Brandon's Story: Surviving Abuse
Statistics about domestic violence show that children who grow up in abusive households will often repeat patterns of violence in their own relationships, either as batterers or as victims. Brandon, who we met through our Streetwork program, was such an example.
Brandon came to us seeking help after many years of struggling to live on his own, and told us about his traumatic young life. His mother had immigrated to the United States and left him and his siblings in the care of family members while she resettled and remarried. When Brandon rejoined his mother, he learned that his stepfather was an abusive man who subjected his family to constant physical and sexual violence.
Even though Brandon was just 14, he could not take living with his stepfather, so he ran away from home. Unfortunately, many children do what Brandon did. They decide it is better to escape to live on the streets than to witness and experience a steady stream of abuse.
Luckily, Brandon was able to stay with friends, and with their support he continued to attend school and earned his high school degree. He tried to find work but found jobs scarce. So he traveled to New York City, hoping to find a better life there.
He thought he had found that life when he got a restaurant job and then found a partner. Yet the abuse he thought he had escaped resurfaced in his new relationship. His boyfriend’s abuse cost Brandon his sense of safety, and finally his job. Then, since he could not find work, the abuse also cost Brandon his home.
Brandon was homeless once again and could only find sporadic work. When he was desperate for money, he would sell himself. Finally came the day when he learned about a program that helped homeless youth – Streetwork.
Brandon came to one of our drop-in centers to find help. First, he found a hot meal and a shower waiting for him. Then, he found people who were willing to sit down with him and listen to his story without judgment. Next, Brandon found that we could give him space at one of our residences, where he could sleep in safety.
Abuse, violence, and homelessness had taken their toll on Brandon. Brandon’s childhood experiences had left him depressed, extremely anxious, and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. In order to really help Brandon, we had to help him deal with his trauma while also continuing to provide him with the resources he would need to get his life back in order.
The more we worked with Brandon, the more we saw him improve. Brandon was eager to regain his life from the effects of abuse and violence, so he came back to us for legal help, mental health treatment, and other services. Brandon also set goals for what he wanted to accomplish, and we worked with him to help him achieve them.
He wanted to find steady employment and stable housing. We worked with our resources and partners to find programs that could offer Brandon job training, as well as helped him apply for transitional housing. With our efforts and Brandon’s own determination, he finally found a job as a healthcare aide and found a permanent apartment.
If you met Brandon today, you would meet a young man who loves his home, his work, and his life. He escaped the shadow of domestic violence and now lives with the hope and the tools he deserves to have a safer tomorrow.
* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.