Being a good mother and provider for my children has always been the role that I value most in life, and being able to protect them from the harsh realities of this world is what I strive to do. That’s why I decided to separate from my abusive husband so that I could save them from the lifelong memories and traumas that abuse leaves. While many would think that making such a decision is clear cut, there are so many thoughts, feelings, and personal and physical investments that have to be resolved to press forward with that decision. It was one that I needed guidance to work through and that is why I turned to Empowerhouse for help.
The first advocate I spoke with, La’Tanja, was so kind and assuring with me in regards to planning how to safely leave my abuser and her words comforted me and gave me the fortitude to do so. I also spoke with Empowerhouse advocates, Abbie and Daphne, who helped acquire additional resources for me, like employment opportunities and housing assistance, so that I could leave the relationship without taking on additional burdens to myself or my children. What struck me the most about all my conversations with them was that while they provided so much information to address my current situation, they never once tried to force a decision upon me. Every choice I decided to proceed with was made on my terms, and that gave me my confidence back and instilled in me a greater passion for separating from this unhealthy relationship. Not only had La’Tanja, Abbie, and Daphne helped me to rediscover my empowerment, but they bolstered my hopes for forging a new path for myself and my family that would lead us to a wonderful new chapter in our lives.
Thanks to the Empowerhouse staff and their support for myself and my family, everything was finally falling into place for me. Around back to school time, Abbie arranged to have my family adopted for back to school donations. On the list they asked me to make were basic kitchen items for meal prep, new bedspreads for my children, school supplies, and some toys for them. I could not have been more surprised and touched by the numerous, beautifully wrapped gifts that were delivered to my house. The Empowerhouse staff members, Jackie and Taylor, helped me to hide these community provided gifts in my home so that my children would be surprised for such a bountiful start to the school year. My heart was full of gratitude and appreciation for the kindness that Empowerhouse and its staff members had shown me and my family. I felt that my new beginning was finally taking root to grow into something beautiful, but those hopes would soon be shattered.
When the new school year arrived, there was a lot of apprehension and excitement for the promise of a new year of growth. It was an opportunity for my children to have a chance for reinvention. That promise was taken away from us in an instant when my former husband decided to re-enter my life again by coming to my home. His attack was swift and filled with anger, he kicked my front door in so hard that he tore the frame from the wall and he quickly grabbed me and threw me to the floor where his hands became a vice-grip around my throat. I could do nothing as he strangled me in front of my screaming, terrified children and all I could do was worry about their safety as he pushed them away. My son was my saving grace because he jumped on his back and repeatedly hit him and begged him to let me go. The only thing that made my ex-husband release me was when my son called law enforcement to tell them I was being assaulted. When he heard that, he quickly ran from my home to escape arrest.
As I was questioned by law enforcement, the urge to remain quiet and forget about what had transpired overruled my desire for my ex-husband to be brought to justice. I told the officers I would not file for charges against him and I buried that memory deep in my heart and mind. The one glaring issue I faced now was the compromised security of my home now that I did not have a front door. I turned to Empowerhouse to seek assistance with the repair, but my rasping voice raised red flags with them that something greater was amiss. Both Abbie and Daphne recognized that I had been strangled and informed me of the medical implications of this and they strongly encouraged me to go to the Emergency Room and then enter the Empowerhouse Shelter. They explained the level of danger they saw in my situation and the continuing danger posed by my ex-husband. Yet, I could not accept that offer.
In addition to caring for my children, my aunt had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness and I was the only family member who could take her in to care for her. Therefore, to enter the Empowerhouse Shelter would mean my sick aunt who was too ill to care for herself would be without my care and I could not abandon the home I had worked so hard and long to obtain. Empowerhouse was very respectful and understanding of my circumstances and they followed my wishes of having my front door repaired by reaching out to my landlord and advocating for me. I did not think I deserved any help because I brought this onto myself. Fortunately, my landlord was eager to help quickly after learning of the reason my door needed repair.
Like shutting a door on a chapter in your life, I felt that having my door repaired and remaining in my home was the ultimate demonstration of me taking back control over my life. Yet, I could not find the same peace I once had in my home as flashbacks and triggering events would bring my traumas back to the surface. I reached my breaking point and realized I needed to contact Empowerhouse for help with finding new housing. Their advocates helped all of us relocate to a temporary location until my ex-husband was found and picked up by law enforcement. I recall explaining to Daphne that, “you are supposed to feel safe in your own home, that’s the one place you should be feeling safe.” Daphne understood my position and she diligently spent her time finding a home that would meet my needs and my family’s needs. She even explained to me how the Violence Against Women Act law allows for victims of domestic violence to break their current leasing agreement without repercussions from the landlord.
With Daphne’s help, I was finally able to move into a new home that had enough rooms for my children and had a suitable layout for my sick aunt. They have strengthened me financially by helping with rental assistance through their housing funding. I am so grateful for the Empowerhouse advocates who continue to remain in contact with me because while my family and I are on the road to recovery, I know my children need the assistance of the Empowerhouse Resiliency Team to support them past the traumas they have experienced. This has been made even more challenging with the COVID-19 pandemic as it has left my children feeling isolated and alone, but Abbie and the Resiliency Team have made us a priority by regularly scheduling weekly video chats to check in with us and conduct virtual activities with my children. Abbie also recently delivered a new laptop (donated by the school) and toys to us, which provides so much assistance for me to keep my children happy while we quarantine.
Having Empowerhouse by my side to help me face these new challenges with moving to a new home and navigating these times of social isolation has been helpful in ways that I can not even express. They respected my decisions when I tried to handle the abuse and difficulties I faced on my own, but they were always only a phone call away when I decided I needed someone to go on this journey of recovery with me. Even more so, knowing that they are still here with me to be my advocates and to support my children in their healing process which fills me with optimism and faith that I had lost for such a long time. Now, I find myself laughing and smiling so much because I finally feel like there is hope.
If you know someone who needs help, remember: it is all about the first step. You are not alone. There is help and support available by calling the Empowerhouse 24/7 Hotline number: 540-373-9373.
Help a Mother like Jayla overcome domestic violence and get back on her feet by making a donation today.