Tag Archives: domestic violence

Abused for almost a decade – finding the courage to leave

Guest post by DCF Child Protective Investigator Angela Brown and Child Protective Investigations Supervisor Julia Johnson in Suwannee County

domestic violenceA mother had been in a very violent relationship for nine years.  She had quit fighting back.  When her husband found out about the abuse report she filed against him, he told her he was going to kill her.

She told us she was scared and didn’t want DCF involved.  But we told her that as bad as the domestic violence is now, it will only get worse if she doesn’t get help. The abuse would continue to break down her self-esteem.  She needed to get help to protect herself and her children.

The woman’s mother is her support system and worked with us to encourage her and her children to stay at a domestic violence shelter until it was safe for her to return home. The woman was confused and really didn’t know how to go about saving herself.

A victim’s advocate at the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office help her fill out an injunction against her husband and stood by her side in court. We both gave the woman our phone numbers and encouraged her to call at any time if she needed help.

Now she no longer has to worry about what will happen when her husband comes home from work.  Her stomach was no longer in knots.  She was living again, for the first time in a long time.  She said she had seen the change in her children – they are calmer, happier, laughing more, not as angry and not fighting with each other as much.

The changes in her life are obvious.  Her appearance is different – she has confidence, is happy, smiles, talks and laughs.  She is working to get her GED … and she has expressed interest in someday becoming a Child Protective Investigator.

She finally became a participant in her own life

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The following is a survivor’s story as told by her advocate. 

The pair met in a rural village in Haiti. They courted, fell in love and then got married. They were poor and learned to live with the bare necessities. She thought he would be the one to share her journey, but he turned out to be no loving companion.

She stated she was no different from many other Haitian wives who resigned themselves to their lot. She desperately wanted to wake up to a new life, so when he suggested moving to this sacred land, she readily accepted.

They came to the U.S. and had three children. He spoke English. She did not. He had family here. She did not. Her journey was grim and painful. Her living conditions in Haiti were archaic and prepared her well to accept the crumbs he was willing to give her.

He spent money on other women and changed their family portrait by adding a child he fathered out of wedlock. This new life was plagued with doubts. She saw herself as a trapped, limited being. Confrontations with his wrath were abundant. She learned how to read his moods and watched for the crazed look in his eyes. When he displayed his heinous behavior, she refrained herself from engaging because she was not allowed to wedge a word into the conversation. She practiced silence.

There was no net to capture her from the abusive life into which she had fallen. Faith became her nourishment. She endured his abuse in silence. She shrouded herself with shame while he assumed an attitude of superiority and constantly reminded her that she could not speak English. He said that she was a nobody. He cursed at her, hit her, and threatened to practice voodoo spells on her and the children.

She explained that their culture has been strongly rooted in voodoo and the fear of it was real. She once told her advocate, “Once voodoo comes into your life, voodoo follows you, always. It doesn’t stop. You have to pray, pray and pray.” And so, she prayed. She prayed fervently and ceaselessly. Her advocate finally understood why she looked as if she was humming all the time.

She was exhausted with stress and fear and looked aloof. He had sapped out her sense of self-worth. It took her advocate quite some time to instill in her that it was her birthright to live without abuse, whole and unfragmented.

She faced a myriad of challenges such as leaving her abusive husband of 17 years, navigating the legal system, getting food stamps, obtaining Medicaid for the children, finding a new apartment and a new job. Luckily she was documented, but this was still an uncharted territory, especially for someone who did not speak English.

 

A Florida domestic violence center

All of his assumptions vanished when he saw that she had the proper resources to address all the legalities she was facing. He was floored when he saw that she had an attorney representing her and a translator communicating everything in Creole. She was not going to be excluded from the conversation.

The garden at a Florida domestic violence center

Finally this survivor became a participant in her own life. It is exciting to report that she has increased her English-speaking skills significantly, gained employment, and relocated to safe housing where she lives free of abuse; something she never thought possible.

 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of domestic violence, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119. More info is available online.

Breaking the Cycle of Family Violence

Guest post by a graduate of Healthy Families, a home-visiting program that prevents child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills, promoting healthy child development and improving family self-sufficiency.

When I enrolled in the Healthy Families program, I was 24 years old and just had my fifth child. I had no sense of direction or purpose as a single mom trying to raise all of my children. I never finished high school, did not have my GED and was unemployed. I was living in a very bad domestic violence situation with the father of my children and thought I had no way out. He had me believing that I could not make it without the little bit of financial support he provided to us.

One of the first and most important things my family support worker did was help me learn how to set goals for myself. She taught me that I could achieve things on my own. She believed in me and, more importantly, helped me believe in myself. She pushed me and told me not to give up even when I faced setbacks, and I faced a lot.

With the help of Healthy Families, today I am proud to say that my children and I no longer live in fear of domestic violence because my support worker showed me where to go for help and I got it. The father of my children is in jail where he belongs and I helped the police get him there.

My children and I are safe, I am working full-time, I have gotten my own transportation and my own home. Now I want to get my GED, and I know I can do it! Healthy Families has helped me to see that once I had my kids, my life became about them and their well-being and no longer just about myself. I have learned how to be a better parent and how to help my kids be the best people that they can be too.”

Note:

Almost 25 percent of Healthy Families participants are identified as having experienced, or currently experiencing, domestic violence at program enrollment. As indirect victims of domestic violence, children who witness family violence experience similar trauma to those who are abused. This trauma significantly alters children’s brain development leading to emotional and behavioral problems, poor school performance, and increased risk of criminal behavior as youth and adults. A child’s exposure to domestic violence is also the most significant predictor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. 

Healthy Families home visitors prevent child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting skills, promoting healthy child development and improving family self-sufficiency. Home visitors also connect families to other community resources that can address domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health and other issues that place children at-risk. 

For more information, visit www.healthyfamiliesfla.org.

Site Visit: Salvation Army Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program

DCF Secretary David Wilkins talks about his recent visit to the Salvation Army Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program in Panama City

DCF Secretary David WilkinsThey told me about a woman who thought she was “going crazy.” Her husband would move furniture around in their house while she was out volunteering. When she returned and asked about the new arrangement, he would tell her the furniture had always been like that. It was a control tactic. Her husband was never physical, but the name-calling and mind games were getting worse. They had been married for 46 years.

The woman came to the Salvation Army Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program not because she thought she was the victim of domestic abuse, but because she was worried she was actually losing her grip on reality. Her counselors at the program said that during therapy it was like a light bulb lit up and the blinders came off. She realized she had lost her identity; she didn’t have a sense of who she was anymore. What her husband was doing was wrong and she didn’t have to take it. She eventually left the marriage and moved in with her son.

The Safe House at the Salvation Army Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Program

I heard many stories about victims and survivors when I visited the program’s Safe House recently. The statistics they told me were eye-opening. In 2008, they helped 850 women a year. Now they serve 1,200. In 2008, 60 kids were in the Safe House at some point. In the past year, more than 110 have stayed there.

I also heard about a woman who was into heavy drinking with her husband. He became abusive. A series of events left them addicted to drugs and without a home – literally eating out of trash cans. He was still beating her. She was in and out of domestic violence shelters for awhile, but eventually her husband beat her very badly and ended up doing time in jail. This time she came to the program and started rehab at Bethel Village. She also comes to the program’s counseling services. She is clean, sober, employed and safe.

Domestic violence comes in all shapes and sizes. It does not discriminate based on race, gender, location or household income.  I heard of another woman who was living in an upper class neighborhood in the area. She was married to a wealthy doctor who also beat her. She wanted to leave, but he had put all of the family’s debt in her name. If she had left on her own she would have been drowning in debt with no means to support herself. The program helped give her resources like free food, shelter and counseling so she could get out.

I was pleased to see the great work going on at the program and am inspired by these survivors. DCF and the program work closely together to ensure batterers are held accountable for their behavior. Batterers’ actions place their partners, children, family and friends in danger.

If you or a loved one may be a victim of domestic violence, please call the Hotline immediately: 1-800-500-1119. You are not alone and we are here to help you.