Jack who shared a concept with me telling me to be an anchor,” said Lotzien.

“He said, ‘when the seas of life get stormy and they always well it is not our job to captain anyone else's ship. It is not our job to try and calm the waters of the ocean,” she added. “It is merely our job to be that point of safety, stability, and security. I call that an anchor. It is by far the hardest work that I've ever done.”

But Lotzien has preserved. She’s an anchor for others.

Today Lotzien is an occupational therapist and professional speaker from Lacombe. Her life today is devoted to helping victims who have endured the nightmare of intimate partner abuse and domestic violence.

On Oct. 2 at Innisfail’s Centennial Park Lotzien was the keynote speaker at the second annual Innisfail March Against Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse.

 Scores of citizens attended adorned in purple; a colour for them that represents courage, survival and honour for those who continue to move bravely forward.

The event, organized by Lisa Robinson and Erika Fetterly, began at noon at Centennial Park with a barbecue.

It was followed with several speakers, including event co-emcee Dale Dunham, Lotzien, Town of Innsfail Mayor Jean Barclay, Heather Taylor from the Innisfail and District Food Bank, and Mary Dawn Eggleton, program manager from Innisfail and District Victims Services.

“I am here today because I must be. Insecurities and fear keep most of us from speaking out when injustices occur,” said Dunham to the audience, who pointed out a quote from famed American writer and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

And then came the powerful emotional presence and presentation from Bailey Whalen and Ashley Christoffersen, whose sister Kirsten Gardner, the mother of young twin boys, was slain on March 22, 2021 by a man who she once trusted the most.

With Bailey silently and lovingly holding a large image of her murdered sibling, Ashley spoke from the heart of both the utter heartbreak of the loss, and the perseverance that was somehow found to move forward in Kirsten’s name.

“Advocating for Kirsten and anyone else that is experiencing domestic violence is really all that I can do to make sure she didn’t die in vain. That out of this horrific, terribly traumatic, awful situation, something good can come out of this however small it is,” said Ashley.

“I know she would be so proud and blown away by this event. This is a legacy I hope to include her children in one day, so they can see how amazing and important she was, still is and always will be.

“Know that if you are experiencing domestic abuse or family violence, you are not alone. It’s hard and its scary but you are not alone,” she said, imploring victims to reach out for help, and to forever bind themselves to safe and loving hands.

“You are not a burden if you ask for help. You deserve to be happy and loved and safe. You deserve to live your life.”

Following the presentations Fetterly called on the audience to have a moment of reflection for Kirsten and all victims of domestic violence.

It was then time to march solemnly but with love in their hearts towards a better future.

There was a long line of proud purple-clad supporters moving solemnly and bravely together from Centennial Park, and then up the hill on Main Street and into the downtown core before stopping at the cenotaph.

Photos were taken. Many hugs were made. There was relief from the ever-present undercurrent of sorrow.

Most of all though, there was hope.


Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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