Maya

I don’t know what it was that made him release his grip around my neck. Maybe it was the look of fear in my eyes; though that had never stopped him before from carrying out his torture. The whole time he was choking me I just kept thinking, “My kids, my kids, who’s going to take care of my kids if he kills me this time?” But he didn’t kill me; he just suddenly stopped and walked away. I knew then that I had to get out.

In 24 hours, I packed EVERYTHING in our four bedroom townhouse and loaded it onto a U-Haul I rented with borrowed money, and headed to the police station as I’d been instructed. I had no clue what community living would be like, but whatever it was, it had to be better that the hell I was living in.

For 15 years I’d grown accustomed to keeping this secret. The only people who knew in the beginning were my mother and sister. It wasn’t long before they didn’t want to share my secret anymore. They didn’t understand why I didn’t just get rid of him, or why I didn’t just leave. So they quickly grew weary of hearing the sad stories or being called on for help. They stopped calling or coming over. The isolation was one of the worst things. Trying to keep the secret hidden was the other.

My abuser was an addict. Since coming to Newhouse, I’ve learned the cycle of domestic violence. The “tension” stage where I walked on eggshells and tried to be perfect so that nothing would trigger him. The “blow-up” stage when whatever I did set him off. Then the “honeymoon” phase, when I’d be showered with “love” and gifts until I succumbed to forgiveness. But my situation had another factor added to the equation… his addiction to cocaine. So in addition to trying always to be perfect so I didn’t get beat up, I also had to try to make sure his life was perfect because I always knew that the second anything went even a little askew, any small hiccup in any plan would make him want to get high. When he wanted to get high, he would do anything to get the money. He would pawn or sell anything belonging to me or the kids. He would steal money that was for rent or the bills. He would steal my car and “rent” it to the dope man without a care that the kids and I were stranded. But the worst was that he would just disappear for days, sometimes weeks at a time. When the kids would ask where he was, all I could say is “I don’t know.”

The day I thought he was going to kill me and leave my children without anyone to depend on; I knew something had to change for good. I didn’t know then after having tried to for years to figure out just why I did stay. I’d been told all the things people always say… I could do better, I didn’t deserve the way he treated me, I should just call the police and have him imprisoned I knew all that was true without anyone having to tell me. The only think I didn’t know was why I did stay and continue to fuel such dysfunction.

Living at Newhouse for almost 10 months, I was blessed with a safe place to live, peace of mind, and people around me (staff and administration) who were willing to do whatever they could to see that my every need was met. They were concerned about me. But what I know now is that most important blessing. I was giving the answer to why I stayed.

I stayed for so long because my spirit was broken. I wasn’t whole. Several things happened to me during my childhood left me so wounded that I felt I needed that dysfunctional marriage to make me feel whole. I knew of course that these things had happened to me, but I never knew the effect that something that happened so many years ago could have on my life today.

Because of the group and one on one therapy I received, I was able to put all the puzzle pieces together and see the real me again. It wasn’t easy facing and coming to terms with all these old demons, but I had to. They were still taking up valuable space in my heart and mind; and showing themselves in the life I was living. I forgave all the people who hurt me. I forgave myself and let go of all the guild and shame.

Newhouse gave me the time, space and resources I so desperately needed to get my head together. I’m so eternally grateful to them for giving me a new start and a chance to live my life as a woman who is whole and complete within herself. Every day when I open my eyes, I know I’ve got God and I’ve got myself; my true self. That’s all I need to take on whatever the day may bring. The staff and administration at Newhouse may never fully know just how much they have done and are appreciated, for the gift they’ve given to me alone is priceless.

-Maya

Lakish

When Lakish came to Newhouse, she found therapy and words that would help change her life. Watching her mother being beaten and seeing her brothers and sisters getting themselves in unhealthy situations, she had been determined to have a different life. Her relationship with Junior seemed okay at first, but things changed when he hit her in front of her four-year-old daughter. DeDe jumped on Junior’s back and said, “Get off my mommy.” Gradually Junior became more abusive over their nine-year relationship. But Lakish felt her situation was not as bad as other women’s.  One night when 12-year-old DeDe jumped on Junior, cracked him in the head with a coffee mug and, proud of herself, asked, “Did I do good, Mommy?,” Lakish flashbacked to the first time Junior hit her in front of DeDe.  She experienced images of her own childhood and realized she didn’t want her mom and dad’s relationship. She knew it was time to get help.

Newhouse felt like home.  Right from the time they arrived, assistance and resources were available.  The advocates were supportive, giving out basic supplies and “didn’t make me feel stupid.”  Lakish sees the therapy she received as life changing.  “I knew all these things were going on, but I didn’t know what to call them or what to do about them.  It was all confused in my head.  Miss Mary P gave me the words to use to make sense so I could change. I use the word co-dependent a lot now.”  Lakish had already been doing many things right: she had gotten her GED, had been able to keep DeDe in the same excellent charter school since kindergarten and had begun the process of getting approved for housing.  “I thought I was a pretty good mother and didn’t need any parenting help, but I was wrong.  Miss Jennifer is a children’s therapist, so she helped DeDe, but she also helped me.”  In classes and therapy sessions, Lakish learned how DeDe had been impacted by the violence, just as she herself had been as a child.  She now talks about how she will “break the cycle of domestic abuse.”  With the help of case managers cutting though the stalled application process, Lakish and DeDe are now in a newly converted downtown apartment in a safe area with access to transportation.  “I now know how to say ‘no’ and not be a scapegoat for others.  At 40, I am a better person.”