54-year-old Desiree* was referred to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by another social service agency in DC where she had been receiving counseling services. Desiree has a long history of abuse beginning early in her life, continuing through adolescence when she was placed with an abusive foster family after her mother died from a drug overdose, and into adulthood with several extremely violent intimate partner relationships. Despite a full year of working with her counselor at her previous agency, Desiree was still suffering from significant post-traumatic symptoms, was having to be hospitalized regularly, and was struggling to maintain her sobriety from alcohol and PCP.
When Desiree came to the DVSC she had little insight into her post-traumatic symptoms. She was referred to our expert counselors at DVSC specifically for help with managing extreme post-traumatic hyper-arousal and dissociation, an area of expertise that she could not receive from the counselor at her previous agency. Over the course of several months, Desiree’s counselor at the DVSC was able to provide education regarding the nature of traumatic hyper-arousal and dissociation, as well as some concrete coping strategies, that helped Desiree have a better understanding of what she was going through and begin to be able to manage her symptoms.
After 11 months of treatment at the DVSC, Desiree has reduced her need for emergency care and hospitalization from once every 6 weeks (before DVSC) to only once in the last 7 months. As a result of the specialized services that Desiree was able to access at the DVSC, she is now more able to fully engage in substance abuse treatment services and work with her AA/NA sponsor. This is enabling Desiree to better maintain her sobriety.
Desiree is also attending a day treatment program for trauma survivors, a setting that she was previously unable to tolerate. Despite her gains, the severity of Desiree’s trauma history and symptoms suggest she will benefit from ongoing therapy for years to come. In Desiree’s words, “It’s nice to know that for once someone isn’t going to try and get rid of me.”
*Name has been changed.
36-year-old Tonya* came to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) to address feelings of depression related to a recent miscarriage, along with concerns about her relationship with a highly physically and verbally abusive boyfriend. Like many clients who seek services at the DVSC, Tonya felt unable to discuss her circumstances with family or friends due to fear of criticism, judgment, and condemnation.
Throughout her therapy, Tonya consistently remarked that her trust in the therapist helped her “think through” her relationship difficulties. For example, with the therapist’s help, Tonya has spent time evaluating her boyfriend’s potential for violence and identifying ways to maintain her safety. She has also explored deeply-held negative beliefs about herself, and began cultivating more self-appreciation and acceptance.
Through her work with her DVSC therapist, Tonya has become increasingly able to confidently oppose her boyfriend’s threats and intimidation, specifically through the use of legal resources and law enforcement. In addition, she has made great strides in building a fulfilling life away from her boyfriend, by expanding her social support network, participating in organized athletic activities, securing a promotion in her career, and recently adopting a pet dog.
*Name has been changed.
Stories of Hope: Aleya
Aleya’s Story of Hope is the twelfth in our Stories of Hope video series. Aleya shares how she was married for seven years, and left her abusive situation and came to House of Ruth this past July with her three children. Aleya shares how the House of Ruth staff helped guide her through the process and helped her gain stability and structure in the lives of her and her children, and built back their sense of independence.
Through the many resources provided at House of Ruth, Aleya talks about the positive impact on her children, who are no longer afraid – they can just be themselves again, as kids. She proudly shares that her son is on the honor roll at school, and despite the occasional flashbacks to their past trauma, they are reassured by the stability and safety they found at House of Ruth, and continue to progress in their healing process.
Aleya is now a certified medication technician, and feels positive about her future. Aleya talks to her House of Ruth case manager on a regular basis, whenever she needs to talk about anything and everything, which Aleya notes is extremely helpful to her.
23 year-old Ashley* sought counseling at House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) after an incident with her then-boyfriend, an incident which she was having difficulty processing on her own. Ashley had no history of counseling and was, in her own words, “very bad” at emotional language. Ashley struggled with labeling and acknowledging her emotions, an issue which created many problems for her throughout her life, including stunted relationships and poor boundaries with others.
Over the course of her work at the DVSC, Ashley has been able to develop an emotional vocabulary and to recognize and label emotions as she experiences them. Using her new awareness, Ashley has also been able to examine past events and process them more productively.
Most recently, Ashley and her counselor have begun working through some highly traumatic events from her past that Ashley admits have gone unacknowledged in any meaningful way until this point in her life. She has formed a strong working bond with her DVSC counselor and attends her weekly sessions devotedly, despite acknowledging that she finds the process challenging and uncomfortable.
*Name has been changed.
28 year-old Tina* was referred to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency. When Tina came to the DVSC, her children had been out of her care for nearly 14 months. Her two children, ages three and four years old, had been placed in a foster care setting after an anonymous report led police to discover she had left them in her apartment unattended while they were sleeping. At the time, Tina had gone to meet the children’s father because he said he wanted to give her some things he had gotten for the children. Tina later discovered that he was the one who had called the police to report her absence.
Despite her anger, and the court’s concern that her interactions with their father jeopardized the well-being of the children, Tina struggled to limit her contact with him, and to complete the parenting classes and counseling required for her to regain custody of her children. However, once she connected with the DVSC, Tina was able to focus her energies on taking care of herself and completing the requirements to reunify with her children.
On reflecting with her counselor, Tina realized it was her lifelong history of abusive relationships, and fear of parenting on her own, that kept her tied to her children’s father. By working with her DVSC counselor, Tina was able to break down the process of completing the court-ordered services into manageable goals, and create specific strategies for staying on track. Tina was also able to see increasingly how her children’s father had sabotaged her efforts to parent, work, and further her education by constantly creating ‘fires’ for her to put out. As a result, Tina and her counselor developed some concrete strategies for helping her to take care of herself and her children first, and their father secondarily, if at all.
Tina’s gains came quickly, after only six months working with her counselor, she was able to set and continue supporting stronger boundaries, and allow her to allocate her resources in a way that would be most beneficial to her and her children in the long run.
*Name has been changed.
Stories of Hope: Serena
Serena’s Story of Hope is the eleventh in our Stories of Hope video series. Serena opens her story by sharing that her parents were alcoholics, and she herself used heroin, marijuana and cocaine. Despite going to several different drug treatment programs, Serena kept relapsing because she admits she wasn’t ready to surrender and give up drugs. But one day she woke up, and finally had enough: she couldn’t do it anymore.
Serena came to House of Ruth because she was homeless. Before she found House of Ruth, she was sleeping in cars, as her mother had died in 1993, and since then had nowhere to go. Serena’s brothers and sisters didn’t want her to stay with them, as she was still using drugs at the time.
But everything changed when she got a call from House of Ruth, which Serena shares was the best thing that happened to her in her life. She has been with House of Ruth ever since, and loves and appreciates the staff.
Serena ends her story by sharing that one her brothers, whom she used to do heroin with, had since passed away. So now Serena is living for her brother as well as herself, and is no longer using drugs. Her focus now is to be a grandmother and mother to her kids.
Stories of Hope: Renetta
Renetta’s Story of Hope is the tenth in our Stories of Hope video series. Renetta is a resident at House of Ruth, and shares that one of her kids has a disability, and it took her a long time to find a place that accommodated her son’s disability, as well as a place that would help her with her own experiences with domestic violence.
Renetta didn’t find a lot of help in the past for her son’s special needs, and she shares how she had lost hope and was about to give up; she couldn’t even focus on her family. But after finding House of Ruth and finding the essential help she needed, she highlighted how House of Ruth helped her look back on her past, and helped her acknowledge everything she had accomplished with her son.
As she reflects on her journey since finding House of Ruth, Renetta is amazed at how much she and her son have accomplished, and is relieved that her son is finally getting the help he needs.
Stories of Hope: Vicki
Vicki’s Story of Hope is the ninth in our Stories of Hope video series. Vicki is a victim of domestic violence, and she wanted to share her story to show other women that they do not have to continue dealing with abuse, that no matter how much they think they love their partner, to not let them hurt you.
Vicki shares how she was a victim of abuse by her now ex-spouse for sixteen years and scared to leave. But she found strength in God and in herself that she deserved better than this, and left her spouse. At House of Ruth, Vicki is slowly but surely processing her experiences and stress, and building up her hopes and self-esteem. She now proudly says that although her ex-spouse made her feel like he was worthless, she knows now that she is worthy.
At House of Ruth Vicki shares that she found true friendship, and that the staff at House of Ruth shows her true, unconditional love – something she had never experienced. Vicki see her life heading toward living in her own place and reuniting with her family. She ends by sharing that she has a new grandchild, and that Vicki wants to live her life perfectly for her.
Stories of Hope: Pat
Pat’s Story of Hope is the eighth in our Stories of Hope video series. Pat is a Case Manager at House of Ruth, and has been a part of House of Ruth’s staff for ten years. Pat shares how it’s been truly rewarding to be able to help women who have fled from domestic violence, and appreciates how the staff at House of Ruth is very empathetic and non-judgmental.
Pat emphasizes how women who come to House of Ruth can stay and use the services for as long as they need, and they are able to build their life back from almost nothing, with the help of the staff, whether it’s for referring women to employment resources, housing, mental health services, or parenting.
Helping women and their children succeed is Pat’s greatest motivation at House of Ruth, because the women want to change their life for themselves as well as for their children. Finally, Pat reflects that a lot of the women who come to House of Ruth realize that they truly can flourish, and are inspired to reach for success for themselves and their children.
Stories of Hope: Elinore
Elinore’s Story of Hope is the seventh in our Stories of Hope video series. Elinore shares that she has a history of violent relationships, but that her most recent relationship was extremely bad, and she needed to leave and go someplace safe. She tells how House of Ruth offered her a safe place to stay and to heal with the other residents, and that despite their different situations, they all helped one another.
Elinore is grateful that at House of Ruth she no longer has to constantly fear violence, and that as a result she is now doing and feeling much better. She shares that she is becoming self-sufficient, doing things for herself, and moving forward to bigger things in her healing. For example, she shares that she is moving into her own place and that she is pursuing a degree to further her education.
Finally, Elinore addresses any women who are scared or who are in unsafe situations, encouraging them to call House of Ruth and reassuring them that House of Ruth will open their doors, welcome them, and keep them safe. She promises them that they don’t have to be scared anymore.
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