Editor’s note: One resident of the Time Out Shelter offered the following account to help dramatize the danger that drives many women and their children to the shelter and the social, emotional and financial complexity of helping them start a new life free from violence.
My mother was an alcoholic and, until the age of 7, I would regularly take care of my two younger siblings. When she met my stepdad, her drastic change in behavior actually scared me. Instead of me being in charge, my mom was now acting responsibly and tending to her children. I excelled in school and extracurricular activities.
After graduation, I met my first of four abusers. Attempts to control me began to appear, but I did not know what signs to look for. My stepfather’s strict rules led me to live a very sheltered and routine life. We did not discuss domestic violence or other unpleasant topics. My first abuser broke my jaw, arm, cheekbone, collarbone, wrist and finger. He tried to kill me and make it look like a suicide. I still bear the long scar, from wrist to elbow, of the cut he made all the while taunting me that others will think I was crazy and killed myself. I tried to prosecute him, but each charge was pleaded out and ultimately I lost my faith in the legal system’s ability to protect me. When this relationship ended, his abuse did not. He would use child visitation exchanges to continue harassment and physical abuse.
Although very short, the relationship with my next abuser was severe. One night, he woke me out of my sleep. Although I was pregnant, he beat me so severely that tragically my fetus was pushed out of my uterus and I was also left with swelling on my brain.
My third abuser became controlling only when his infidelity was discovered, but he let me know “divorce was not an option.” During a fight, he grabbed a loaded .22 rifle and shot me. I did not realize I was shot until I looked down and saw black soot at the point of entry on my white T-shirt. Since my husband had fled the scene leaving me for dead, I had to run a half-mile to my neighbor’s house for help. Later my husband told the police I was crazy and had shot myself! I felt re-victimized having to prove to investigators that given the circumstances that it was impossible that I had shot myself. I was finally believed, and this man was prosecuted.
My last abuser was a man whom I was married to for five years. His alcohol consumption increased and verbal abuse started. I attempted to leave one day, but he grabbed my car keys from me. He punched me, and the last thing I remember is him saying, “I’m going to choke you until you pass out. I’m going to choke you until you die.” I woke up alone and sought the services of the local domestic violence shelter.
At Time Out, Inc. I have worked a rehabilitative program and utilized education groups, legal services, DV advocacy, and case management from the shelter’s staff. These services have empowered me to believe in myself again. I see resources everywhere and all within my reach. I applied for, and was selected into Time Out’s Transitional Program. Here I have very affordable housing for up to two years. I still have easy access to all the program support I had while I was in the emergency shelter. I still do case management and attend DV and life skills groups regularly.
My No. 1 motivation is to stay true to my course for my daughters. My girls are my everything! I talk openly about my life experiences when they ask me. I feel like my girls and I are doing well. I am working and scheduled to start college courses this month as well.
Time Out, Inc. has provided me a structure and support system to go from a victim, to someone who is thriving despite domestic violence.