I was only six years old when I was first sexually abused. I was visiting relatives when my older cousins stole my innocence. I didn’t tell anyone because they threatened to kill my family. More abuse happened throughout my childhood, but I didn’t tell anyone that horrible secret until I was18 years old when I told my mom. For awhile I blamed her for not protecting me. I didn’t tell my father until I was 24 because I knew he wouldn’t believe me.
The abuse affected much of my life and put me in a very dark place. It affected how I interacted with others; I was mean. I hated myself and attempted suicide. It was then that I was referred to the Bellflower Center- now DVCAC. I have been seeing my counselor for the past four years and she has helped me gain the confidence I needed to move on and live my life. I am more content and happy with myself and my future.
One special gift that came out of my therapy is the desire to pursue my love of singing. I have been singing since I was six to cope with the bad things that happened to me. I developed a love of opera and expressed my dream to get vocal training to my therapist. She helped me fulfill my dream by introducing me to the Music Settlement where I have been training and performing for 3 years. The support I have received at DVCAC has also pushed me to pursue other dreams like writing poetry and I am even working on a few books. My life hasn’t been easy, and I have more work to do to be the best me, but you can still have a great life after abuse.
My message to other victims is that you will never get over it, but you can find a way to cope and move on with life. Dreams can happen, if you go after them.
For domestic violence survivor Patricia, DVCAC’s Justice System Advocacy program was not only transformational, it was literally life-saving. She grew up in a loving family, lived in Gates Mills, attended the University of Akron and was a special education teacher for 30 years. When she fell in love with the wrong person, she nearly lost her life. She was verbally and emotionally abused, beaten severely and left to die. Patricia was scared but determined to survive. With the help of DVCAC’s Justice System Advocacy program she found the courage to face her abuser in court and helped send her batterer to prison. Patricia sought counseling and for two years she attended the DVCAC’s weekly support group where she shared her story, learned from others, and regained the confidence she needed to move forward with her life. Today, Patricia is strong and thriving. “My abuser beat me down physically and almost killed me, but it did not steal my joy for life.”
Sophie’s story begins during her father’s own childhood and the verbal and emotional abuse his parents heaped on him. When he was diagnosed with ADHD his parents just gave up on him; he was emotionally abandoned.
Flash forward many years to a family dynamic that was far worse than abandonment. He was verbally and emotionally abusive to his wife–Sophie’s Mom. He started isolating her from her friends and family. He pushed and grabbed her-but never left marks where others might see. Like many abused women, she feared he would kill her if she left.
When Sophie was born with a deformity that left her legally blind in one eye, her Dad rejected her immediately. He made fun of her looks and said he did it to “toughen her up”. He threatened to throw the baby out the window. He talked continuously about getting a gun to kill them and was physically violent with Sophie almost daily to “discipline” her.
Sophie's mom sought the support of her family and help from DVCAC. She used the agency’s Justice System Advocacy services to get a protection order, attended their support group and received counseling to help herself heal. Saving Sophie was a different story.
Sophie’s behavior had become a challenge as she could not control her emotions. She lashed out, bit and hit other children. She was only 3 and had no words to describe what she was feeling. Sophie’s healing began when her counselor at DVCAC used dolls to help express her emotions and gave her tools to deal with her anger and fear. Today Sophie is an outgoing, very verbal, intelligent 5 year old; she now has hope for a bright future.