Susan needed help. Her instincts told her that she and her young children were not safe in their home.
“Because my abuser works in law enforcement – he knew how to hurt me without leaving marks,” Susan says, “He threw things at me, threatened to punch me, and left guns sitting out to intimidate me. He would crush my hands until I was crying in pain, but he never left a bruise.” In addition to the physical abuse, her husband isolated her from family and friends.
Susan called our crisis hotline and connected with a 360 Communities domestic violence advocate. She told the advocate that she wasn’t sure if what she was experiencing was domestic violence. “They said, ‘… physical violence, verbal threats, financial abuse, isolation … these are all examples of abuse.’”
She felt believed and validated.
“I thought my kids and I might be killed that night. We escaped the abuse by leaving at night in our pajamas. Even though the abuse occurred over many years, I had never planned to leave ahead of time, so I didn’t pack any clothes or extra diapers.”
Adjusting to communal living at Lewis House was difficult at first. Her young kids were confused and scared, and Susan had a long list of things she needed to work on securing. Among other necessities, she needed clothing, copies of birth certificates, to search for housing, and to restart her finances from scratch. Her husband had withdrawn all the money from their joint accounts, including her latest paycheck. Susan had no money but didn’t qualify for food stamps because she had a full-time job.
Lewis House advocates connected her with much-needed resources. Beyond safe shelter and food, they provided a clothing voucher so Susan could obtain work-appropriate clothing at a second-hand store. She accessed pro-bono legal assistance from a lawyer. She was able to attend support groups where she could share experiences with other survivors. “[Those were] so helpful for me to think about my experience,” says Susan, “I was shy and didn’t speak much – but I listened to everyone intently.”
She learned at Lewis House that telling her own story was empowering and healing. “No one deserves to live a life of fear and violence. Abuse thrives in silence. Survivors need to try and be brave and speak the truth about their experience so that they can move forward.”
“My experience with Lewis House helped me realize that I’m strong and I can overcome challenges.” Susan decided that she wanted to become an advocate for other victims/survivors. Today, she is a nonprofit leader of a violence prevention program in another state.
She is committed to ensuring other victims/survivors feel supported the way 360 Communities helped her when she left her abusive relationship. “I empower others.”
Most importantly, she set a new path for herself and her children. “I wish for my kids to understand that they deserve to be treated with respect AND they need to treat others with respect. I hope that because I went to Lewis House – I have broken the cycle of violence in my family.”