House of Ruth

Tatiana and Jame’s Story

Tatiana and Jame’s Story

Tatiana* and James* live in House of Ruth’s supportive housing for mothers and children fleeing domestic violence, and James is enrolled in Kidspace, House of Ruth’s developmental childcare center.

Together, Tatiana and James left a dangerous situation. They have had to deal with anxiety surrounding new circumstances while recovering from the trauma of abuse, but Tatiana knows House of Ruth’s staff is here for her. She says House of Ruth has been “extremely supportive for herself and for her child.”

Tatiana is truly focused on creating safety and stability for herself and for James. Six months ago when she came to House of Ruth, she was working part-time. She is now working full-time and improving her financial situation.

At first, it was understandably hard for Tatiana to trust James would be safe outside her care, but after many positive interactions, she now trusts our Kidspace staff and embraces the services available to James. She doesn’t hesitate to call staff to discuss his needs. She has had some concerns about James, and wanted to be sure his developmental progress was on target, so she requested additional developmental screenings. Our staff helped facilitate this process, and Tatiana is eager to connect James to services that will help him thrive.

Tatiana has been through a lot and has access to the support she needs to recover.  She is able to focus on things like school readiness goals for her son, and not worry about safety or housing.

*Name has been changed.

Healing The Trauma Within: Domestic Violence Support Center

Post by Sandra L. Jackson, President & CEO of House of Ruth

Mental health is an issue for everyone, from Olympic athletes to trauma survivors. Treating homelessness and domestic violence survivors for their traumatic injuries as well as their physical ones has always been a priority at House of Ruth. All of our programs are vital; particularly during the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice in the United States. What I am thankful for, this year and always, is the therapeutic services we offer at House of Ruth, because we know healing the impact of trauma within is vital to the long-term success and stability of our women, children, and families. Starting in 1998, and every year since, we have employed at least one (and currently four) full-time therapists who are experts in providing trauma-informed, clinical care to survivors of trauma, and domestic violence regardless of gender, ages 16 and up. This is vital because the safe housing is the beginning process of healing the inner wounds as a survivor of trauma and domestic violence. The funding from government, and strong support from donors, allows us to offer this vital support at no cost, without session limits, and without a need for insurance or a diagnosis. This eliminates many of the traditional barriers to therapy ― a ‘diagnosis’ may help insurance pay for therapy, but it can also stigmatize survivors. Without these barriers, our Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC), serves hundreds of women and men each year.

In the past few years, we have expanded our DVSC services to not only include individual therapy and group therapy (which helps to de-stigmatize therapy) and build up the emotional strength of trauma survivors while also helping build bonds between clients. We are also reaching out to support staff in our organization and others to help them develop self-care practices, as well as always supporting survivors of domestic violence. Survivor comments assessed after two and six months for both individual and group therapies reveal more than 90% report feeling stronger, and more able to face their own challenges, through the support of therapy.

I am grateful that DVSC also helps survivors long after their crises are past. Experiencing trauma or abuse, leaving your home/community, coming to House of Ruth, moving into an unfamiliar home/community, leaving behind all you know, and starting anew are more than enough for most people to deal with at one time. The therapeutic support we offer means that you can access help when you are ready ― not on our timeline. Some clients start work at DVSC as soon as they arrive at House of Ruth ― some former clients reach out years after they have left. Many people helped at DVSC have never been a House of Ruth housing or childcare participant at all. All survivors of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, regardless of gender are welcome at the Domestic Violence Support Center.

Thank you for supporting this vital service for survivors.

Rita’s Story

Just six months ago, Rita* was a resident of A New Start, one of House of Ruth’s scattered site programs for women who are survivors of domestic violence. In our scattered site programming, clients receive rental assistance at a level based on their income, as well as case management, group counseling, and life skills support.

Rita formed a strong relationship with her case manager, and she was empowered to take advantage of all the resources available to her through House of Ruth. Rita found the space to begin healing from trauma through one-on-one counseling at our Domestic Violence Support Center. Counseling helped her to cope with feelings of grief, loss, and depression. She also actively participated in psychoeducational groups on domestic violence. Rita learned more about developing healthy boundaries and the dynamics of healthy relationships. She is continuing to live a life that is free from domestic violence, and she has developed a healthy support system for herself.

When Rita arrived at House of Ruth she did not have a job, but her main goal was to take over the lease of the apartment unit she moved into, and to become financially independent.

Rita is in her sixties, and although she was out of the workforce for a long time, she hit the ground running. Staff assisted Rita with building her confidence through resume writing and practicing interview skills. We referred her to a federal agency that had a job opening, and Rita’s preparation paid off. She was hired!

Rita continuously worked hard and saved her money. She also attended our financial literacy trainings and received debt remediation support. Staff coached Rita on developing a good rapport with the landlord, and today she is proactively and effectively advocating for herself as a tenant.

Rita achieved her goal! She took over the lease of her apartment, and by the time she exited our program six months ago, she had saved $4,000.

We are so proud of Rita for believing in herself and putting her goals into action to reclaim her life.

*Name has been changed.

Lydia’s Story

68-year-old Lydia* is a long-term client of House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC). Over the course of her life, Lydia has experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, has suffered a gunshot wound, struggled with drug addiction and mental illness, and at several points has been homeless.

Lydia came to the DVSC when she was in a residential drug treatment recovery program. In collaboration with the DVSC, this recovery program allows residents to leave the premises to engage in counseling services at the DVSC as their discharge date approaches, with the hope that this will facilitate their transition to independent living, and increase the likelihood that they will engage in therapeutic services even after they are discharged.

Lydia is a success story on all counts, having fully transitioned to her own apartment, and maintained her sobriety and attended counseling for nearly eight years. Not all DVSC clients stay engaged in services this long, but for Lydia, she will tell you: “I am just now beginning to get a handle on how my childhood abuse affected me. I am just now beginning to understand myself.”

Lydia proudly tells anyone who will listen that she sees her therapist weekly and that “I see my therapist even in a pandemic.” Privately, she tells her counselor that “you’re the only one I see sometimes” and that no one else checks in with her. Because of her myriad of health issues, Lydia and her DVSC counselor have had to get creative in recent months, sometimes meeting in a private corner outside on the grounds of her apartment complex, and when the weather got colder, they transitioned to telehealth services.

For Lydia, the connection with the DVSC is invaluable, even life-saving. And for her DVSC counselor, it has been the honor of a lifetime to witness such transformation and dedication to healing from someone who could have easily succumbed to a lifetime of trauma.

*Name has been changed.

Cara and Heather’s Story

Cara* came to know about House of Ruth through our Kidspace developmental childcare center. She brought her daughter Heather* to Kidspace when she was just six months old. Through Kidspace, Cara attended a group offered to parents on the dynamics of domestic violence. This experience led Cara to recognize the controlling nature of her partner, and she realized she wanted to leave the relationship.

Our Kidspace staff connected Cara to our Bridges program, where she was able to move into an apartment in the community, to receive income-based rental assistance, and to benefit from supportive services. At that time Cara began attending individual counseling at our Domestic Violence Support Center. With support and encouragement, she is able to successfully co-parent with her daughter’s father. She manages their interactions without being manipulated or controlled, and always prioritizes her daughter’s best interests.

Cara is fiercely committed to her autonomy, and to her daughter. She has graduated from our Bridges program and is fully independent. She successfully maintained employment throughout the pandemic. She is now saving money with the goal of eventually purchasing her own home with the assistance of a first-time homebuyer’s program.

Today, Heather is in the pre-K class at Kidspace and doing so well. She is a very outgoing, playful little girl with wonderful language skills. Cara is a very vocal parent who actively partners with Kidspace staff to facilitate her daughter’s positive growth and development. When a teacher recommended Heather receive an evaluation for occupational therapy, Cara readily gave permission and trusted in the expertise of our staff. She seeks out advice and support on an ongoing basis, and she always advocates for Heather’s needs.

Cara says she feels like the support she has received has really helped her to be resilient, and she feels like she wouldn’t be where she is now without Kidspace and House of Ruth. She always tells people that Heather’s school is the best! We are so proud to support Cara and Heather’s success.

*Names have been changed.

Naomi’s Story

50-year-old Naomi* came to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help related to her abusive marriage. Naomi was a mother of three adolescent children, and had been married to a highly verbally abusive and controlling man for her entire adult life. While she had been seen by a number of therapists over the years and regarded them as helpful, she described those experiences as being conducted under the influence of her husband, who she says often attended her sessions and consulted with her therapists without her consent.

In counseling at the DVSC, Naomi stated that for the first time, she began to experience her own voice, to improve her self-esteem, and feel more empowered about her life. Over the course of the year-long therapy, she hired an attorney and divorced her husband, moved out on her own for the first time in her life, and landed her dream job at a university.

At the end of nearly every session she would express gratitude for the therapy, emphasizing frequently that “therapy has just been so grounding for me…it soothes me.”

*Name has been changed.

Monica’s Story

28-year-old Monica* was referred to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). When Monica came to the DVSC she was dealing with a lot of difficult feelings around the recent removal of her children from her care. Her two children had been placed in a foster care setting after police were repeatedly called to her home as a result of violence between Monica and her current boyfriend. The two had always had frequent arguments over the course of their two-year relationship, but things escalated quickly with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Monica’s hours being cut at work, having to homeschool her children, and significant financial stressors.

Monica used the counseling services at the DVSC to process her feelings of sadness and regret at having placed her children in foster care, and worked with her counselor to explore the choices and decisions she had made and elements of the situation she could control, as well as finding compassion for herself at having been in a very difficult situation when the pandemic hit.

Over the course of six months, Monica was able to gain insight into patterns in her relationships that were not healthy, commit to refocusing on making healthier relationship choices, and stabilize her financial situation by accessing a variety of supportive services. Monica was also able to obtain a referral to a parenting class from her DVSC counselor, which she successfully completed, and now feels she has a toolkit of new strategies to help her be a more consistent parent.

*Name has been changed.

Anna’s Story

47-year-old Anna* first came to the House of Ruth Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help separating from a long-term abusive intimate partner. While she was able to separate from him within a few months, her subsequent work in therapy has focused on building up her sense of self after experiencing years of abuse.

Midway through the therapy work, however, the COVID-19 crisis hit and DVSC staff began working remotely. Despite this major challenge, Anna and her therapist didn’t miss a single therapy session, transitioning immediately to telehealth sessions and continuing their work. Interestingly, Anna has begun working on issues that she previously avoided discussing, such as anxiety in dating relationships, emotional regulation, childhood experiences, and her wishes to have a family of her own. As a result, she often remarks that she is no longer overwhelmed by her feelings like she used to be. Instead, she can experience feelings for what they are and let them inform her, rather than avoiding or suppressing them.

Anna often expressed surprise at the kind of therapy offered at the DVSC. In Anna’s own words: “I’m thankful for this kind of therapy…I initially thought this would be just action-oriented where you’d tell me what to do to get out of my relationship and that would be it. I had no idea I’d come out of it having a better sense of where I came from with the family stuff and also know how to deal with my emotions better. People I tell about this are always surprised!”

*Name has been changed.

May’s Story

24-year-old May* was referred to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) following a report of child endangerment due to the regular arguments that occurred between her and her children’s father. Although May recognized the court viewed her relationship as abusive and dangerous, May did not agree. She had a hard time getting to the DVSC, missing her first two intake appointments, and only attending after her CFSA case worker became involved.

At their sessions, May’s DVSC counselor was able to work with her to identify times when she and her children’s father functioned relatively better, or worse, without applying labels that created resistance to exploring the relationship dynamics. After reframing the situation, May was able to reflect more openly on things that she can do to support more seamless communication in her relationship with her children’s father.

With the progress May made in her DVSC sessions, the court was satisfied that moving forward, May would be less likely to expose her children to interactions they deemed unhealthy.

*Name has been changed.

Lena’s Story

In the wake of the holiday season, and in the midst of challenging times, Lena’s story is a real reminder about what a difference it makes to be surrounded by kindness.

Lena* and her four-year-old son live in House of Ruth’s supportive housing for mothers and children recovering from domestic violence. She says her first visit to House of Ruth just “felt so right.” She loved her apartment and remembers everyone was so welcoming.

Lena says House of Ruth is with her 100%. She does not have much family behind her, and family trauma has made past holidays hard. She doesn’t remember the last time someone gave her a Christmas present, but this year, she said House of Ruth made her feel like part of their family during the holidays. Lena said the festive food at Thanksgiving, the presents at Christmas, and the kindness surrounding her really “made my heart warm.”

Lena has goals and is committed to achieving them. She is working and saving money, making plans to move into her own apartment when the time is right. Next month she will receive her GED, and will enter the management program at her place of employment after obtaining her diploma. This accomplishment was realized while she managed working and caring for her young son. Lena’s son is in pre-kindergarten, and she coordinates overseeing his virtual learning, brings him to his paternal grandmother’s house in the afternoons, works, and manages to complete her own coursework. The pandemic brought changes to her work schedule — her hours have become less regular, and that has decreased the time she is able to spend with her son. This has made Lena very intentional about their time together, and she makes sure they have a chance to play and just have fun.

Lena is also prioritizing her mental health. She is going to counseling at House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center, and she also relies on our housing staff for caring support. Lena says thanks to House of Ruth, she “always has someone to talk to,” which is a big change in her life. If she is feeling overwhelmed with all that she has to manage, she can talk to staff without judgement, and count on encouraging words. She knows her case manager will always tell her, “you’ve got this!”

Our staff has had the privilege of watching Lena grow in self-awareness and confidence as she recognizes her own strength and finds her way to independence. We are honored to support Lena and her son on their journey.

*Name has been changed.