Lauren's Story: Learning to Live Again
By the time Lauren came to Safe Horizon, both her body and her spirit were beaten. Lauren had endured more than 20 years of a violent marriage, to a man who abused her physically, emotionally, psychologically, verbally, and financially. Her husband didn’t allow her to work, and had even refused to put her name on their apartment rental lease.
Lauren had tried to escape her husband before, but without resources, she felt forced to return to the abuse. She felt trapped, and as the violence continued, Lauren’s self-esteem deteriorated. She was frightened, exhausted, and had lost any hope her situation could get better.
Lauren came to our Brooklyn Criminal Court Reception Center desperate to escape the violence in her home. Yet after other failed attempts, she truly doubted she could. She also had no idea where to begin.
Safe Horizon gave Lauren a place to start. She was assigned a case manager who met with her to discuss her situation and to assess her current safety. Lauren told the manager that she did not want to go to a shelter: Her husband had managed to find her at the one she’d gone to the last time she tried to leave. Lauren also didn’t trust the criminal justice system, because in spite of other police reports she’d filed against her husband, he’d never been arrested. The manager discussed ways that Lauren could reduce her risk of future violence, and one of the ways included going to Family Court. We gave her information about our Family Court program to help her with petitioning for an order of protection, and with this in mind, Lauren decided that she would go to Family Court.
With help through our Family Court services, Lauren was awarded an order of protection, and her husband was barred from their home. When he assaulted her again, our case manager provided Lauren with information about filing a report. We gave her information about officers who handled domestic violence cases and about her rights when it came to the police. Lauren felt confident enough to go to the police afterward, which resulted in her husband’s arrest. She also obtained a Criminal Court order of protection against him for two years.
With her husband arrested and orders of protection in place, Lauren could turn her focus on dealing with the aftermath of leaving an abusive relationship. She needed housing, she needed a job, and she needed legal representation. Advocating on Lauren’s behalf, our case manager was able to make Lauren a priority case for public housing, as a survivor of domestic violence. Lauren found legal representation, and we also referred her to job training and placement programs. Last, we helped her get vouchers to buy secondhand furniture so she could furnish her new apartment.
The best thing she received, however, was her freedom. Lauren’s batterer has not tried to contact her, and her spirit is no longer broken. She continues to receive counseling, support, and follow-up services that help her regain her confidence and independence. Today not only does Lauren believe that she can live a life free of violence but she also believes it is what she deserves.