Article by: Jacqueline Lawrence
March 5, 2008 – by Jacqueline Lawrence
It has been nearly two years since 20-year-old Muskoka native Natalia Novak was brutally stabbed to death in her Toronto apartment. Two years since Dawn Novak, Natalia’s mother, first learned to cope with the loss her daughter. And two years since Novak, a former teacher, began her own personal battle to educate the public about the “ugly truth” that is violence against women.
“It’s something I feel very strongly about, that we should all know the truth,” said the Utterson-area resident. “It’s something we just can’t tolerate anymore.”
This month, Novak’s fight will become all the more fierce when she unites with local businesses and agencies to promote a new book that chronicles some startling statics on violence against women in North America. The book, titled The War on Women: Elly Armour, Jane Hurshman, and Criminal Violence in Canadian Homes, was written by Brian Vallée, a Canadian journalist and author.
The War on Women outlines the disturbing stories of both Armour and Hurshman, who each suffered years of violent abuse at the hands of their husbands. Hurshman, whom Vallée wrote about in his 1986 book Life with Billy, is perhaps the better known of the two women. In 1983, she was found not guilty for shooting and killing her common-law husband Billy Stafford after a jury learned about the years of brutal beatings she suffered at his hands.
Also included in The War on Women are a number of short stories of Canadian women whose lives were stolen by abusive boyfriends, husbands or lovers. The stories are highlighted in small, grey boxes throughout the book.
Natalia is featured in one of the text boxes.
“It was a tremendous shock,” said Novak. “I just opened the book and there it was. Page 171.”
Police found Natalia’s body in the early morning hours of May 15, 2006 after responding to 911 calls from people who heard screams coming from the Ryerson University student’s apartment.
Natalia’s estranged boyfriend, Arssei Hindessa, 30, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in her death. The charge was later increased to first-degree murder.
Hindessa’s court case will begin in May.
For Novak, the trial will be a gut-wrenching experience. She has found strength, she said, in working to ensure that other mothers do not face a similar tragedy.
“I never received any information on this problem when I was growing up,” said Novak, who now speaks to students across Muskoka about domestic violence prevention. “It’s time we became educated. This is not just a big city problem. It’s happening everywhere. It could be your daughter.”
According to Vallée’s book, between 2000 and 2006, more than 8,000 American women were shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten to death by their male partner. More than 500 Canadian women were victims of those same crimes between the six-year time period.
By comparison, 2,697 American soldiers were killed during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2000 and 2006, the book notes.
“It’s staggering,” says Novak. “There’s no other crime in our society that has numbers like that. I don’t think there’s a person alive who shouldn’t be aware of these statistics, of the dollars and cents (wasted) by closing the door once the horse has left the barn.”
Novak is currently partnering with local bookstores to promote Vallée’s book. She has contacted Vallée personally to obtain signed copies for bookstores across Muskoka.
Money will also be used from the Natalia Novak fund, established through Muskoka Interval House and the Muskoka Women’s Advocacy Group to help stop violence against women, to put Vallée’s book into local libraries and into the hands of agencies involved with Muskoka’s Domestic Abuse Review Team (DART.)
Readers’ World in Bracebridge, The Bookcase in Huntsville and The Book Store in Gravenhurst will begin carrying The War on Women March 8, International Women’s Day.