Stories of Survival
Watch Stories of Marin Abused Women’s Services – A short documentary of real people impacted by domestic violence. Hear about their healing, triumph and rebuilding through this compelling and unique style of storytelling.
Seeking Help Can Save Your Life
Alicia (not her real name) came to the shelter with her two children in fear for her life from her husband of eight years. She arrived with a painful, bruised back as her husband would regularly hit her back with a closed fist, pull her hair, and then threaten to bury her beneath the patio. Alicia stated that when she first met her husband, he was a nice man and “I thought he loved me.” As time went on, especially after she got pregnant with their first child, he became increasingly abusive. He started with verbal and emotional abuse; calling her names and humiliating her, but soon escalated to hitting, punching, and choking her and threatening to kill her.
By the time she left him, with assistance from one of his relatives, he had isolated her from her friends and family and she was not allowed to leave the house without his permission. When people visited, he would tell her to stay in the bedroom so that other men would not see her. She was not allowed to shop, so her husband bought their clothes and groceries. Her husband owned hunting knives and two guns; Alicia spent most of her time alone, desperate, and frightened.
Alicia seemed to be in shock when she first arrived at the shelter. We accompanied her to the hospital where she stayed for a few days to recover. She was greatly improved upon her release, and with our help, proceeded to do amazing things for her family. She filed a police report, got a restraining order, obtained financial assistance from social service for herself and her children, scheduled counseling appointments, and got childcare.
Alicia’s husband was arrested shortly after her arrival to shelter. At the time of his arrest, he was one block away from Alicia’s relatives and, according to police, armed with a gun.
Today, Alicia is thriving in a new rented home. She found employment, a sitter for her children, and a parent-aid. She enrolled her children in a new school and she is taking classes as well, part-time. We hear from her occasionally, and she states that she feels happy, safe, and free.
From Victim to Survivor to Thriving Teenager
By the time Luke (not his real name) was 6 years old, he had lived beyond his years. He remembers some good times, such as going to his father’s work and playing in their inflatable pool, but he also remembers how terrible the fights were at home, and how scared and insecure he felt all the time. When the fights became violent, his father hit his mom. But sometimes the violence was directed at him, his older sister, or younger two siblings. His mom tried to leave once, but his father tracked her down and convinced her to come back. She wasn’t aware that there was help available to her, until one fight escalated so badly that Luke’s younger sister called 911 for fear their mother was going to be killed. Things changed after that. Shortly after the police, firemen, and ambulance arrived, their father was taken to jail, and they went to live with another family member. It was there that Luke’s mom learned about Center for Domestic Peace and made arrangements for the family to stay at the shelter.
When asked about what he remembers about the shelter, Luke smiles and says it was a great place. His favorite place was the video game room. He recalls how he felt safe and how he was happy to see his mom and siblings doing better. Soon, they moved into the transitional housing at Second Step, where they lived for two full years. He says Second Step changed their lives and gave them a new path. Not only did this program provide safe and private housing, but it also provided art classes, day care, and classes on conflict resolution. He made great friends with the other residents and he started to flourish in his new life. At Second Step, his mom was able to seek counseling and go back to school so she could support the family.
When asked what he thinks life would have been like had they not escaped his father, he says without hesitation that their life would have been filled with violence. He says he probably would have turned to drugs, dropped out of school and maybe even ended up in jail. He misses his father in some ways, but he doesn’t miss being hurt.
Luke is now in 10th grade and is an exceptional athlete and a good student. These days he avoids fights because he doesn’t believe in violence, plays football for the pure athletics of the sport, and has no interest in drugs and troubled kids.
He recalls going with his mom while living at Second Step to help with a donation drive. He was amazed at the generosity of so many. He told his mom that someday, when he is married, he will volunteer with his wife and kids to help other abused women. Luke is determined to go to college and wants most of all to be a lawyer, so he can help other families in need. We believe he will.
Catherine (not her real name) called our hotline after she had been physically, emotionally, verbally, and sexually abused by her husband of six years. She and her husband have two beautiful children, and Catherine was a hard-working stay at home mother. Her husband began to be physically abusive during the pregnancy of their first child. He would drink, demand things from her, and become irate when she would not follow his commands. He demeaned her, isolated her, and insulted her so much she felt she deserved no better. Catherine was fearful for her children’s lives as well, because her husband would threaten to drive intoxicated and kill all of them. He began to show severe signs of drug use, was out all hours of the day, and would force himself on her upon his return.
When Catherine’s husband threatened her life with a bat, that incident, together with the acumination of all the other abuse she had previously experienced, led her to call the police and our hotline. She has not turned back since.
Catherine came to the shelter with her two children and was ready to take back all of their lives. We assisted her in making police reports, getting a restraining order, and gaining custody of her children. Catherine was timid and emotionally drained when she first came to shelter, and she was not used to hearing her own name called, being so accustomed to insults and derogatory terms. However, through the love and encouragement of the advocates and other participants in the shelter, she became a happy, thriving, confident woman who loves her name.
Catherine has transitioned to a three bedroom apartment at our Second Step transitional housing program with her children. She is eager to get a job and go to school to begin a career in the law enforcement field. We will continue to support Catherine as she works toward these goals while in Second Step, and we are confident she will succeed in her goals.
Do you have a story of survival you would like to share with C4DP? email: [email protected]