Every mother wants a better life for her daughter. It was no different for Martha, a young mother with a child – living with her mother in Oklahoma. She was popular, confident, and besides the ordinary challenges of motherhood – carefree. It was only a few months after marrying a handsome, charismatic, but quite volatile man, that all that changed.
“I would be lying to you if I told you my 4-year old daughter hadn’t pulled glass from my back, and cleaned blood off of me” Martha shared. Her daughter, Tara, who she likened to an angel, was always there for her: protecting her and giving her a reason to withstand the erratic violence. She became isolated from friends and family. The fear of his retribution crippled her from fully living her life. “It’s amazing to me that I never fell prey to alcohol or drugs.” Although, that may have been because of Tara.
Several years into her marriage, Martha became pregnant. Even during pregnancy there was abuse and she lost her child after carrying him to full term. Remembering this brings tears to her eyes. She stayed for 15 years.
One day, she was house-sitting for a friend. “I just didn’t go home,” she revealed. While her former spouse didn’t believe that she was really leaving him, and the separation was taxing, she did it.
Several years later, the WV Symphony was having auditions for their choir. Martha had always loved to sing – so she went. “I did not tell anyone I was trying out just in case I didn’t make it!” she laughed. She came to her daughter’s home afterward and announced that she had been accepted. “She was so excited. I’d never seen her like that!” Tara remarked. She sang with the Symphony choir for ten years and served in leadership. She was free to be herself again.
After Tara’s daughter, Tova, was born, Martha has been so grateful abuse isn’t part of life for her granddaughter. “I want everything to be happy for her,” she remarked. Tara has struggled in the past with trusting men, since she was a witness to the terror her mother endured. But she is in a happy relationship, and is successfully navigating her fierce independence with her partner.
Recently, Tara had to go to D.C. for a work trip. She called her mom and asked, “do you want to take the train and go to New York City?” Martha was elated. “I love the city, and I never thought I would see Tara in NYC. That’s why it was so special to me!” she laughed. Together, they explored, they laughed, they made memories looking at the beautiful cityscape. “It was wonderful and unforgettable,” Martha reminisced.
For all women who are experiencing abuse, or who have experienced abuse, Martha has this message: “There is hope. If you can break the cycle, have faith there will be such positive ripple effects in your life and in the lives of your loved ones. You deserve to live a life violence-free.”
Tara and Martha have worked with and supported YWCA Charleston for many years. They greatly support Girls Night Out, which benefits victims of domestic violence served by YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program. Tara also serves on the YWCA Racial Justice Committee.