A Survivor's Journey
Many clients of TPN are involved with multiple services provided through our agency. This story comes from a mother who has been involved with our agency for approximately 10 months, has been very involved with virtually the entire staff, and was happy to share her experiences.
Mom attended the Allstate financial training given by one of our Community Educators through the Economic Independence (EI) program. She feels the budgeting classes were very good at helping her figure out her spending. She noted that although many people do not know a lot about economic abuse, it did seem to her that the Allstate program was aware as this type of abuse was a central theme throughout the training. Another advocate through the EI program has also been helping her discover all of her options through various social service programs such as weatherization to get her house fixed up.
In general, what she really feels is very important is that the EI program gives you goals to work toward, but that they are your own goals. Program staff refer to the goals as ‘designing your own life’ which she likes very much and said that “I feel like I have achieved something” after having completed several of her program goals.
One service, our 24-hour crisis line, she has found to be particularly helpful. She stated that the first time she called she was very surprised about how educated the volunteer who answered was on the issues, how she really understood what she was going through, and it made her feel much better afterward. She said she is ‘very impressed’ with the crisis line and is “glad to know it is there 24-hours a day. Even if I don’t call, I know it is there if I need it” and she continues to call whenever she needs to talk.
She has attended multiple sessions of our 8-week domestic violence survivors support group and stated that going to group was the “first step that changed my life.” She said “I love it just because at times I feel like I am the only one going through it, and it is really nice not to feel isolated and alone.” She also enjoys the friends she has made through group as they get together and do things, call each other up, “sort of like networking” with people who understand each other. Several group members also attended TPN’s 5K Walk, and she said that it was really nice to see everyone come out for the cause and be there with people from the group.
She has also been accompanied to court by several advocates over these last few months for different issues. She said that this service “is really good, it is nice to have somebody there so I could ‘stick to my guns.’ I don’t know what I would have done, probably buckled to what he wanted” without an advocate there with her. She stressed how important it is to have an advocate with you at court, as one time she went without an advocate and ended up filling out a great deal of unnecessary paperwork. She said “having an advocate at the courthouse is very important, and I learned that the hard way!”
She has also been involved in ongoing peer support. She said that the first time she left her abuser ‘everyone’ was telling her to “go to peer support but I was against it, I didn’t really understand what it was. I wish I had listened the first time. She said that “it makes a big difference because they (advocates) knew what I was talking about. It makes sense that you can be best helped by someone who knows what you are talking about.”
Her story is a meaningful testament to the essence of this agency. The advocates and volunteers have been able to help her through her journey and she trusts these people to empower her, listen to her, and help her through any issues that come about in her life. She is a powerful survivor, and as a summary of her experiences with TPN helping her get to the point she is at right now, including becoming financially stable and furthering her education, she also stated “when times get tough, I can look back and can see that it can be done….I am moving forward and I am going to figure out a way to make it happen.”
Like so many other victims of domestic violence, Rachel felt stuck. She loved her husband and truly enjoyed taking care of her family. But this was overshadowed by his controlling behavior and the violence she faced each day. She and her children were living in fear. But what could she do? Rachel had built a life with this man. She loved him. He was the father of her children—and they adored him. And though he hurt her, there was always hope that he would change. There were the practical things to think about, too: she was a stay at home mom and had little work experience. Everything they owned was in his name. What if he tried to take the kids? What if he didn't let her leave? Where would she go?
Then one day, a concerned friend brought her to Turning Points Network. Rachel didn’t know what to expect, or even what she wanted. But as she listened to an advocate describe services, and as they began to discuss her options, one thing became clear to her: the only way for Rachel to keep herself and her kids safe was to leave. Step by step, she and her advocate built a plan. Rachel would go into TPN's shelter and find a way to begin again.
The first days in the shelter were some of the hardest in her life. She gave her kids all that she could, but they were facing a new reality. They were in a strange place, they missed their dad, and their future felt uncertain. But Rachel held strong. She worked to create a new normal for her family. She participated in almost everything the shelter and TPN had to offer: family activities, support groups, peer counseling, legal advocacy, economic empowerment workshops, and case management. And it paid off. With a little time, space and safety, Rachel began to thrive. As she and her advocate talked about Rachel's goals and dreams, she began to envision a life she never thought possible. She set her sights on securing an apartment for herself and her kids and completing training for her dream job. With the help of her advocate, she navigated the maze of financial aid, paperwork, meetings and budgeting. In a matter of months, her life was transformed.
Today, Rachel is a certified interpreter with a stable, fulfilling job. She has a new goal now: one day, she will purchase a small house with a yard her children can play in.
A Survivor's Story
Before I met my second husband, I never used to understand why women in domestic violence situations didn’t just leave. When my husband began to control me, I didn’t see it right away. I didn’t know at the time that he was isolating me. He controlled the money, everything. He was jealous. It took me a long time to realize that everything he accused me of doing, he was doing. Then, the abuse became physical. After the first time he hit me, he held me. It was unbelievable. Your inner being believes your husband when he says he will never do that again. I believed him because I loved him. I believed I could be enough. But the abuse didn’t stop. It only escalated. He broke my teeth, head butted me, pulled out my hair, punched me in the face. Once he put me out of our home and I had to sleep out in the bitter cold with my dog.
For years, the abuse continued. Then one night he started to choke me. He asked me if I wanted to die. Yes, I wanted to die. And I finally understood why women did not leave. Once you are isolated and controlled like that, you don’t realize anything ordinary or possible.
I had no one to talk to. My friends had fallen away long ago, all of them unable to understand why I stayed in my marriage for so long. And my family, who does not live close by, was not aware of my husband’s behavior.
One day, I stopped in at TPN’s Newport Office to talk and because I was so hungry. I had no food. They gave me donated food and a food card, and connected me with the local food pantry. They offered me the safety of their shelter but I didn’t go right away. Every ounce of me felt humiliated and ashamed.
After a few more visits to the office, I felt ready to go into the shelter but one thing held me back. I was afraid I would have to give up my dog. He was my constant companion, who had been with me through everything. My dog is my best friend and a lifesaver—literally. But TPN found a safe home for my dog where I could go see him while I was in the shelter.
Being at the shelter changed everything. I started to feel stronger, to accept people’s help. I finally felt safe and could let my guard down a little. The number of programs I was exposed to in the shelter was phenomenal. It was in the shelter that I first met Laura, a volunteer who was teaching other guests to quilt. Laura has the ability to make you feel safe. We would sit in the sewing room at the shelter and talk. And she didn’t judge me. I was so used to being judged. Laura is a talented quilter, but she made me do my own work on my quilt. She pushed me to do better and to believe I could do it.” My quilt is made entirely from scrap material. It was important to me that none of the pieces were bought. This quilt represents the pieces and parts of my life and my putting my life back together with only the parts that are good for me, healthy for me.
Being grateful is at the top of my list. I am grateful for my time with Laura and with TPN. Without TPN, none of this would be possible. They gave me kindness, time, structure, hope and made me believe in myself.
I’ll never change for anyone again. I am putting my life back together. I found a home where I can have my dog and I got a job. I live day to day. I get up every day, hoping.