The generous support of a community working together to change the destiny of a single mother!
“Sunset Salutation Leggings” by Om Shanti Clothing. Photo courtesy by my incredibly supportive husband.
After nearly 10 years of domestic violence, feeling completely trapped in another country, I fled for my life, escaping to my homeland. One suitcase, no money, 2 kids, pregnant, with one goal in mind: To start my life over at all costs. Shortly after my arrival in my hometown, my mother suggested I call the local Family Safety Network. The Family Safety Network’s mission statement: “To partner with individuals and communities to eliminate violence, abuse, and oppression. We see a world without gender-based violence. We’re taking steps to get there. We strive to change the culture of abuse. Through awareness campaigns and outreach, we aim to make our valley a zero-tolerance zone for domestic and sexual violence.” Contact info: http://www.familysafetynetwork.info
The team of dedicated staff at the Family Safety Network (FSN), their support and determination to participate in helping me recover was paramount to my survival. I called them up one morning, shaking, scared, thinking, “How on earth did I get into this mess?” I was one of those “good” girls my whole life. Involved in my community, helping others, involved in church, sports, cheer, Girl Scouting, 4-H, a great student, following all the “rules” of life, never involved in drugs, alcohol, never dating, saving myself for one life partner one day.
Shattered dreams, shattered hope of what I had saved my first kiss for, shattered understanding of where God fit into all of this! So, here I was, at the age of 32, 3 months pregnant, a 10 month old baby, and a 3 year old. Running for my life, fleeing one country, returning at long last (safe at least for now) in the town I grew up in. I was speaking on the phone to a lady from the FSN, asking for help, holding back tears, afraid of the uncertain future, but hopeful that it could only get better after the 10 years I had already endured. Unsure of what to say, or of whom I could trust. How much information should I share about my experiences? What if they didn’t understand!?
I was encouraged to meet in person with one of the staff members at the FSN. I walked in the front door. I was accepted with wide open arms, hugs, grace, and love. Although my life was filled with fear, dread, mistrust, and constant bouts of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic anxiety, a heart ache so painful from exorbitant amounts of stress, I felt a glimmer of hope for the first time since coming home.
The FSN got right to work, first collecting donations of clothing, baby car seats, baby cots, a crib, diapers, baby formula………. I was told to start a list, write down everything I could possibly need and not to worry about buying a thing. I was in tears at the sight of their generosity and the support of the community donating necessities. Next, they made sure to connect me with legal aid support, a very understanding lawyer who would help me follow through with a divorce and assist me in the legal work required to gain full custody of my children. FSN connected me with counselors, paying the fee to provide the care I personally needed emotionally, and mentally. I lived with my wonderful parents, all the while in search for a place to rent for my little family. Within one month of my return, I had found a great 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. FSN was once again completely generous and paid my deposit and first months rent to get me into the comfortable apartment.
I began to trust the staff at FSN. Previously feeling very small and unsure, feeling uncertain and lonely, feeling embarrassed and ashamed. But, their understanding and support began to outweigh my feelings, always dropping everything to support me should I walk in the door. When I needed a shoulder to cry on, any one of the staff would sit with me and talk. I could share my heart, open up knowing I would not be judged or condemned. Insecurity abounds after the trauma of so many years suffering quietly behind closed doors, afraid to live, afraid to speak out, afraid to have an opinion, afraid to exist in my own skin.
After a couple months of FSN supporting me through the legal paperwork, I was absolutely shocked when the postman rang my doorbell and handed me a large, thick package addressed from overseas. I was shaking as I opened it, nervous, and then sickened and in utter disbelief to read that I was being accused of child abduction! This brought every nerve in my body into a state of shock, of nauseated depression! My lawyer, through legal aid, took immediate action to clear this up with a phone call overseas. I was eternally grateful!!
Months later, I was frightened to find out that this man I was so afraid of, had obtained a 5 year visitor visa to come see us in America. Every alarm bell went off in my head! I was petrified! My emotions began to be scrambled in confusion, starting to think, “What have I done? Am I doing the wrong thing? I have taken these kids away to start over, but was I right?” Tormented with sleepless nights and thoughts racing through my mind.
I went to the police department to let them know that this man was coming, and to please be sure to be on high alert. I was given personal cell numbers of officers in case of any emergency. I tried in vain to get a protection order, and filled with dread when I was denied this document I thought so necessary. The court responded that the last act of domestic violence had not been recent enough. I went into the courthouse in tears, telling them that of course there has been no report of domestic violence, my now ex-husband and I are not even in the same country! So, when will you help me? I asked. After he tracks me down and lays his hands on me to kill me! I could not believe this, I was disgusted not only for me but for others who may be in a similar situation.
I was again so grateful for the FSN. They comforted me with their generous support. FSN insured me that they would be certain to inform the police what days and times they were needed to drive in the vicinity, as the staff of FSN would conduct supervised visitation for one hour once per week if and when he were to arrive. And if needed, the police would put a lock down on all roads in or out of the valley. My mother attended these visitations with one FSN staff member, on 5 occasions. My mind racing, knowing my three children were out of my sight. Worried sick at what my ex-husband might be doing to try to manipulate their naive little minds. He left the country. I was relieved.
I was heart broken at the loss of what could have been, what should have been. Life is not written out in a book for us to follow and to go through with ease. I wish it could be that way. But, then again, because of the challenges and tests I have endured in life, I am the strong woman of courage and perseverance that I am today. Thanks to the Family Safety Network, their care and generosity, the love and support during the three years it took to really get back up on my feet again, I am strong enough today, nearly six years later, to be a voice in the darkness. They did not just help me and let me go, they continued to support me when needed even after I had started my in home day care, and my cake business. As my kids grew, I was able to donate back to the FSN to support others in need.
FSN is an excellent non-profit organization to donate your time, your money, or donations of resources that you may have available, for families in crisis. Without the generous financial help of the community and individual donations, the help I received would not have been available to meet my needs in a time of crisis. The importance of funding this organization is paramount to the survival of others. Please take the time to visit their website to learn more about their cause, or to make a donation: http://www.familysafetynetwork.info
I am looking forward to working with FSN as an ambassador, a yoga instructor to help support the work of healing to those who have endured domestic violence or are currently in an abusive situation. My goal of writing and illustrating children’s yoga books is coming to fruition. As well as writing a book about my journey through domestic violence, a story of redemption. In the future, as my books come out, I will be donating a percentage of the proceeds of books sold to the FSN.
Let your light shine! You have been given one life, live it well. Live to the fullest!