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Mother of four young children remembered at annual rally for murdered and missing indigenous women

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Less than six months ago, Helyna Rivera uttered her last words to her grandmother over the telephone. 

"Grandma, how are my babies?" she asked. "I gotta go. Please say a prayer that I'll be safe."

But prayers couldn't protect the 25-year-old mother trapped in an extremely abusive relationship. Rivera was only 17 when she met the first man of her life. 

And she loved him. Even though he was a control freak who wouldn't let her have a life of her own.

"She wore a tremendous mask but we knew at times there was trouble," says Renee Hess, her grandmother. "And we didn't know the depth of her trouble until it was too late."

On the sidewalk outside police headquarters on College Street in Toronto, Hess stands at the microphone during the seventh annual rally for missing and murdered indigenous women. 

Snow flurries dance in the air. Many hold signs of sisters who've gone missing or been murdered over the last 47 years.

She speaks to a crowd of over 300 about her aching heart. The pain of losing a loved one far too soon.

"Something no doctor can prescribe relief for," she says.

Without the benefit of a prepared speech, she speaks from the heart about the "grave" that silenced her granddaughter and so many others.

"But we have the voice to speak on for them and give them the respect they deserve," she says.

Hess's daughter wanted to be at today's rally but she's busy taking care of the four "babies" Rivera left behind after she was brutally murdered by her boyfriend last August.

"And it really, really hurts because I didn't see none of that coming," says Hess. 

"But we can teach our children and our grandchildren to look for signs of abuse. To speak out and not be silent any more."

Click here to see more photos from Tuesday's rally.

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