DeeDee Chomyk, who writes under the pen name D.D.K., will appear in the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library at 2 p.m. to promote her book Unpunished.
The novel is based on a true story, which in the author’s words concerns “sexual abuse … betrayal, mental illness and murder.”
“The only reason why I turned it into a novel was because after working with Victims Services, after volunteering with the Crisis Line and realizing how many people are struggling, or (as) I like to refer to it … stuck in darkness, I decided that it needed to be put to print,” Chomyk said.
“So many people have experienced a lot of this and a lot of people have witnessed a lot of this,” she said. “If people would speak up or do something about it, we can save lives. I mean, this story ends in murder … and it’s a true story and it’s an unsolved murder.”
Though not originally intended as a book, the amount of documentation compiled for Donna’s case over years by the RCMP and city police led acquaintances of Chomyk to convince her there was enough material for her to write one.
From her early years, Donna faced many obstacles. Raised in an alcoholic household and subjected to abuse from her stepfather, she grew up to find herself trapped in abusive relationships.
“I think that what happened with her is because of being raised in a home where there’s a lot of abuse, and then watching her 17-year-senior sister go through a lot of … spousal abuse, sexual abuse in the home, I don’t think that she really recognized the difference between love and abuse,” Chomyk said. “There’s a fine line, right?”
Donna began dating a man named Allan who started to subject her to emotional and physical abuse. Resorting to the legal system, she eventually obtained half a dozen restraining orders against him altogether. She hoped it would be enough to keep him from re-entering her life.
“She comes home one night and she decides she’s going to have a good restful sleep because life’s getting better, and something just doesn’t feel right,” Chomyk said.
“Just that sense … She got up, she walks over to her closet, opens the door – and there he is, standing in her closet. And sometimes under her bed, on her deck looking in the window, sitting at her kitchen table when she walks up the stairs after a night out.”
Medical professionals advised Donna that the situation with Allan could very well end in suicide, homicide or both, but she seemed to be making progress in court.
After isolating herself for a time out of fear, Donna went out one night and met a man named Merv in a casino. Starting out as friends, their relationship eventually deepened.
I don’t think that she really recognized the difference between love and abuse. - DeeDee Chomyk
Merv was a devout Catholic and went to church three times a week, but at the same time suffered from depression and was going through a divorce. He also told her he had unspecified (at first) issues regarding sex.
When Merv received a job offer in the Cayman Islands, he asked Donna to join him.
“Donna’s dream was to be in the tropics someday, because she grew up cold all the time,” Chomyk said. “She lived in a porch that was ice on the walls and windows, and her stepdad gave her two inches of bathwater to bathe in. She used to pour it over her head to keep warm.”
Unfortunately, it was only when Donna began visiting Merv regularly at the island that the abuse started. She soon realized he carried some dark secrets, and then Merv too began to subject her to emotional and physical abuse.
Eventually he took her passport, credit cards, money and ID. She only managed to escape the island in the end with the help of a friend. But things ended much more poorly for Merv.
Donna’s struggle over the years against abuse was powerful enough to convince Chomyk to take up the pen and immortalize it in print. She hopes that if others hear Donna’s story, it will inspire them to reach out to others who are suffering abuse or ask for help themselves.
Based on her travels, the effort appears to be paying dividends already.
“I’m getting a lot of positive emails and some men that have emailed me, it’s made it worth it already,” she said, describing the story of one such man from Tennessee.
“He said, ‘I’m reading your book, and apparently, I’m feeling like you’re writing about me.’ And these are his exact words, he says, ‘I’ve been a real prick … I guess it’s time I did something.’ And I just thought, ‘Wow! If one person gets happy and healthy, it’s worth it, right?’”
A resident of Prince Albert from 1980 until about four years ago -- during which she was the owner of Ye Olde Hair and Health Salon and its later incarnation, Hairmosa -- Chomyk currently lives in Estevan, where she oversees a restaurant with her long-time partner. However, she may yet return to writing.
One idea for a second book stands out.
“I’m thinking probably Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, because I was in the hair industry for 33 years, and that’s a story in itself.”