Editor’s Note: The following is a submission from a domestic abuse survivor who spent four months at the Partnership Advocacy Center. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
I lived in fear. I was afraid to make too much noise, cooking the “wrong” dinner, afraid for my kids to make too much noise. Even my kids giggling sent him over the edge. Everything had to be just right, except nothing was ever just right for him. He called me names, put me down, and cussed at me in front of my children.
He would break plates, decorations, put holes in the walls and sometimes even hit me (not in the face or where the marks could be seen) or strangle me. I had to ask for money, even beg for it. He made it very clear that he worked for it and it belonged to him. I worked very hard to protect my kids from the abuse and to hide my pain from the world. No one would have believed me.
The day I finally had enough, he was in a rage over toys that I had not cleaned off the living room floor yet. He told me what a worthless mother I was (nothing I hadn’t heard before). He began throwing the toys, then shoved me so hard I fell and broke my daughter’s favorite doll house into pieces. The commotion woke up my kids and to see the look of devastation when they saw their toys and favorite doll house was destroyed broke my heart. I was used to the disappointment of what had become my life, but my girls deserved better.
I waited till he went to that work that evening, packed a couple bags and called my aunt begging for a ride to the Sheriff’s Department. I told the lady at the window how I couldn’t go home and desperately needed help. She told me to wait and called the Partnership Advocacy Center. A couple women came and picked up me and my kids. I was so nervous about staying in a place that I knew no one.
I was starting to second guess my decision and all these thoughts started flooding my mind, “What if the people were dangerous? How many people would be in our room? Was it dirty? How long would I be there? What if my kids hated it? What if he found me? Am I really a terrible mother for taking them from their father and into an unknown situation? How did my life get like this?”
When we finally arrived at the shelter, it was nothing like I had imagined. The ladies were so kind and understanding. My kids and I had our own bed room and restroom. It was very clean, and we had privacy. The ladies gave us items I had forgotten, such a pajamas, shampoo and other personal items. They showered my little girls with toys, compassion, kindness, clothes and shoes.
Over the course of the next few months, the ladies assisted me get back on my feet and regain my confidence I had lost. We worked together for me to get a job, find childcare, attend counseling, find an apartment, and enroll in public benefits. During my individualized case plans, we worked on ways to identify red flags in abusive relationships, increase my self esteem, and how to cope with trauma.
The four months I spent in shelter were emotional, exhaustive, extensive, difficult to deal with my own issues, at times were lonely, however I never felt more hopeful. The girls at the Partnership were supportive, encouraging, empowering and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.