From Poverty to Possibility

“I was hiding underneath the drugs. I didn’t know who I was without them.” Born into an educated, affluent family, Hilary Marks remembers when she completely lost interest in her university studies. Instead, she was drawn to the wrong people and later learned the thrill of danger came at a price.

Enslaved through drug addiction and prostitution, Hilary was beaten and raped. Breaking free took time, “slipping, falling and getting back up,” she says, with the help of a network of services funded, in part, by United Way.

Her gratitude is profound for the two Victoria City Police officers who stuck by her on the road to recovery. The Victoria Women’s Transition House is also held in high regard: “I often chose abusive men. Transition House staff helped me leave even though I’d go back.”

Bridges for Women helped her see she could have a life again. “When I couldn’t get a student loan, my mentor paid for my tuition and books. I’m going for a degree in Social Work.” PEERS, who work with people vulnerable to violence, embraced her completely. “I just attended the first-ever Peer Support Accreditation and Certification conference in Halifax. It was so inspiring.”

Now sober and happily housed, change came and stayed once Hilary learned why she repeatedly did what she did. “I left home looking for love and affection. That’s all I wanted. I ended up homeless everywhere I went.”

Now returning for her second year at Camosun College, Hilary says her biggest lesson is realizing her street smarts are transferable skills. She wants to apply that knowledge in aid of others who are suffering as she once was.