House of Ruth

Sydney’s Story

Sydney’s Story

32-year-old Sydney* first came to the House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) seeking counseling support after she separated from her violent husband. Because she was not an American citizen and wished to continue living in this country, she was required to submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services demonstrating she was a victim of marital abuse.

Sydney’s counselor contributed a detailed letter to this application that outlined instances of abuse in her marriage. Sydney also used her time in counseling at the DVSC to process her experiences in her marriage, and came to feel more settled and empowered about what happened to her and her decision to leave her abusive husband. Sydney had never experienced counseling before, and regularly told her counselor that their work together “set me free,” and that it had helped her to “build myself up from the inside.”

*Name has been changed. 

Brandi’s Story

40-year-old Brandi* came to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) through a referral from local police for help in the immediate aftermath of a violent intimate partner relationship.

Because Brandi was experiencing extreme levels of stress when she first came to counseling, her counselor started by working with her to try and help Brandi feel safer, including in her own body. After a few months of counseling and when Brandi’s symptoms had settled, she began to try to make sense of her past relationship. To assist in her process, her DVSC counselor began employing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), an evidence-based therapy used to help survivors of trauma.

After a few EMDR sessions, Brandi reported that her memory of the “worst incident” in her relationship was not only more tolerable to think about, but her negative beliefs about herself had been largely replaced by more positive beliefs involving personal empowerment, resiliency, and creativity.

“Since I’ve come here,” Brandi told her counselor, “I feel much safer, and I’ve let go of a lot of my anger, which was holding me back. I’m happy to see me make progress.”

*Name has been changed.

Dana’s Story

47-year-old Dana* first came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help with depression and anxiety. After struggling with addiction for more than a decade, Dana has acknowledged that her early life trauma was a major factor in her mood management issues, and consequently her struggles with substance use.

Dana and her DVSC counselor began by exploring what it meant for her to show up and not avoid her emotions—either by ignoring them or self-medicating—as she had done for years. Dana made the commitment to avoid behaviors she knew were unhealthy, and used her counseling sessions to help identify and implement more positive coping strategies to manage her moods.

Counseling has allowed Dana to discuss and process her most challenging life experiences so that they have less hold over her. Dana has started to rebuild and reconnect with those who can support her in her quest for living a life where she can manage her difficulties and thrive.

*Name has been changed.

Katie’s Story

24-year-old Katie* began attending sessions with a counselor at the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) following a recent breakup. After Katie ended her abusive relationship, she still struggled with very low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority as a result of the abuse.

Katie was able to work with her counselor to process her negative feelings, and evaluate her tendency to disproportionately blame herself. With the help of her counselor, Katie came to realize and acknowledge she was not responsible for her partner’s abusive behavior. Katie was able to rebuild her confidence in herself by working to identify activities that reinforced her interests and helped her build a sense of accomplishment.

Currently, Katie is using her sessions at the DVSC to help her plan the next phase of her life, exploring career interests and furthering her education.

*Name has been changed.

Fiona’s Story

55-year-old Fiona* came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) after 30 years of an abusive relationship with a man she had known all her life. Fiona initially expressed a great deal of reticence about coming to counseling, both because of cultural taboos around sharing her ‘business’ outside her family, and fear of addressing the extensive trauma she had endured.

Fiona and her DVSC counselor were able to construct initial treatment goals focusing on self-care and strategies for improving Fiona’s emotion regulation skills. They agreed to hold off on delving deeply into the details of Fiona’s abuse. Over time, with improved self-care and increased ability to self-soothe, Fiona felt more able to begin discussing her trauma history.

Using this approach gave Fiona time to develop rapport with her counselor, so it didn’t feel like she was sharing information with a stranger. Working collaboratively with clients to meet them where they are is a hallmark of the work counselors at the DVSC do every day. It is an integral part of helping clients to regain a sense of control and self-determination.

*Name has been changed.

Nancy’s Story

25-year-old Nancy* came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) following a violent physical incident with her boyfriend. She discovered that she had lost her way. She had become withdrawn from her friends and family, lost self-efficacy and belief in herself, and was having difficulty concentrating and being productive at work. She was also experiencing many physical symptoms as a result of the abuse in her relationship, which negatively impacted her overall well-being.

Counseling provided a safe and supportive place for Nancy to discuss and process what had happened in the relationship. Nancy’s counselor provided information about the effects of abuse, helped her challenge self-defeating thoughts, and worked with Nancy to rebuild her sense of her own self-worth.

With her counselor’s support, Nancy was able to re-engage in activities she previously enjoyed, rebuild a robust support system, and identify other longer term goals to help her progress toward larger life goals.

*Name has been changed.

Jennifer’s Story

31-year-old Jennifer* came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help in dealing with conflict with her husband and her concerns about how this impacted her small children. It didn’t take long for Jennifer to see that she was married to a highly verbally abusive partner, and had become depressed and increasingly isolated from others outside of her immediate family. Like many clients, Jennifer felt embarrassed about her own behavior, blamed herself for any conflict in the home with her partner, and had trouble talking about it. Addressing this shame head-on in counseling had the effect of liberating Jennifer from its toxic effects.

After about a month into working with her DVSC counselor, Jennifer reported it was as though a one-hundred pound weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Once she began to believe that her experiences were common and that her responses to them were understandable and not “crazy,” Jennifer felt less depressed and less isolated. She began socializing more with others outside of her family, and she also felt a greater capacity to explore her marital conflict and consider all her options for changing her situation.

*Name has been changed.

Catherine’s Story

38-year-old Catherine* came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help separating from a long-term physically and verbally abusive relationship. Like many clients who seek services at the DVSC, Catherine described her boyfriend as very controlling through most of the relationship, with occasional escalations to physical violence. Recently when talk of separating was broached, her boyfriend vandalized her property, harassed her workplace with malicious calls, threatened suicide, or promised to kill her if she ever took legal action against him—in effect punishing Catherine for any attempt to separate from him.

Understandably, Catherine initially presented as very anxious, felt discouraged in pursuing any of the various legal options available to her, and felt hopeless about her situation ever changing. Instead of focusing on “taking action” (which Catherine made clear she was not ready to do), her DVSC counselor first focused on understanding her very long-standing anxious thinking style, especially as it related to her sense of self and her own capacities in life.

Over a few months, Catherine came to feel less anxious and more empowered, which led to her taking several actions against her abusive boyfriend that rendered him unable to contact her without very serious legal and professional consequences for him. Feeling safer and less anxious, Catherine has since turned her attention in counseling to understanding some of her longstanding ways of relating to others, especially in intimate partner relationships, and has become especially interested in the impact some of her early childhood experiences have had on her ways of relating.

Through counseling, Catherine has been able to achieve a much higher degree of freedom in her life and has cultivated a renewed feeling of hope about her future.

*Name has been changed.

Jenny’s Story

31-year-old Jenny* sought counseling services at the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) after a long stint of counseling elsewhere. Jenny felt concerned that her previous counselor was frustrated with her “lack of progress.” Jenny is a survivor of prolonged childhood abuse and neglect, and when she started services at the DVSC she was still living with some of the abusive family members she grew up with.

Jenny was suffering from depressed mood and panic attacks on a regular basis. She experienced extreme social anxiety (making it difficult for her to leave her home), and reported a phobic anxiety of driving. Jenny noted that overcoming her driving phobia had been a goal of hers since she got her license as a teenager, but her anxiety had only grown worse over the years. She also reported a less concrete goal of moving away from her family, but admitted to feelings of guilt and obligation were “keeping her there.”

Working with her counselor, Jenny prepared and executed a plan to buy a car for herself. She created and implemented a plan with her counselor to stick to a driving schedule to practice her skills and gradually become less anxious behind the wheel.

At present, Jenny is driving several times a week and is able to access more resources for herself and spend more time away from home, which she has reported is helpful to her mental health. Additionally, Jenny has begun talking more seriously about her long-term goal of moving out of her family’s apartment and living independently.

*Name has been changed.

Megan’s Story

34-year-old Megan* came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) six months ago because she recognized some unhealthy patterns in her relationships. Although Megan had never experienced physical violence in an intimate relationship, after she got divorced last year she realized in retrospect the relationship had been emotionally abusive. Her needs were often dismissed and disregarded by her then-husband.

After her divorce, Megan dated a man who often openly flirted with other women when they were together. He was not interested in Megan’s work accomplishments, her personal interests, or in meeting her friends. He often misled her or lied to her about what he was doing and who he was with. Upon intake at the DVSC, Megan completed the Trauma Symptom Checklist (TSC), which is widely used to evaluate symptoms connected with childhood or adult traumatic experiences. Megan’s initial score was 67 (of a possible 120), indicating that Megan was experiencing a variety of symptoms.

In the first couple of months of her work with her DVSC counselor, Megan was surprised to find herself exploring her experiences in her early life, and even more surprised to find that her feelings of being dismissed, unimportant, and ‘invisible’ in her family growing up were many of the same feelings she had in her adult relationships. Megan and her counselor worked to understand how triggers from adult relationships were stirring things up from earlier in her life, and how she might be able to prevent that from continuing to happen.

After two months of working with her counselor, Megan’s TSC score improved to 44. Megan was reporting far fewer and less severe symptoms. For another four months Megan and her counselor worked to enact the strategies they identified as useful in helping Megan cultivate relationships where she felt seen, understood, and valued.

After six months, Megan completed the TSC again and scored a 22. Her symptoms have been largely reduced and she is working on consolidating the gains she made in counseling and enjoying the higher quality of relationships in her life.

*Name has been changed.

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