Cindy had called YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program's 24-hour crisis hotline so many times that the Hope House shelter advocates knew her voice. In the beginning, she needed someone to talk to. She wasn't sure if what she was going through was "really domestic violence." Cindy's abuse started out as verbal. Her husband had always been controlling. He said it was how he showed her he loved her and was worried about her. Cindy came from a small family and her parents were not ones to shower affection, or kind words, on their children. When her husband started yelling at her and calling her names, she thought it would pass.
When her father-in-law passed away, she watched her husband change before her eyes. He was depressed and refused to go to work. He began drinking heavily and his abusive behavior became intensely physical. He purchased a gun and would often threaten her, their dogs, and her family with it. He'd say things like "If you ever leave me, I'll kill your parents. You'll have no one left who loves you but me." As time progressed, Cindy didn't doubt him at all. He would rage at the most inconsequential things and she never knew what would set him off. Some days, he would be angry that she didn't bring dinner home with her from work, then he would beat her with a walking stick. Other days she would walk into the kitchen first thing in the morning to find him already angry because they were out of coffee. Then, he would throw her against walls or to the ground.
Cindy's husband was always careful, he never hit her in the face. She was always able to cover up the bruises. Until the last time. Cindy wasn't the one to call us when she needed emergency shelter and court services. Her nurse at the local hospital had to do that. Cindy's husband had beaten her so badly that her jaw was broken, she had multiple head wounds, and bruises all over her body, even her feet.
At the time we had just opened our second handicapped accessible room - which was possible because of Girls Night Out funding. Cindy needed this room until she was able to negotiate stairs. Healing, both physically and emotionally was going to be a long road for Cindy. Hope House staff linked her immediately with our support group and counseling. Resolve's court staff was able to meet with her and prepare her for what would happen with her case once it reached the court system. Meanwhile, Court Advocates assisted her with getting a Domestic Violence Protective Order.
Cindy had always worked outside the home, but had never been allowed to be in control of her own money. Resolve staff helped her understand basic banking and went with her to get her very first checking and savings account. Once she was physically healed, she was able to transfer her position at a local restaurant chain to another restaurant closer to the shelter. Cindy became a regular at Resolve's support group and through sharing her story and helping others to heal, she crafted a new network of support unlike one she had ever known.
Meeting one on one with our counselor allowed Cindy to begin the work of healing from what had become a way of life for her. She was able to, with the help of the counselor, process traumatic experiences and learn how to move on with her violence-free life.
With the support of the Victim and Shelter Services Coordinator, Cindy was able to find safe, affordable housing in an area far from her now ex-husband. It's been three years since Cindy signed divorce papers and she hasn't looked back. "Words can't express how thankful I am for all of those at Resolve. Coming to shelter literally saved my life."
*If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program at 1-800-681-8663 or 304-340-3549.
**The name in this story has been changed to protect the identity and safety of the individual.