Stories of Domestic Violence Survivors at The Retreat
“I know that you have a lot of pain but you didn’t have to take it out on my mom. Did you ever think for a second how this affects not just me but my sisters, your daughters?”`
When a boy is mean to you, it means he likes you. But I say to them, there is never a time when someone being mean to you is love. Ever. There is never a time when someone hurting you translates to love.
But once he was gone, I realized I could provide for my family. I was better off without him. I told him the day I leave you is forever
Life after they seek help
I just wanted to say a few words of gratitude and encouragement to everyone working at The Retreat. It’s been almost a year now since I lived at the Shelter. I would love to tell you my war is over, but it just isn’t so. The truth is it may not be for a long time but I now have the courage and self respect to deal with that.
The Retreat not only provided me with basic needs such as good food and a warm, clean place to sleep, it also gave me opportunities to rebuild my self-esteem. The yoga classes, access to the gym, Mary Kay makeovers, and haircuts were not required but it showed that you cared not only about my problem but you understood my situation as a whole. Small things like these that matter most when a woman loses her sense of self through domestic violence. The smallest pleasure can serve as the greatest reminder of how good life can be. Self love is the foundation needed for change, to lead into a positive direction.
I was a recipient of The Retreat’s various services for a few years. They helped me in the darkest of times. I happened upon their door step very scared, anxiety ridden, dazed and without a clue of how to go about getting protection from my spouse. I felt as if I was all alone in the world and none of my family or friends would understand. I was embarrassed.
They helped me complete all my necessary paperwork to file for an order of protection. They sat and held my hand in the Family court’s waiting room and were there for me at every court hearing thereafter. The Retreat helped me and my children through our worst time and left us with the tools to start a new life. I am forever grateful to the staff at The Retreat for my time with them. I went from an alone, scared, stay at home mom with no money of my own to a strong, confident woman who got a job and worked hard to put myself and my children in a position where we can pay it forward.
A survivor who stayed with us for an extended period arrived with little English, no phone, one autistic child, a toddler in a stroller and later gave birth to a premature newborn (she’d been afraid to tell us she was pregnant). We ultimately helped her find housing—through our transitional housing program—and we continue to pay for her phone, the only way she’s able to stay in touch with her counselor and case manager.
While no longer at the shelter, we continue to support her through a referral to a food pantry, helping enroll her older children in school, and providing needed baby items, all particularly critical as she’s found it difficult to land a job with young, high-needs children.
Upon seeing the bruises his father had inflicted upon me, my son shrugged and called them “battle scars.” Those words terrified me; my beautiful, gentle child thought this was normal. If it were not for my son, I never would have embarked on the two-year journey of leaving my husband of 38 years. He was the reason I finally went to the doctor after being physically abused.
I share my story because silence perpetuates the myths that surround domestic violence – what it is, what it looks like, who it happens to. I am not crazy, I do not deserve to be humiliated, ridiculed, put down, shoved, beaten. I am not alone and neither are you.
I share my story because silence perpetuates the myths that surround domestic violence – what it is, what it looks like, who it happens to. Here are some truths about domestic violence that I have learned along the way. It doesn’t care who you are, what you look like, your race or ethnicity, marital status, education, bank account, job, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, politics. I am a nurse and I thought I knew a little about domestic violence. I didn’t have a clue and neither did my family or friends. A good friend of the family, truly shocked by the revelation of violence in our home struggled to understand and apologized before asking, “What part of it is your fault?” What part of being beaten do I own? None of it.
Our silence strengthens the web spun by a controlling, abusive person. We feel we deserve the abuse, that we cause it, that if we were a better person or just did the right thing, it wouldn’t happen. We feel shame, fear, denial, self-doubt, disbelief, guilt. This journey required strength, hope, and courage; The Retreat was invaluable to me in developing those qualities. I could put out everything on their table – my experiences, my thoughts, my fear, and my feelings of shame and guilt. There, on that table, I could shake it, poke it, dissect it until I could name it, understand it, come to terms with it, deal with it. There was no judgment, only acceptance and understanding, gentle guidance, education, and affirmation.
I came into the shelter as a ragged 27-year-old, no money, no job, no education. I was a high school dropout, no place to call come with four shell-shocked children under the age of 10. Their first thought when we arrived was “Mommy, we can all have our own bed now!” Before that, they had been sharing and I slept on the floor.
I received so much love and hope for me and my family. There was counseling: for me, for my children, for me with my children. The advocates came to court with me and were, at times, my only support in the whole world. I cannot thank them enough.
With the assistance of The Retreat, I was placed in a temporary home where we learned to be a family again. I went back to school, worked hard, and earned my high school diploma. My kids excelled, growing into the fine adults they are today. I have continued my education and received additional degrees.
I want everyone to know that there is a future, there is a life, your dreams for tomorrow can become a reality. I know you sometimes feel why do you bother or it’s not worth it, but I for one know the difference The Retreat has made in my and my children’s lives.