“Speaking up is the best way to start your life again. Knowing that I’m safe helps me to know that I’m a thriver now instead of a survivor.”
Anna and her mother entered our shelter when Anna was in her eighth month of pregnancy. She felt that she had to leave her very verbally and emotionally abusive husband out of concern for her unborn child. Her husband was extremely controlling and irrationally jealous. He did many things to try to isolate her from her friends and family and was even jealous of her relationship with her mother who had come to stay with them to help out when the baby was born.
He would “rant and rave” for many hours at a time and was constantly humiliating her. He told her that when they were out in public that she must walk behind him and keep her eyes lowered. He is from a country where women are considered inferior to men and have few rights. Anna, who is from Mexico, was new to the area, and she and her mother had no one that they could turn to. When Anna heard that there is a National Domestic Violence Hotline, she called it and was referred her to us.
Anna’s baby was born two weeks after she came into the shelter. One of our volunteers drove her to the hospital and was her “coach” during labor. When she came back with the baby, HDNBC staff and volunteers gave her a baby shower and decorated the door to her room with “It’s a Girl” signs. Anna and her mom were overwhelmed with the kindness that they had been shown and thrived emotionally. However, Anna had financial barriers to deal with.
Although Anna had a good job as a teacher, because of her pregnancy, childbirth, and her abusive situation, she had missed a lot of work for which she was not paid. Her husband had controlled all the money and she had come into the shelter penniless. HDNBC was able to pay her first month’s rent in her new apartment for her. We also referred her to people who had furniture and baby equipment that they wanted to donate. Anna, her mother, and her newborn baby were able to move into a completely set-up apartment.
Anna is in our Outreach support group now and continues to benefit from that program. She is a much happier and more self-confident woman now. She is looking forward to bringing up her daughter in a safe, non-abusive home.
We often hear about the stories of physical abuse and it is easy to see the physical impacts it has on victims, but emotional, verbal, and financial abuse often is not recognized as important as the physical. The story I want to share with you is a story of a client who I will call Sharon. Sharon was a highly educated woman who was a stay-at-home mom. Sharon left work after she had a child who was diagnosed with special needs.
Sharon’s abuser traveled constantly due to business. He frequently was out of town for weeks even months at a time. During these extended business trips, Sharon would be left with no gas money, no food, and no resources. She frequently experienced long periods of time when her abuser would shut off or not pay for various utilities such as water, phone, and electricity. During these times Sharon would be stressed out about how she would feed, clothe, and transport her children. This continued abuse caused severe depression. Sharon wanted to leave much sooner but her abuser put most of the bills in her name and would never pay them. He only paid the bills in his personal name in order to keep his credit intact. Sharon’s credit on the other hand was absolutely ruined! Therefore, even if she did leave her abuser, she had no credit to obtain housing, a car, or any other services she needed that were dependent on her credit. Her credit even prevented her from getting certain well-paying jobs.
Sharon felt as though she had no options. She had come from humble beginnings. She had put herself through college and graduate school because her family did not have the resources to assist her in obtaining this level of education.
Sharon, a very smart and beautiful woman, had shut down. She was so overwhelmed and depressed that she could not function. She did the only thing she knew to do. She called HDNBC’s 24-hour hotline looking for help. The advocate who spoke to her could sense the level of stress and depression she was experiencing due to abuse.
The advocate told her to come into the shelter. When she entered the shelter, she could not even think clearly, she cried often and did not trust anyone. We worked with her slowly only giving her one goal a day, in the beginning, to prevent her from becoming overwhelmed and shutting down. This process began to build trust so that she felt safe with the shelter staff. Her self-esteem and confidence began to build in her own abilities as she successfully achieved one goal at a time. We asked her to start walking daily to help with her depression in addition to taking some antidepressants. She did very well. She surprised us all at how quickly she bounced back and began to reclaim her personal self. One of her greatest achievements was when she was accepted into a highly exclusive certificate program that would guarantee her a well-paying job that would be perfect for supporting herself and her children. However, this program required a fairly hefty enrollment fee upfront. The rest of the money would be taken out of her paychecks once she started working.
Sharon began to despair after all the progress she had made. The lack of finances threatened her yet again.
We worked with her trying to locate funds in every possible way. A day before the deadline for her enrollment, she got a call from one of the agencies we had contacted. They were willing to give her half of the money she needed. In order to get the other half, Sharon sold a piece of jewelry that was very precious to her for a fraction of its worth.
The shelter staff decided we could supply the rest of the money. We told her on the day of the deadline which was also one day before her birthday. She cried and said she will forever remember this as the best birthday gift ever because it was the key that locked away the past and opened the door to her future. Sharon is on her way to living a healthy life free of violence. It just goes to show how quickly one can recover when they have a safe place and people who care.
I think true love conquers all, and there is a lot of love in this agency.