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6 min

Beyond the bashing: Assaulted Oshawa moms rise as activists

"Most people don't get punched in the face when they're 37"

MOTHER BEARS. Anji Dimitriou and Jane Currie have only seen their alleged attacker Mark Scott once since Nov 3, 2008. "I felt like mother bear protecting her kids," says Dimitriou of the sighting. Credit: Peter Bevan

“Which one of you fucking men talked to my son?” 43-year-old Mark Scott, a man pushing six-foot-two, allegedly said as he peered down into the eyes of five-foot-two Anji Dimitriou in the parking lot of Gordon B Attersley Elementary School in Oshawa on the sunny day of Nov 3, 2008.

Dimitriou was in the middle of tossing her six-year-old son’s knapsack into the back of her truck. “Who you calling a man?” she shot back. 

Scott allegedly barked back, “Fucking dyke bitch,” before mustering up a slimy loogie and spitting in Dimitriou’s face. Dimitriou’s girlfriend, Jane Currie, who was sitting in Dimitriou’s truck at the time, took notice and tried to intervene.

Pow! Too late. Seconds later Scott allegedly clocked Dimitriou across the face with enough force that Dimitriou, who was already on disability from a car accident, was thrown back against her truck.

“You just hit a women in broad daylight! Are you nuts?” yelled Currie as she approached Scott, who allegedly dealt her a similar blow.

Bewildered parents covered their children’s eyes as the two stunned mothers bled profusely from their faces. Currie reached up to feel her pulsating cheek. She flicked blood off her hand toward the pavement. Splat.

Currie says that she and Dimitriou’s six-year-old son, who saw everything, screamed a scream, “you’d only hear in a horror movie,” says Currie. The mother’s two other children, aged six and eight, who had missed the incident but arrived a moment later, cried at the sight of seeing their two mother’s painted with blood.

“It was the type of scene you see on CSI,” says Currie, speaking on the incident nearly one year later, at times holding back tears. It’s nearly one month before she and Dimitriou revisit the incident, and their alleged attacker, in court.

No one knows exactly what motivated Scott to allegedly attack Currie and Dimitriou in the school parking lot of Gordon B Attersley in front of hundreds of children that day. “It’s not like we were at the school making out in assless chaps or wearing a rainbow suit,” says Currie. But the mothers, and their community, have their suspicions.

Sitting curled up in each other’s tattooed arms on a couch in the organized living room of their newly built Oshawa home (so new that “not even MapQuest has picked up on it yet,” says Dimitriou), the lesbian mothers have freed up an evening to reflect on the violent day that would change their lives — and the lives of their three children — forever.

Dimitriou, 31 and Currie, 37, first met two years ago when they discovered that both of their kids were in the same elementary school class.

“Our kids were the matchmakers,” says Currie, a school parent volunteer, who was in a relationship with a man at the time. Currie’s relationship with Dimitriou was her first lesbian relationship. The alleged bashing, which occurred after the couple had been dating for just a year, was a kind of call to arms for the pair to become antihomophobia activists.

Within days of the alleged assault the pair had told their story on almost every major Canadian news network, as well as CNN in the US, granting interviews to any reporter who requested one.

The news, the women say, spread thanks to Facebook. “We didn’t call a single reporter,” says Currie.

Soon after the incident Dimitriou launched a group on the social networking site detailing the incident and what the couple were doing about it. A few days later a “53-foot satellite news truck was parked outside our house at 5:30am,” says Dimitriou.

Through Facebook, the story “spread like wildfire.” The pair credits the site for helping them rally hundreds of people in front of Oshawa City Hall days after the incident to draw attention to homophobia.

“Most people don’t get punched in the face when they’re 37,” says Currie. She points to the scar below her left eye — a war wound that is the result of the four stitches she required. Dimitriou also suffers ongoing effects. The blow she received to the face that day bruised her left eye, which has resulted in her having to increase her vision prescription.

Even almost a year later the mothers still feel the physical injuries incurred from Scott’s alleged blows. “If we laugh too hard, it hurts,” says Dimitriou. “The bones are still healing.”

On the surface Dimitriou and Currie’s life is hardly a portrait of playground terror. As the mothers speak their two youngest children, a boy and girl, now both seven, are in the basement playing Nintendo DS. Later that evening the kids appear wearing bicycle helmets to urgently yet proudly report that they’ve caught a “giant” praying mantis in the backyard. They ask their moms if it will bite.

It’s clear Dimitriou and Currie have asked their children, whose names have been withheld at the couple’s request, to occupy themselves while the two women share their story. But there’s no denying the kids know what’s going on. Prior to interview the oldest, a daughter who is eight years old, soon turning nine, says thanks for “putting her moms in the paper,” adding that she hopes Scott goes to jail.

“They had nightmares for a long time,” says Dimitriou, adding that sometimes the children dreamt that someone was taking their mothers away or that they would never be able to see them again.

Other nights the children, one after another, would knock on Dimitriou and Currie’s bedroom door, shaking in fear because they dreamt of blood. “It got to a point where neither of us was getting any sleep,” says Currie.

Though they underwent counselling the children were nervous for months. “They didn’t want to go to public places, like Walmart or Zellers, in case [Scott] was there,” says Dimitriou.

The mothers had to demonstrate, at the request of their kids, how to set their home alarm system because the kids were scared Scott would break in.

“We had to set the alarm off so they could hear how loud it was,” says Dimitriou.

Despite the incident Dimitriou and Currie chose not to move their children to another school. The children, the mothers say, were not overwhelmed with questions from their peers on the playground, although they “explained the situation at their own comfort level” when asked about it, says Currie.

“They made their own rules,” adds Currie. For example, months following the incident, the couple’s youngest daughter stayed inside during recess, avoiding confrontation from her peers altogether. Up until last month, the mothers say, the children refused to go anywhere, such as the park, unless with a parent.

Scott, who was arrested on the day of the incident, was ordered by police to keep 500 metres away from the school, from Dimitriou and Currie, and from the pair’s children. Weeks later Scott removed his kids from Gordon B Attersley. 

However living in Oshawa, which has a population close to 150,000, there was no guarantee the women and Scott would not cross paths.

Three months after the alleged assault Dimitriou and Currie decided to visit Blockbuster to rent a movie. When they saw Scott and his van parked outside the video store they told the kids there was a change of plans, turned around and headed home.

“I felt sick,” says Dimitriou, who made eye contact with Scott that day. “I felt like mother bear protecting her kids.”

This October will mark the beginning of the trial against Scott. It will be the first time since seeing Scott at Blockbuster that Dimitriou and Currie will look their attacker in the eyes. “I tell people I don’t care, but as the date gets closer, I think about it a lot,” says Dimitriou. 

Is it safe to be queer in Oshawa? Dimitriou and Currie say it is, citing a strong queer infrastructure, such as Durham’s Pflag chapter (which the two women now direct), a visible queer community including a lesbian couple who lives a few doors down and queer public events, such as the Durham Pride Prom, which Dimitriou and Currie now help coordinate.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial the couple say they’ll continue in their newfound roles as activists in Oshawa.

“If everybody stopped at the end of what they thought was their end, no one would be standing up for what they believe in,” says Currie.

After the interview Dimitriou and Currie’s eight-year-old appears and hands me a folded piece of paper. “You are very nice and I thank you so so so so much!” reads the scribbled inscription, written in black magic marker. The card also depicts a drawing of a character (presumably Scott) in jail behind bars exclaiming, “I am so dum dum dum! And mean! And rude!”

“There is no way anybody else’s kid is going to see what my kid saw,” says Currie. Chances are, her kids would agree.

Scott is charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm. The three-day trial is set to begin on Wed, Oct 28 in an Oshawa courtroom.