One a Friday night, in April, Marsha experienced a life changing event, that she described, “as moving in slow motion while everyone else was running a marathon”. The shock of it all stopped her in her tracks. Marsha is still not sure what “set off” her partner to beat her with the wooden baseball bat they kept by the front door for protection. She did know, if there was a next time, she would not wake up at all. Marsha was beaten so harshly, she lost consciousness, waking up in a small pool of blood on the kitchen floor. She realized time was not on her side; she only had a few hours before her partner returned for another nightmarish night of abuse. Marsha drove herself to the local clinic, she had been to many times before, for treatment of her injuries, more often that she would ever admit. She did not want anyone to know what happened that night, so she called her employer to request some personal time off. The nurse at the clinic did not believe Marsha had fallen down the stairs and began to ask about her “home life” and her relationship. She handed Marsha a card with Shelter From The Storm’s hotline number and advised her to call. Marsha did not need or want to go into a shelter, this “would all blow over in a few days”, she told the nurse, yet she knew the nurse was right and she was not safe going back.
Marsha called a friend to ask if she could “crash on the couch” for a few days. Her friend knew about her relationship and that her partner sometimes got angry and did things, yet this time she was not going to let Marsha stay if she did not get help. Marsha did not think anyone could help her as she was a single woman being abused by her life partner of 20 years, has a career she loves with great pay and full benefits, a car, and was about to walk away from that life to find safety at a shelter. Marsha hesitantly called the hotline for assistance knowing the stitches and mild concussion would be another reason for her partner to become more aggressive and she could not defend herself against another attack. She shared her story with the hotline worker and was accepted into the shelter program with a medical clearance from the clinic and a follow up appointment to have her stitches removed. Marsha was relieved to know she did not have to go back home.
With the assistance of her Case manager at shelter, Marsha was granted a leave of absence from her employer under their family leave program for victims of domestic violence, she filed a temporary restraining order against her partner, and attended weekly counseling and case management sessions. Within 28 days of being in the shelter program, she was approved by the judge for a five-year restraining order with a kick out order to return to her home. After being at the shelter for those few weeks, Marsha told her case manager, “finally, for the first time in years, I have my life back and time is on my side, thank you for believing me and allowing me time!” Marsha left the shelter shortly thereafter, was transferred to a different office by her employer and returned to her home. Since exiting the program, Marsha has been in touch with shelter staff and stated she is well and safe.
Sonny is a native of California, she is a young mother, who grew up in a loving home and had dreams of living in a big, beautiful house, happily ever after, with her husband and two children. She believed so much in that dream, that at the start of 2017, she made a resolution to make her marriage work. She was going to be the perfect wife, who took care of their home, the children, and still could work full-time to help them make ends meet. She was going to do everything and anything to make her husband happy.
However, that resolution was not a healthy one for her to make. As the year progressed, the minor arguments became full blown yelling sessions, when her husband came home from work or from hanging out with his friends. He began to verbally abuse her, calling her worthless and an unfit wife. When he lost his job and his legal status in California became questionable, the abuse escalated. He began threatening to harm her and would accuse her of cheating and wanting to have him deported. It became so hard to handle, that she consulted an attorney about a divorce and custody of her children.
When he found out she was trying to end the marriage, he became enraged and told Sonny, she would never leave him and if she tried, she would never see her children again. Without hesitation she filed for a divorce and asked him to leave the home. Exactly two months later, Sonny’s estranged husband broke into her home, threw her against the wall and began to strangle her, yelling, she will never take his children away and she will never have him deported. She managed to get away from him and ran to the front of the house as the police pulled into her drive way. The police were responding to calls from neighbors. Her husband was arrested, and a permanent restraining order was granted.
Sonny moved away to stay with friends until she could get back on her feet. She turned to Shelter From The Storm for help. She did not need shelter services, she needed counseling and support. Sonny began individual therapy and developed a safety plan, she began to deal with her anxiety and PTSD she was experiencing due to the abuse she endured during her seven-year marriage. Sonny was able to receive counseling at no cost from SFTS and received referrals for legal assistance and was even able to apply for Victim Services Funding to help her meet her expenses and stabilize her housing situation. Sonny moved into a new home, is currently working part-time, and continues to receive services at SFTS as needed. Her failed resolution became a new beginning for Sonny and her children.
Clare and her three-year-old daughter, Faye, fled their home and entered our emergency shelter in hopes for a better life. Clare was unsure if she could live in a shelter with her toddler, but she knew going home meant more beatings, so she decided to stay and give the program a chance. Clare and Faye spent their first Christmas in their new home in December 2018 and joined Shelter From The Storm at our Client Holiday Celebration that December. Faye told staff she can’t wait to see Santa at the party and thank him for giving her the gift she wanted, a nice home. Faye embraced Santa and told him this would be the best Christmas ever!
MY STORY… I never thought that I would experience a life with so much violence – a gun pointed at my head, my loved ones threatened, and my freedom taken away. The man I considered my best friend, became my worse enemy. He hid his hostility within himself for seven years, and then over a year’s time, I would see him turn into someone so violent…choking me to unconsciousness, punching me as if I were his punching bag. Who is he? This isn’t my best friend, he is a monster. My life turned for the worst when I was forced to quit my job, and cut all ties with family and friends. I could neither leave the house without him nor move freely within my home. He positioned a web camera in the bedroom or in the living room, where I was to sit all day until he came home. My daily routine was to call at work whenever I moved away from the camera. Upon awakening, I would call to say that I was awake, using the bathroom, or getting something to eat and call again once I was back in front of the camera. The only time I was allowed to go out without him was to take my son to school and pick him up. Even then, I had to carry a tape recorder to record any sounds or conversations. I had no freedom to spend time with my children. Sitting in front of the camera was my sole occupation. I was forbidden to receive or make calls, and if I did, it had to be on the speaker phone and in English so he could understand the conversation. If I watched TV or listened to music, I was accused of infidelity. When we drove, I was forced to look only at the car in front of us. If I looked at any other car, he would think it reminded me of another man. Interrogations always led to choking. At times he would say jokingly, “Come here. I have a surprise for you.” The “surprise” was dragging me into a closet and pointing his gun at my head, telling me I was going to die and that he would also shoot my older son for being dishonest like me. As I begged him to stop, I was forced to look into the barrel of the gun as he looked into my terrified face and whispered, “You want to get your rosary? You better because you’re going to die.” My days living with this madman escalated my fear and helplessness, but I never gave up hope. I wanted my children and family to be safe from him and so I let him beat me believing that if I did my best to make him happy, and to trust me, my loved ones in return would be safe. But I realized that whatever I did was not enough. Never enough… I continued to be choked, always wondering when I was going to die. I would pass out from the choking, but when I regained consciousness, he would choke again. I feared that maybe one night he actually would kill me, and at times I wished he would to end my life of abuse. But my children needed me to protect them from this evil man. Every night I would pretend to be asleep as I felt my heart pounding so hard it felt like the bed moving. In my mind I would repeat, “Please no more accusations, questions, threats, beatings.” Please go to sleep… One day, a wrong number left a voicemail on my cell phone, leading him to punch and choke me repeatedly. I felt like an animal being beaten into submission for not obeying its master. I couldn’t scream – I would get beaten more. His expression as he beat me seemed to say I deserved it. There was no sign of remorse, just power and control. I was told not to move, to bite on a bullet as he pointed the gun to my forehead, and to kneel and pray because my son and I were going to die. He forced me to look into the barrel of the gun as he looked into my terrified face and whispered, “You want to get your rosary? You better because you’re going to die tonight.” I prayed…Hail Mary…Our Father…repeatedly without faltering…feeling the cold barrel of the gun. My mind raced as I asked myself, “Is this the night when he will finally pull the trigger?” I prayed, “If he kills me, please, God, let it be quick and please take care of my children.” I prayed for their safety and for my family. And as he punches me more, I prayed for forgiveness. I continue to pray in pain. I live another day… After that incident I finally realized that my children and I needed to leave. How? Without money, outside help, or no family nearby! But I had to take the risk. I refused to continue in this life of hell and I refused to keep my children in it. I planned…it must be perfect. I played the act of my life…All is well…All is happy. One thing he cannot take is my thoughts. I spent endless nights calculating the window of opportunities to escape. My last few days at home, I lay awake until the sun rose, planning our escape. I was terrified, but when I found the courage to pull the power from the camera I knew there was no turning back. And so we left. Now my children and I experience freedom and happiness. They play freely with other children, go to the beach and park, and take walks. I, too, can actually walk freely around the house and talk with other people. I can have friends to confide in. We can converse as a family without fear, suspicion, and intimidation. I hear my children laughing and see them smiling more. Seeing them this way again gives me strength and courage to continue our fight for freedom. I will no longer be intimidated. I will continue to tell people my story, the truth of what happened behind closed doors. As my children and I face a turbulent path into the unknown, we continue to find courage and determination walking hand-in-hand with family, friends, and advocates who reached out the helping hand that continues to lead us to a smoother path towards inner strength, happiness, and freedom.
"Without the support from Shelter From The Storm and the staff at shelter, I do not know where I would be. Thank you!" ~ Michelle "If you need help and do not know where to turn, call Shelter From The Storm. They helped me!" ~ Belinda