*Please be aware that this story contains details of domestic violence that may be upsetting to readers.
When someone such as Helen experiences domestic violence, their children can be impacted as well. Both of Helen’s children saw their mother being abused and were affected in different ways. Through accessing critical domestic violence resources, Safe Horizon helped Helen and her children get through the tough times.
Helen’s son was only three years old when he witnessed the abuse. Helen noticed that he became aggressive. The domestic violence just seemed normal to him. He started thinking that it was okay for men to hit women. When the police would come to the home, he would even go to his father’s side.
Helen’s daughter, who was older, reacted differently. She experienced depression and became fearful when people raised their voices around her.
Helen’s Domestic Violence Story
Helen, a single mother, was raising her daughter when she met her now ex-husband. “When I first went out with him, he made me feel incredibly close very quickly,” she explains. First they lived together, then got married and had a son. “In the beginning of our relationship, he wanted to control everything — where I was going, who I was speaking with. Then the physical abuse started. He would hold me and hit my hand, or he would push me.”
He then became more aggressive and broke Helen’s nose.
“I knew it wasn’t right; that it wasn’t a healthy relationship. I had to do something to move away from him, but leaving wasn’t easy. I was dependent on him for so many things and I didn’t know what to do. This was my family. In my mind, I had committed to the relationship, and I had to close my mouth and wait for the time to pass, even if that was 30, 40, or 50 years.”
Making the Decision to Leave
On one occasion when Helen called the police, one of the officers asked her if she wanted to seek an order of protection. “At first, I was not sure, but decided it was something I had to do.”
Helen went to family court and was connected to Safe Horizon’s Family Court Program. The staff helped her file an Order of Protection and also connected her to one of Safe Horizon’s Domestic Violence Shelters, where Helen and her two children could find temporary safety.
“While living in shelter, I started to go to therapy where I learned that the domestic violence wasn’t my fault. Although my kids and I left shelter to stay with a close friend, I continued therapy at the borough’s Family Justice Center (FJC). That’s where I met my counselor, Jimmy. He’s helped me in so many ways. I call him the angel standing behind me.”
Helen used what she learned from Jimmy (pictured above) and the counseling sessions to help both of her children heal. “I explained to my son that what his father did was not okay. I try to raise my daughter’s self-esteem by telling her that no man can do that to her, that she is of value. Talking to my children about the violence and abuse was so important because they now understand what a healthy relationship is like.” For more tips on how to talk to children about healthy relationships, click here.
Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can happen to anyone and help is available. “Through telling my story, I want to let people going through similar situations know that they aren’t alone. By seeking help, anyone can find their guardian angel.”
Helen also says that it is very important for people to be able to discuss domestic violence openly. It’s one of the ways we can put a stop to it. That’s why she took the #PutTheNailInIt vow to end domestic violence. “By painting my ring fingernail purple, and using the hashtag #PutTheNailInIt, I can show that I am a proud survivor and help others, too.”