I didn't actually write the above strip. I just made a few refinements to the sentiments expressed (and they were expressed vehemently) by the women I interviewed both at Gillian's Place (Women's Shelter in St. Catharines, Ontario) and the Community Director and the Liasion Officer from the Centre for Reseach & Education on Violence Againist Women and Children. (The University of Western Ontario)
Talking with these women and reading through the Neighbours, Friends and Families web site has been extremely helpful to me in writing the Domestic Violence story line in my Between Friends strip. Although, as much as I've learned through these sources, I know full well that I've only skimmed the surface of this issue.
I've written this series through the eyes of Maeve who is the friend looking at Tamara's life from the outside. Because I haven't experienced spousal abuse personally, I don't think I could have done justice to the story by writing it from the abused woman's perspective. The aspects of Tamara's life are told subtly . . . for the most part, readers have to make their own assumptions about details.
Maeve suspects there is something wrong but isn't sure. Tamara has tentatively reached out to her at times and then drawn back. Maeve is conflicted by feelings of concern, doubts and frustration for her friend.
Maeve is a fiercely independent character. Her volatile personality makes her the type of person to respond to situations with authority, confidence and strength. When she asks (in the first strip above) "Why doesn't she just leave?", she's relating to how she would respond in a similar situation, not with any understanding of the complicated grey aspects of Tamara's life. Kim, on the other hand, is a more introspective character. She is the type of person to stand back, take stock and react in an objective way. Kim provides Maeve with a broader view.
Beginning on October 6th, Between Friends will feature a 4 week story line that brings the domestic violence story to a head and reveals Tamara's situation with what I would call, "subdued clarity." Four weeks is a long time to stay on one topic in a cartoon strip, particularly when it is a heavy handed story line. I tried to keep it down to three weeks but I found I needed the extra week to bring it to a natural break.
I know how I will end the story but I haven't actually written it yet as I work pretty close to deadline. I am planning for the series to end mid-ish November and I decided early on that I wanted Tamara's story to end on a positive note. And . . .I am writing the ending based on a letter I received from a reader who is a survivor of domestic abuse. I have many people to thank for this series . . .
Here are some links to two recent newspaper articles regarding this story. . .