Follow Emerge! participants on their journey to safety.
*Please Note: The names, photos and identifying details in all of our participant stories have been changed to protect the people described.
When she arrived home, Maritza* found her wife in front of a bonfire in the backyard. Enraged, Lisa asked why she was late coming home. Before Maritza could respond that her phone had died, Lisa said she wanted to teach her a lesson and threw Maritza’s adult literacy education books into the fire. When Maritza’s phone had charged, she felt guilty about not responding to the nearly 100 missed calls and voicemails she had received from Lisa.
Insecurity began for Maritza at 16, when she told her family that she was a lesbian and they kicked her out of the house after several humiliating and shame inflicting attempts to “save her” from herself. This experience not only made Maritza uncomfortable about her personal identity, but made her question whether or not she deserved to be loved.
When she first met Lisa, Maritza felt like she could finally be herself. Even though she had no formal education and was often shy, Lisa made her feel like the capable, courageous woman she had always strived to be. This was only temporary, though, and Lisa’s praise was slowly replaced with criticism.
Insults, intimidation and violence continued to escalate after the bonfire incident. Even though the abuse Maritza was experiencing was so severe it could potentially become lethal, her self-doubt, coupled with Lisa’s manipulation tactics, made Maritza think that she was to blame for the abuse. She was often told she was crazy and over-reactive, which made Maritza question whether or not she was being abused in the first place.
When Lisa started threatening Maritza’s life and strangling her – both signals that the abuse had a high chance of becoming fatal – Maritza realized how dangerous her marriage had become and borrowed some money from a friend to flee from her home in the Midwest. After setting herself up in a small apartment in Tucson, Maritza reached out for services at Emerge!. During her first one-on-one support session at one of the Emerge! community-based service sites, Emerge! staff validated Maritza’s identification of the abuse and tactics she had endured and helped her to accept that she was not to blame for her partner’s choices. Over the course of the next six months, Maritza spent her time at Emerge! re-discovering her own strengths and building new life skills for living independently.
Establishing goals and understanding available resources made Maritza feel confident about her future for the first time since losing her family. Today, Maritza still attends a support group at Emerge! where she’s able to talk about progress and challenges as she moves forward. Her current goals include volunteering, becoming more social by making friends, and learning to read and write. She’s also focusing on incorporating self-care into her routine, and is starting with exercise and keeping a daily journal. Emerge! provided Maritza support in navigating her options and getting access to tools she didn’t have before, and now her confidence continues to grow as she accepts every aspect of herself.
This month’s participant story is about our 2016 Mothers of the Year recipient.
Natalia* had a sudden realization that stopped her in her tracks. It was so simple and yet colossal at the same time. In that moment, it was just her and her ice cream cone walking down the street. The relentless fear that had overshadowed her for years was gone. She felt calm and safe.
It wasn’t until the second half of a ten-year marriage that her husband’s behavior shifted from protective to possessive. In response to her husband’s intimidation, Natalia shut herself off to the world to avoid upsetting him. In doing so, she lost herself and became who he wanted her to be.
The manipulation and emotional exploitation escalated over time to extreme physical abuse. What Natalia feared most was dying – she couldn’t stand the thought of her three children in the hands of such an abusive father. She thought she could protect them and keep the abuse hidden, so she was disturbed to find out her teenage son had been keeping a knife under his pillow to protect her.
When people inquired about her broken arm, Natalia told them she fell. She didn’t think anyone would understand what had really happened and was thankful that her husband had stopped there – he may have killed Natalia if she hadn’t pretended to faint.
Within a few days of returning from the hospital, Natalia took a leap of faith and traveled to Tucson with her children. Feeling vulnerable and afraid, she stayed the weekend with her sister for relief. However, Natalia was ashamed about why she had left which made it hard to share what was happening with her family. Thankfully, her sister encouraged her to call the Emerge! hotline.
Although Natalia was unsure about going to a shelter, she was relieved when she and her children were welcomed like family by the Emerge! staff. Once Natalia started individual support sessions, she finally felt understood and was able to open up about her trauma. Processing the abuse helped her begin to move forward with her life. Through family support sessions, Natalia bonded with her children through constructive discussions that helped them heal together. Her case coordinator helped her find resources anytime she encountered an obstacle and she quickly gained the skills needed to use these tools on her own. The more she could do independently, the more powerful and confident Natalia became. After enrolling in the Renewal Housing Stabilization Program at Emerge!, Natalia got an apartment and received transitional financial assistance for bills and household items, but as soon as she got a full time job, she was able to afford them on her own.
When Natalia had first arrived at shelter, she described feeling hopeless and grey. Today, she has rediscovered her own strength and independence. Living each day for her children, she is constantly modeling for them the importance of self-love and respect. Her greatest reward has been the gratitude she’s received from her children who are now safe, thriving and very proud of their courageous mother.
*For those of you who were at the Mother of the Year Luncheon, please note that this is not the Mother of the Year’s real name or photo.
Kathy* was living in fear. After calling the Emerge! hotline, she came into shelter and was relieved to have a safe and confidential place to stay. Once she settled in, she told her case coordinator about the time she was hospitalized by her ex-boyfriend.
Before she checked out of the hospital, she had ended the relationship with Brian. Instead of honoring her request, Brian started showing up at Kathy’s apartment and would call her several times a day crying about how he couldn’t live without her. He sent her flowers at work every week and even came to her friend’s holiday party uninvited after finding out about it on social media. If Kathy was unresponsive to Brian’s attempts to get her back, he would send her threatening messages or leave dead rodents on her doorstep with a note that she would soon face a similar fate. Even though the hospital incident and resulting breakup happened several months prior, Kathy was still being tormented.
Kathy realized that Brian’s behaviors were not that of a romantic fighting for love—he was aggressively stalking her to pressure her back into the relationship. During one session with her case coordinator, Kathy shared that she deserved to live without the fear of Brian’s constant threats, and requested that Emerge! support her while she pursued charges that had been made against Brian during the hospital incident. Emerge! also helped her file a restraining order to further document the abuse with authorities. Brian contacted her several more times even after the documentation was submitted. Each time he did, Kathy would call the police to report the contact and then call the hotline for emotional support.
She was relieved when the contact finally stopped. As the weeks passed, Kathy began to understand how much her ex-boyfriend’s stalking behavior had impacted her sense of safety in the world and that it had been an extension of the abuse she experienced while in the relationship. Without this constant fear encroaching upon her, a space had been created for Kathy to think more clearly and move forward with her life.
Joan* told her case coordinator that her smile had never felt brighter after having her teeth fixed through the Emerge! dental program. Her renewed sense of strength and confidence was visible across any room. After feeling trapped by an abusive husband for 20 years, she broke the cycle of abuse. With the help and support Joan received from Emerge!, she had come so far from where she had once been.
Joan had learned about Emerge! after a neighbor saw her husband threatening her with a shovel and called 911. Despite her broken teeth, multiple injuries, and recent miscarriage caused by the abuse, this was the first time that law enforcement had been involved. After having been isolated from friends and family for so long, she had been unsure of where to turn. The officers asked Joan some questions which showed that her relationship could be highly lethal, so law enforcement helped her call the Emerge! hotline and asked her if she wanted to be transported to shelter. Joan wasn’t ready to leave so she declined, but assured the officers she would seek Emerge! services on her own.
Through a series of calls to the hotline, Emerge! helped Joan understand the options and resources available to her. They helped her create safety plans, one for staying and one for leaving – both options were frightening for Joan and she was still unsure which was best. However, a few weeks later, she decided to take her two kids and herself to the emergency shelter at Emerge!. Amidst the chaos of packing, her safety plan helped her remain focused on what was critical for her and her children as they left their home.
Once at shelter, she began attending regular, individual, sessions with her case coordinator, as well as group sessions with other women who had been through similar experiences. With each session, she had a greater understanding of how she had been affected by the abuse and was able to begin processing her experiences. After three weeks at shelter, Joan expressed a new sense of control in her life and felt ready for her next big steps.
With the assistance of her case coordinator, she got an order of protection, applied for an apartment, and opened her own bank account. And then, with renewed hope, Joan and her children moved out of the shelter. She continued enrollment in the Our Family is Strong program of Emerge! with her kids, which helped their relationship grow stronger so their family can heal together. Joan now helps others in the group sessions and has become a beacon of hope for others.
Up to that point, 13-year-old Theresa had only crafted a meal out of a combination of items from the dollar menu or a box of mac and cheese. She was nervous when Melissa, the nutrition Case Coordinator at Emerge! shelter, asked if she would like to choose and help cook the evening meal for the families at shelter. Theresa went to the garden and returned with a handful of oregano for the spaghetti and meatballs she had chosen to make. As one of the women living at shelter put water on to boil, Theresa chatted with her inquisitively about all the different ingredients they would be using for the sauce.
When her mom, Janet, came back from work, Theresa ran to the door to greet her – excitedly sharing the news that she had helped make dinner for everyone at shelter. Her mother was thrilled. This was the first time Theresa had spoken to her in over a week, the transition to living at shelter had been very difficult on the family. Theresa had been feeling angry at her mother and fearful about the new environment.
Later that evening, Janet told Melissa how proud she was of her daughter and how happy Theresa was since she helped make the spaghetti. Janet knew that Theresa couldn’t understand why she was unable to see her father or why the two of them had to live at shelter. She hoped that if they began to make meals together, she might be able to reconnect with her daughter. The following night, Theresa and her mom worked together to prepare all the fixings for tacos while another woman cooked the meat and shells. The opportunity to have an interaction with her mother that was not overshadowed by stress and fear allowed them to begin to bond once again as a family.
After Theresa went to bed that night, Janet found Melissa and thanked her for helping to facilitate the communication between her and her daughter. Janet had been working with her case coordinator about how to talk with Theresa in an age-appropriate way about the abuse, but had struggled to break through her daughter’s anger and fear. She wanted the two of them to have a healthy, trusting relationship and she couldn’t stand the possibility of Theresa being mistreated in her future relationships because of the abuse she witnessed between her parents.
As Janet and Theresa re-established their bond through cooking in the kitchen, Theresa began to trust her mother again. She was still upset and emotional, but was open to talking with her mom instead of shutting her out. Eventually Janet talked with Theresa about why they went to shelter. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have, but it ended with them embracing each other. They continue to rebuild the trust that had been lost as a result of the abuse.
At the early age of 15, Cora began dating her future husband. She was flattered that he was so attentive to every detail of her life. He seemed to care so much about who her friends where and the specifics of her daily activities. Within a short period, he began dictating who she could talk to and where she could go. She didn’t realize that his controlling behavior would lead to demeaning and life threatening relationship.
The physical abuse began during her third pregnancy. Her mother had suspicions that something had been going on, and had contacted Emerge!. The hotline operator talked to her about the dynamics of domestic abuse and the Emerge! resources that would be available when Cora was ready.
One day, after her husband sent the girls to be with his mother, he tied Cora to a chair, beat her, and belittled her for several days. When the girls arrived home they didn’t recognize their mother – her face was swollen and disfigured.
Cora asked her mother for help. Together, they first called the police and had Cora’s husband arrested. Her mother then asked Cora to call Emerge!. Upon calling, Cora immediately entered emergency shelter, where she received help with filing for a restraining order, divorce and sole custody of the girls.
Several years later, her now x-husband talked his way back into her life after a court explain that he had changed. She went back and things seemed better. Even though there was no hitting, he continued to be controlling.
Again, Cora called the Emerge! hotline. She had already spoken with her parents, who offered to let Cora and the girls move in with them. The four of them enrolled in one-on-one support sessions at Emerge!, this time at a Community Based Service site. The services provided them with help in processing their individual experiences from being exposed to so much abuse them and an understanding how to build healthy relationships. Their case coordinators also helped facilitate dialogue between Cora and her daughters so that they could all heal together with open and honest communication. Today, six years after initially entering shelter, they are still active participants. Cora graduated from the Emerge! Housing First Program, and lives in a townhouse with her girls while pursuing her college education.
At three years old, most kids are learning to speak in complete sentences, loudly reciting their A-B-C’s and beginning to ask countless questions about the world; that wasn’t true for Daniel.* He had seen a lot in his short life, having been exposed to verbal and physical abuse in his home. When he first came to shelter, Daniel was afraid to talk with anyone and rarely smiled. During his initial family session with his mom, he refused to participate in any activities and would only occasionally peek out from behind a chair with a blank stare. At children’s group, Daniel would become upset for no apparent reason and withdraw from the group if anyone talked to him.
Within a couple of weeks, as he became more comfortable, Daniel started expressing himself. Since he didn’t have the words to accurately express how he felt, he began to act out his needs instead. This often meant taking things without asking, or biting and pushing others when he felt angry, anxious or scared.
Jill, Daniel’s case coordinator, worked with him through the use of art and reading books to help him learn how to express himself appropriately. Although Daniel’s mom hoped that he had never seen his father choking or hitting her, she knew that he had still been impacted by the abuse. Jill asked Daniel to draw a picture of his mom and dad, and then asked him some questions. Daniel told her that he missed his dad but that he didn’t want to go home because he was scared. “Why does daddy hit mommy,” he asked, “was she bad?” Jill helped Daniel identify, in a way that he could understand, that he often felt scared and confused about watching the abuse of his mother. She also helped Daniel with expressing that he loved his father although he often felt afraid in his home, and didn’t like what his father was doing to his mother. Jill and Daniel spent time talking and drawing pictures of what a safe home and father would feel like to Daniel.
After having been at shelter for two months, the pictures Daniel drew in the children’s group at Emerge! began to brighten up. Daniel would look for Jill everyday so that he could tell her stories, which grew to be quite varied for this adventurous young boy. More often than not, he’d be smiling and laughing during his stories. Daniel’s mother also noticed a change in his character; he seemed to be a completely new person. She was so proud of him for learning to express himself in a healthy way instead of hitting someone to get their attention. Every now and then Daniel has a bad day, but his relationship with his mom continues to grow stronger. They have just moved into an apartment, and are both healing with the help of the groups and activities at Emerge!.
Jenny* needed help. She could still hear her mother’s voice after a fight between her parents when she was a child, “women must take care of their husbands and stick it out, no matter what.” Jenny told her mother about how her husband tried to kill himself in front of her after he had recently been laid off from work. He had been fired for being late and blamed Jenny. Though, he had always had trouble getting places on time and Jenny had made him breakfast at the same time as usual that day.
This was a common thread in their relationship – anything that went wrong seemed to be Jenny’s fault. Once, when her husband was waiting on a letter in the mail for longer than expected it was surely because Jenny had lost it, so he refused to speak with her for three days. When it came two weeks later, he mentioned it briefly but never apologized for blaming her or the way he had treated her.
Jenny tried to describe to her mother the events that led up to her husband’s suicide attempt, and that she didn’t understand what she could have done differently. “Just do your best and make sure not to say anything when he gets angry,” her mother replied, “if he wants to blame you, let him. It’s your duty to keep him happy.” This deepened Jenny’s sense of responsibility for her husband’s behavior. She continued to try everything she could think of to make the relationship work.
Later, Jenny found out her husband was having an affair. When she confronted him about it, he blamed her for his unfaithful behavior by saying that he wouldn’t have cheated if she would have tried harder. Fearing that her mother would echo this response, Jenny sought help from Alice, one of her neighbors. Alice was glad Jenny had reached out to her and emphasized her concerns. Alice also told her that her husband’s infidelity wasn’t her fault and that no one deserves to be treated that way. Together, they called the Emerge! hotline for additional support.
After her initial call to Emerge!, Jenny made an appointment at a community based service site and began attending group support sessions each week. During one discussion, Jenny was reminded of the trauma she experienced growing up living in an abusive household. In that moment, she realized that the emotionally abusive characteristics she saw in her parent’s relationship were now haunting her own. Having been raised around yelling and hitting, Jenny had thought these conditions were normal and learned how to cope by being obedient and pushing back any painful emotions instead of talking about them.
After several weeks, Jenny told her case coordinator how thankful she was to have someone to talk to who understood what she had been going through. “The open and honest communication at Emerge! makes me feel like I can say anything,” Jenny said, “I feel safe here.” Jenny continues to attend Emerge! services and is learning to recognize the red flags of an abusive relationship and regain her self-confidence.
During her first session at Emerge!, Erica* mentioned the “inconsistency” in her marriage. Sometimes her husband treated her like a child, while other times he treated her like a queen. However, the good times seemed to be slowly disappearing. Erica did everything she could to keep her husband happy so that he would be nice to her, even if it meant putting her own needs aside. What she wanted most was to spend time with the man she fell in love with.
Not only were the periods of calm getting shorter, but the actions Erica’s husband took when he was angry were also getting worse. In the four years before they were married, there was hardly ever any tension between them. However, after being married for just six months, her husband started to criticize her cooking and would call her names. Eventually he started to do it in front of other people, like the time he yelled at her at the grocery in front of the checkout clerk. At the time, it had seemed outrageous to her that he would do such a thing, but he made up for it by taking her out to dinner that night and surprising her with a diamond bracelet.
Looking back, the embarrassment she felt at the store didn’t seem so bad anymore. It brought tears to her eyes when Erica told her case coordinator about the first time he slapped her, just a few months ago, and that he had recently choked her as well. She was also quick to explain how apologetic her husband was after he hurt her and how sincere he sounded when he promised never to do it again. “I’ll get help,” he said.
Erica had come to Emerge! because her anxiety from constantly walking on egg shells was at an all-time high. She started attending groups and one-on-one sessions after a friend had seen her husband yelling at her and recommended that she get professional support. Erica had denied that there was a problem the first time this friend had offered help. She had told her friend that her husband had just booked them an amazing anniversary trip, and that “everything’s going really great right now and there’s no reason to upset things.” Another woman in the Emerge! support group mentioned having a similar reaction when a family member reached out to help – this comment, and many others made during group, helped Erica realize that she was not alone. Through sharing with others, she began to understand how much of her life had revolved around not upsetting her husband because he had convinced her that his abusive behaviors were her fault, and hers to control.
Erica also learned about the dynamics of abuse while at Emerge!, including the cycle of abuse and how it often plays out in a relationship. The education process was both eye opening and painful for Erica. She realized her husband had been intentionally terrorizing her so that she would do what he wanted by pulling her close and then throwing her away.
Erica worked with her case coordinator to regain a sense of strength and self-assurance by setting goals together. One of the more simple goals was to bake a cake for her friends. Erica felt immense pride when she presented the cake to her friends and they begged her for the recipe – maybe her cooking wasn’t so bad after all, she thought. This seemingly small gesture was a first step in regaining the confidence she had lost during her marriage. Erica is currently living with a friend and continues to attend group sessions at Emerge!, along with one-on-one support for help with achieving her long-term goals.
Alice* was receiving services from a local agency for help coping with anxiety, depression and past trauma. When the agency identified that her anxiety and depression were the result of a lifetime of abuse, they referred her to Emerge! so that she could speak with people who knew more about the complexities of domestic abuse. When Alice first came to Emerge!, she was visibly nervous. She had a difficult time discussing the abuse she had suffered in the ten years she had been married to her husband, though, she was unsure if what she was experiencing was somehow her fault and if it was in fact abuse.
After a few weeks, Alice began opening up more during her sessions at Emerge!. She talked with her case coordinator about the types of manipulation she was experiencing and the continuous emotional mistreatment by her husband, including his attempts to turn her against her friends and family and ridiculing the way she looked. Discussing different types of abuse, the power and control wheel and the cycle of abuse with her case coordinator, Alice came to her own conclusions about what she had been experiencing at home. Though it was difficult to do, she found it freeing to understand that she had in fact been experiencing emotional abuse. Awareness was her first step in finding safety, she could now take action.
After careful consideration of all of her options, Alice asked Emerge! to help her file for a divorce. Although her husband attempted to get her back by trying to make Alice feel guilty for “destroying their marriage,” he finally agreed to find a new place to live and let Alice stay in their home. Alice still loved her husband, which made his words and this process even harder. Although she had hoped for an immediate end to the relationship, her husband continued to reach out to her even after she had asked him not to by sending her flowers at work and showing up at her usual grocery store.
To further distance herself from her husband, Alice left the home she had lived in for the past decade and moved into a new apartment across town. After finalizing the divorce proceedings, she started to feel anxious and lonely, and often felt tempted to contact her ex-husband. Thanks to the support she had received at Emerge!, she knew that doing so was her decision to make. She also knew that protecting her emotional safety was just as important as protecting her physical safety. When Alice did choose to contact her ex-husband, the emotional safety planning she did with her case coordinator at Emerge! helped Alice place healthy boundaries around their communication so that she was able to maintain her safety. She also learned tools to manage her ongoing anxiety and depression that have helped her feel more comfortable connecting and reaching out to friends.
Asking for help felt unnatural, Dianne* saw herself as an independent, confident and successful woman. So did her community. Shame and disappointment engulfed her at the thought of admitting she was being abused by her husband. Putting aside her fear of losing respect, she once hinted to a friend about the emotional abuse she had been dealing with throughout her marriage, not daring to yet mention the physical abuse. She explained to her friend that she often felt belittled, unappreciated and as if her voice did not matter in the relationship. Dianne also told her that it felt as though she was always walking on egg shells to avoid a negative reaction from her husband. “But he takes such great care of you,” the friend replied, “just talk to him, he loves you and would do anything for you.”
The day after their 45th wedding anniversary, her husband was enraged. Again. Taking the roses he surprised her with just the day before, the beautiful buds became a weapon as he used them to repeatedly hit her while yelling at her for forgetting to pick up his dry cleaning during an outing with their grandkids. “You never do anything right,” he shouted; Dianne couldn’t recall how many times he had said this to her. After hiding her keys and ordering her to clean up, her husband left to pick up his dry cleaning. Scared that he would return and continue to lash out at her, she called the police.
Dianne’s concern that the officer would be dismissive of her fears quickly dissipated, he was trained to understand that domestic abuse does not always leave visible signs and that it can happen to anyone. “What a relief,” she sighed. After all, even her closest friend had trouble believing that something like this could happen to her. Before finishing his report, the officer gave Dianne information about Emerge! services and suggested she call Emerge!.
After checking into a hotel, Dianne called the bilingual 24-hour Emerge! hotline. She was greeted by a hotline support specialist who offered her comfort her as she explored all of her options and chose her plan of action. The hotline specialist told Dianne who to call to set up an appointment with Emerge! Community Based Services, and also helped her create an intermediary safety plan for the time being. Part of Dianne’s plan included notifying a supportive family member that she would be staying at the hotel. Before ending the call, Dianne was reassured that she could call back anytime if she felt concerned about her husband finding her and needed access to emergency shelter, or just needed to talk. The seemingly simple yet powerful words “I believe you and it’s not your fault” were permanently imprinted in Dianne’s mind after hearing them from the hotline specialist.
Dianne began to realize that there was no reason to be ashamed of what was happening to her or for considering leaving her husband. When she came in for her appointment with Emerge! Community Based Services, she received further emotional support from her case coordinator, along with general information regarding her rights as a victim. Dianne’s fears had been replaced with a renewed sense of empowerment, she knew she would not be alone in her journey to safety.
Denise* always seemed to fall short of her husband’s expectations. He never attacked her physically. However, the pain she felt when he punished her for making mistakes, constantly insulted her and treated her as being inferior to him left invisible scars. After several years together, Denise eventually found herself pretending to be someone who she was not, just to appease her husband and maintain her emotional safety. It was not safe for her to voice her opinion or disagree with her husband in any way. Over time, he grew increasingly critical and never allowed Denise to have her own identity or opinion, especially in public. It wasn’t uncommon for him to belittle her in front of friends or physically grab and shake her when he didn’t accept her input.
When Denise found out her husband had been unfaithful she confronted him. Instead of admitting his fault, he minimized his actions and shifted the responsibility to her, saying that she was unable to fulfill his needs. He criticized her appearance and told her she was unattractive to him. Although Denise still loved her husband, this was the final straw. When Denise told her mother she had plans to get a divorce, her mom was furious. Divorce was against their family’s values, and if Denise went through with it, her mother insisted that she would never speak to her again. Losing two of the most important people in her life at the same time was just too much for her to imagine, so Denise decided to stay.
Her husband’s constant sense of entitlement, minimization of his actions, and psychological abuse as well as his adulterous behavior continued. A year later, just after her mom passed away, Denise filed for a divorce and sought help from Emerge!. After going so long without the ability to make her own independent decisions, Denise has begun the long and difficult process of finding confidence in her own ability to choose and speak her mind. Thanks to the support of Emerge!, Denise has courageously enrolled in school and is working every day on her self-awareness and self-confidence – discovering who she truly is, and not what others expect her to be.
After they were married seven years ago, Jessica’s* husband began keeping tabs on her whereabouts and having fits if she came home later than usual from work, even if she was just running errands. Recently, her husband’s emotionally and verbally abusive behavior escalated from intimidation tactics and name calling to repeated threats that he would kill himself if Jessica didn’t comply with his demands. She sought help from her pastor and other friends at her church, Jessica had always been able to turn to them for guidance when she was faced with a difficult challenge. Her religion placed a strong emphasis on couples staying married no matter what goes on inside the household. Those at her church had the common misunderstanding that when a spouse abuses their partner, it is part of relationship issues and can be worked out through couple’s counseling.
Jessica trusted her support system and went to a marriage counselor with her husband. Much of the sessions were spent talking about communication and other relationship issues, which only distracted them from the abusive behavior. Sometimes, Jessica would find a false sense of security during a session and reveal information to her husband and the counselor about how she was being impacted by her husband’s abusive behavior. This always led to retaliation from her husband once they returned home from the counseling session. Jessica was confused by what seemed to be happening with the counseling sessions and why the abuse would escalate following each session.
Jessica turned to her church and friends again after realizing that the marriage counseling wasn’t going to stop her husband’s abusive behavior, only to find their support had diminished. Feeling depressed and alone, she called the Emerge! hotline. After going through intake, she enrolled in a support group where she connected with other survivors of domestic abuse and once again felt lifted up and encouraged. She often spoke about her fear of leaving the relationship and the guilt she had for wanting to do so. Jessica was able to finally understand that the reason couples counseling was not effective in changing her husband’s behavior was because his choice to use abuse and control was solely within him and had nothing to do with Jessica. In fact, there was nothing Jessica could have said or done that would have changed his behavior. His choices were not a function of their relationship, but more about his belief system that gave him permission to treat Jessica as though she was not equal to him. The other participants helped relieve her self-doubts by sharing how scared they had been before leaving. With the support of the women in her group sessions and her case coordinator, who also helped Jessica make a safety plan, she found the courage to leave her husband and start a life free from abuse. Jessica continues to receive Emerge! services to recover from the emotional abuse she suffered for many years. She also enjoys inspiring the people in her group sessions, as others had done for her.
This month’s special participant story is about one of our 2015 mothers of the year. For those of you who were at the Mother of the Year Luncheon, please note that this is not our mother of the year’s real name or her photo.
During a class journaling project, Meredith’s* oldest daughter wrote about the violence she had seen at home. When her teacher read the journal she became alarmed and immediately called the Department of Child Safety. After a formal investigation, both of Meredith’s daughters were removed from the home to ensure their safety. Meredith turned to Emerge! for services.
Meredith had been married to her husband for almost fifteen years and had experienced abuse throughout the marriage. Though, it wasn’t until she went to Emerge! for one-on-one support that she realized it was abusive—she hadn’t equated hair pulling and intimidation tactics with domestic abuse. In fact, she realized that she had experienced extensive abuse and violence, which was difficult for her to come to terms with. Working with her Emerge! case coordinator, she began to understand that she was not responsible for her husband’s choice to be abusive. Nor could she be the one to change him, he had to do that.
Breaking through the fear of surviving on her own, she decided to file for divorce and for custody of her children. The court awarded her child support and the right to stay in her home with her girls. Meredith continues to face her ex-husband in court to fight for her daughters’ safety. Although it is frightening to see him there, it helps to have her Emerge! case coordinator by her side in the courtroom for emotional support.
Through all the trauma, Meredith has worked diligently to ensure her daughters are safe and doing well academically. She has also enrolled them in one-on-one support sessions at Emerge! to help them heal from witnessing the abuse and learn the difference between a healthy relationship and one that is abusive. Meredith also volunteers in the community and will be starting her Masters in Economics this fall. Looking back, Meredith feels that she has broken the cycle of abuse by becoming a positive role model for her daughters.
This month’s special participant story is about one of our 2015 mothers of the year. For those of you who were at the Mother of the Year Luncheon, please note that this is not our mother of the year’s real name or her photo.
Mashika* was just a teenager when she was chosen as the king’s sixth wife. It was not acceptable in her culture to say no and she was scared. Mashika worked in secret with a missionary to flee South Africa and was granted a visa to work in the mid-west as a nanny. After arriving in the U.S., she met her future husband. His charm enticed her to keep in touch by responding to his calls and letters. After more than a year of long-distance communication, he asked her to join him in Virginia.
Leaving her friends and support systems behind, Mashika braved the move and was excited to start the next chapter of her life. As soon as she arrived, her soon-to-be husband began to pressure Mashika into marrying him, saying that his religion didn’t allow them to live together without marriage. She reluctantly agreed and soon after became pregnant.
Before long, she found out that the charismatic man she fell in love with had a history of incarceration and that her image of the nice, loving person was false. He had been dishonest about his past and seemed to have hidden his true character, but now that they were married with a child on the way he assumed it was too late for Mashika to leave the relationship. The verbal abuse, controlling behavior and manipulation escalated to extreme violence. Faced with threats of deportation and the loss of her baby, she believed she had no choice but to stay in the relationship.
Over two years, she saved what money she could until the day she fled to Tucson with her son. She called the Emerge! hotline and ultimately came to our emergency shelter. She felt relieved to be surrounded by people who understood what she had been through. Mashika enrolled in the Emerge! Housing Program for assistance establishing a safe home.
Her son, now seven, recently won an award for academic excellence. Mashika is employed and will graduate with a degree in Public Administration next May.
Elizabeth* devoted more than time and love into her relationship with Martin. Soon after Elizabeth asked him to move in with her, he asked her to marry him. Thinking that she was contributing to their shared future and excited to become a business partner with Martin, Elizabeth invested $10,000 into his established fitness center. However, she was never treated as a partner. Martin was very condescending and critical of her whenever she showed any business initiative, insisting instead that she should spend time working out so she was more attractive. After months of putdowns and Martin verbally abusing her in front of several gym guests, she called the Emerge! hotline for help.
After discussing her situation, she realized that what Martin was doing wasn’t just Martin being mean, but it was emotional and financial abuse. By taking charge of all the business matters and forcing her to work for him as a receptionist with no authority in the workings of the business, he gained control and she felt degraded. Though, with her home, employment and finances so entwined with her marriage, she struggled to see a way out. Her self-esteem cut down by verbal abuse, she also began focusing on her perceived weaknesses and faults as a worker. Even though she was successful before meeting Martin, the fear that she would fail living on her own was crippling. Working with the support and resources of her Emerge! case coordinator, she gained confidence and found other work. She gathered the strength to step out of the business. She also demanded that Martin move out of her house and repay her investment in the fitness club.
While living independently, Elizabeth enrolled in an Emerge! dance therapy group. These classes can be a safe place for domestic abuse survivors to process their feelings through movement and can bring up intense emotions surrounding the abuse. This was true for Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s Emerge! instructor worked to support her through her tears, assisting Elizabeth in her quest for strength and closure. With support, Elizabeth was able to create healing in her life.
Katie’s* nurse sent in a social worker after noticing subtle signs of abuse. Her visit to the hospital was for an unrelated injury. Although the signs weren’t visible to the eye, the social worker also noticed them immediately. On the surface, Katie was a happy, young college student, but there was a hint of something grim. Although Katie didn’t open up about the details of her relationship, she listened to what the social worker had to say and accepted the Emerge! brochure when it was handed to her. Katie had no idea how much her life would be impacted by her visit to the hospital.
After some thought, Katie called the Emerge! hotline. She made an appointment for one-on-one support. During her first session, Katie spoke about the psychological, financial and verbal abuse she had sustained with her boyfriend of three years. She knew something wasn’t right. Over time Katie became more clear that her relationship was unhealthy and likely the root of her depression. She decided to end the relationship and move back in with her parents, though, she admitted that she often wished her abuser would call her. She continued to see her case coordinator, who was helping her understand the dynamics of domestic abuse. Katie’s personality grew brighter and more confident daily. After realizing how dangerous the relationship was, Katie changed her phone number and has started a new life free from abuse.
In Pima County, 20% of teens report that they have experienced domestic violence within the last 12 months. Katie’s willingness to get support at such a young age was an important step to breaking the cycle of abuse.
Domestic abuse is not a private issue, it impacts the health and safety of our entire community. Hospital staff is trained to recognize signs of abuse. Although it might seem difficult to know what to do, by learning about the signs of abuse and showing compassion, you just might save a life. Turn to the back page to learn more about these signs, and visit our website for other ways you can help.
Linnea’s* husband was abusive and controlling. Though she had high hopes for change when he convinced her to move from Africa, sadly the abuse only escalated. Linnea felt unable to reach out for help because she knew very little English. She had no family or friends here, and had no idea there was help available for her and her young child. She thought she was completely trapped.
Without knowing about her options, she tried to keep her family together until the day her abuser took it too far. A particularly brutal attack led her to call the police out of desperation. After the officers told her about Emerge! shelter and services, she immediately requested to be taken to the shelter with her child.
There were numerous barriers Linnea faced while creating a new life for her child and herself. Day-to-day life in the U.S. was confusing and full of obstacles for Linnea. She enrolled in the Emerge! Housing First Renewal Program which provides intensive case management and short-term financial subsidies assisting survivors of abuse to gain independence and establish stable housing. Her Emerge! case manager worked with Linnea to outline goals and small steps that would help her achieve them. She started with small goals, such as utilizing public transportation and learning key English phrases. She then moved to larger goals, such as building her financial life skills, opening and managing a bank account and beginning the divorce process. Six months after arriving at shelter, she was able to accomplish her biggest goal of all: moving into a safe, abuse-free home with her child.
It was difficult for Christine* to find the words to explain to her daughters what had happened. Even when she found the courage to try, they didn’t seem to want to talk. In fact, they always seemed detached. Christine couldn’t figure out how to get them to have a heart-to-heart with her. Feeling helpless, she turned to Emerge!. During their first several sessions at Emerge!, Samantha (8) and Amy (10) didn’t talk about their dad. Sensing that the girls were internalizing their trauma, their case worker asked Christine if she could do an activity with the girls alone. Christine agreed this might help, though she also feared it might perpetuate the girls’ recent tendency to distance themselves from her. During their private session, Samantha and Amy were led through an activity titled “A Letter to My Father,” in which they wrote a letter, drew pictures and eventually began speaking freely. As much as they were frightened by the abuse, they missed their dad. Christine noted that she felt things shift with her daughters after they participated in that first individual session with the caseworker, they had become closer somehow. She joined the girls for their next session and to her surprise, both of her daughters spoke about the day they fled their home. They shared with their mother that they felt scared, angry and sad. After the session, Christine mentioned that this was the first time the girls had opened up in more than six months. She knew this was only an initial step in the family’s recovery, but she felt so relieved that they had made it this far. Each year, at least 3.3 million children are exposed to violence against a parent or caretaker by family members (1), which is why Emerge! offers services specifically for children impacted by abuse. Witnessing domestic abuse as a child can have long term health effects, including the development of headaches, stomachaches and loss of energy (2). Most children do not have the words to express their feelings regarding abuse they’ve experienced or witnessed, and most parents struggle with starting and facilitating such a conversation. Emerge! works with kids by providing them with a safe place to speak openly and the vocabulary they need to do so. Samantha and Amy are among the 600 children whose lives are positively impacted by participating in Emerge! family services each year.
- American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family,1996
Upon arrival at Emerge!, Marianne revealed that she did not know how far along she was in her pregnancy and that she had never been to see a doctor. She came to Emerge! after escaping an abusive relationship and receiving encouragement from her aunt. As a prisoner in her own home for the past 10 years, she endured physical abuse from her husband who restricted her from seeking employment or attending church with her two young children. One day, after pleading with her husband, he gave her permission to visit the doctor. However, as Marianne was leaving, he changed his mind and began attacking her. She managed to call 911, but when the officers and paramedics arrived, Marianne’s limited English and undocumented status were barriers to her getting the help she needed. Her husband, who was fluent in English, told the police that everything was fine. She was shocked when the paramedics and police left with no explanation and was confused about why her abuser had not been arrested. The violence escalated in the wake of her 911 call. Marianne knew she needed to leave. One morning when her husband left for work, she and her children escaped through a window. Marianne found a stranger who drove them to her aunt’s house nearby. With her aunt’s guidance and support, she called Emerge!. Through her tears, Marianne told the staff at Emerge!, “I never thought I would live to tell my story.” As a result of the services at Emerge!, Marianne received the medical treatment she needed, along with assistance in obtaining a copy of the police report from her 911 call. Subsequently she received full custody of her children. Emerge! also helped Marianne obtain a work permit and victim compensation for herself and her children. Marianne has since given birth to a healthy baby boy and her family continues to make progress, one day at a time. She attends group support sessions to help her cope with the trauma brought on by her past and also takes her children to pet therapy to help diminish any long-term effects they might have from exposure to an abusive household. The road to a healthier, safer life is long for survivors of domestic abuse. Thankfully, Marianne does not have to walk this path alone.
With her children in mind, Esmeralda had been planning to leave her husband. Although she did not recognize his behavior as abuse, she had an underlying sense that exposing her children to such a lifestyle could be harmful to them. Suddenly the situation changed. Esmeralda’s husband found out that she had been saving money. He was so enraged that he threatened to kill her with his gun. It was only then that she realized how dangerous her marriage had actually become. Terrified, she decided to leave right then and there, even though she did not feel like she had saved enough money. Esmeralda called the Emerge! Hotline for help and immediately came to the shelter with her children. Esmeralda became deeply engaged in the programs available to her through Emerge! and began her journey toward healing and self-sufficiency. She started learning employment and computer skills through the local YWCA, and found a job within just a few weeks. Through the services of Southern Arizona Legal Aid, she was able to file for a divorce. Working with the Housing First Program staff of Emerge!, she obtained permanent, safe and affordable housing. After using these services, Esmeralda found herself in a positive place and was inspired to make art again. “Through my love of writing and painting, I felt hopeful for the first time in as long as I could remember and knew that my struggle had not been in vain.” Through her engagement with Emerge! and newly revived creative expression, Esmeralda has been able to find the strength and clarity needed to move forward and begin achieving the goals she has set for herself.
“No, no,” Camille said adamantly to her Emerge! Case Coordinator at the shelter. “My little ones don’t need to take part in the group for children exposed to domestic abuse. They never knew what was happening.” The Case Coordinator listened as Camille shared more. Her husband had not beaten or hit her, she said, so there were no marks or bruises the children would have seen. He did, however, forbid her to leave the house except for basic tasks such as getting the kids to school or weekly grocery shopping; and he called from work many times a day to check on her whereabouts. He controlled all their money, giving her no access to financial resources. He wouldn’t let her travel to visit her parents or siblings. He also regularly threatened her – saying he would kill her or the kids if she didn’t obey, and he kept guns and knives around—for hunting, he said. Camille had come to the shelter when a neighbor’s concerns over a man’s angry yelling brought the police to her home. One of the officers had taken Camille outside, away from her husband, and asked her a series of questions about their situation. Based on the information she gave the officer about her husband’s threats, the officer warned Camille that she and her children were in extreme danger and urged her to leave. The officer helped Camille call Emerge! where beds were made immediately available for her and her daughters, ages three and six. Camille chose to leave right away. At the shelter, as she processed the abuse she had lived with for so long, Camille began to realize just how much her children were aware of, and how greatly they were impacted by the abuse. “It’s upsetting,” she said, “the fear in that house was there for all of us, and I realize now that we all need to recover. It’s going to take some time, but with some hard work and the help of Emerge!, we’re going to be fine.”
Marisa had a pretty rough life. Growing up in an abusive home, she started drinking and doing drugs in her late teens. She also had numerous relationships in which her boyfriends were abusive and treated her poorly, similar to the way her dad was with her mom. Over the years, Marisa had come to Emerge! for shelter twice due to domestic violence. Each time she left quickly, returning to the same dangerous situation. But the third time, about a year ago, “something just clicked.” During her stay, she worked hard and made a great many changes in her life. In the time since, she has gotten a place to live, maintained her sobriety, been active in her church and AA, and participated in groups at Emerge! on a weekly basis. The hard work shows in her increasing sense of self-worth. However, there was still one big barrier. She was finding it impossible to get a decent-paying job because of her physical appearance. Years of substance abuse had greatly affected Marisa’s teeth, and people saw it every time she opened her mouth. She had good skills and commitment, but every application ended at the interview stage. Emerge! came to the rescue, and was able to remove this barrier to economic self-sufficiency – a factor which keeps many women stuck in the cycle of abuse. Through the generosity of an Emerge! donor combined with reduced fees from a local dentist, Emerge! was able to arrange dental restoration services, which were recently completed. Marisa is now beaming. She says that she is excited about going out and seeking not just a job, but rather a career, for the first time in her life.
When 12-year-old Dalton’s mom remarried, it seemed like a good thing at first. But fairly quickly, things at home started to turn bad. Her new husband was angry and abusive―not only towards Dalton’s mother, but also toward the boy himself. There were times when the stepfather would lash out at Dalton verbally, accusing him of eating all the household’s food. And there were times when Dalton wasn’t allowed to eat anything at all. Finally, Dalton’s mother managed to get the abuser to leave their home. Dalton was 15 when his mom brought him with her to Emerge! for their first family session. He was a little unsure about being there. Silent and expressionless, he listened as the staff member explained about the services offered at Emerge! and what Dalton might expect to learn by participating. His mom left the room so Dalton and the case coordinator could get to know one another. To establish rapport, they talked about a variety of things: school, sports, friends, and hobbies. Toward the end of this session, the case coordinator reiterated that everything they discuss together was confidential, so Dalton could feel free to talk about anything he wanted. Dalton paused, looked around the room, and asked if he could really talk about anything. Yes, he was reassured, it was a safe place to talk, where he could express any thoughts and feelings. After another long moment, Dalton said he wanted to share his story. The staff member encouraged him to begin. It took a lot of courage to pour out the details of what he and his mom had endured over the past several years, but it was important to let it out. The healing process had begun. When Dalton first came into the office that day, he was very reserved and quiet, almost closed off. By the time he left, he had a smile on his face and was looking forward to returning for his next family session.
This month’s special participant story is about our 2014 mother of the year. For those of you who were at the Mother of the Year Luncheon last Thursday, please note that this is not our mother of the year’s real name or her photo.
For Carmen, the foundation for abuse was laid early, in a childhood where love and violence were almost always linked. At the tender age of three, Carmen and her siblings were taken away from their parents due to domestic violence in the home. Carmen was placed in a foster home, where she experienced further emotional abuse until she ran away at age 12. She bounced in and out of foster care until she came of age, at which point she began engaging in relationships in order to keep a roof over her head. It was a rough way to grow up. As an adult, Carmen became a mother and endured an eleven-year relationship that consisted of constant belittling, control over her independence, and severe physical abuse. But based on her lifelong experiences, Carmen felt her relationship was pretty normal. However, last September she decided she had had enough. Carmen came to stay at the Emerge! shelter. Carmen began to learn about herself and the cycle of abuse. She saw how her relationships had been deeply impacted by the violence she’d experienced in her childhood, and she worked tirelessly to develop the ability to make more empowering choices for herself and her kids. Carmen’s passion to overcome her circumstances brought her to Emerge!’s Renewal Housing First Program, which helps families leaving abuse to find and establish safe places to live. Using her powerful internal motivation along with intensive support from her Emerge! Case Manager, Carmen began working to remove the barriers that had blocked her from stability in the past. It’s a big challenge, and she’s meeting it with success. Today, Carmen has settled into a new place with her children where they work together on building their relationship and developing life skills. Carmen is working to obtain her GED, and she continues to participate in services to heal her wounds and develop her potential. Day-by-day, Carmen is laying a new foundation from which her family can grow, thrive, and celebrate a life free from abuse. Congratulations to Carmen and her children for their bravery and fortitude. Read a poem that our mother of the year wrote during her time in the shelter: Mother of the Year Poem.
Amanda* says her entire life has been characterized by abuse. Her relationships were saturated with verbal and physical mistreatment; however, she normalized this as being “just the typical ups and downs” of any adult relationship. On one particularly bad night, a verbal argument erupted between Amanda and her partner, quickly escalating into physical violence. As her partner pinned her down and slapped her face, Amanda caught a glimpse of her frightened daughters in the background. Suddenly she knew that she could no longer rationalize the daily abuse and allow fear to decide the course of her life. But what would happen if her partner held true to his threats to kill her if she left? Where would they live and how would she be able to financially support her family? Amanda sought help through a community program that, in turn, referred her to Emerge! Amanda and her daughters stayed at the Emerge! shelter for several months. During that time, Amanda made strides toward accomplishing goals which included gaining financial stability, increasing her support systems, making time for self-care, and nurturing her relationship with her girls. Through her acts of determination and some assistance from Emerge!, Amanda was able to stabilize her situation and move into a new home with her children. Amanda continues to persevere to create a life free from violence for herself and her kids. With a safe place to call home, she’s been able to hold steady employment, look into advanced education, recognize her personal strengths — and has begun to work on healing from decades of trauma. Most importantly, she has been able to build a secure and loving relationship with her teenage daughters. They’ve survived a lot together, and today they are able to discuss their shared experiences of domestic abuse openly and without shame. *Identifying details have been changed to protect the safety of our participants.
Chloe’s Story The first time Chloe* came to Emerge!, was in 2010. She came to Emerge!’s community office for people wanting help but not shelter. She told the Case Coordinator that she was experiencing many types of abuse—physical, psychological, and verbal—and that her husband also used their children as a way to control her. She desperately wanted to protect the children; she wanted out, but she didn’t feel she could get away from her husband without the situation escalating to a point of extreme danger for herself and her kids. For that reason she chose to take no action at that time. Three years later Chloe returned to Emerge! in even greater distress. Her abusive husband had left home, taking the children with him. He had shown aggression toward the children similar to his aggression toward her, and Chloe was desperate for her kids’ safe return. She needed Emerge!’s support to navigate the legal system and for advice in how to get her children back in a way that was safe for everyone. The Emerge! Case Coordinator talked with Chloe regarding her legal options and safety planning. In spite of Chloe’s husband’s continued abuse—he sent abusive text messages, prevented her from seeing the children, and attempted to use the court system to manipulate the situation—Chloe realized she had to be strong for her children. Despite being frightened, with the support of her Case Coordinator Chloe did not back down during court hearings. She told the whole truth, and presented proof of her husband’s abuse and manipulation. Thanks to her bravery and perseverance, Chloe now has her children back—a huge victory. Chloe continues to come to Emerge! for individual support and to attend support groups, reporting that she feels very empowered and encouraged. *name changed for confidentiality
Julie’s Story Julie* had spent years in an abusive relationship where she experienced physical, emotional, and financial abuse. She knew all too well what the cycle of abuse looked like, as she had attempted to leave the relationship more than 12 times. Each time Julie left, she established herself in an apartment and attempted to get a fresh start. Each time, within six months her husband would start hanging around her new apartment. He would call and threaten the building manager when he was refused a key, and bang on the doors at all hours of the night. This abuse would cause her to be evicted or to give in and return to her abuser to end the harassment. She felt like she had nowhere to turn. She was battling with financial dependency, fear of physical abuse, in addition to holding onto his promise to change. In the fall of 2012, Julie once again decided to end the relationship. This time she made a firm commitment to do everything she could to end the relationship permanently. Julie began engaging in Emerge!’s community based services (for those in need of services but not shelter). She worked with a case coordinator to learn more about domestic abuse education, how the abuse affected her children, what community resources were available to her, and how to recognize her own strengths. When Julie began looking for another new home, she recognized that she needed to build a stronger support system for herself. Julie worked with the staff at Emerge! to create a safety plan for her new home. She applied for Emerge!’s Wings of Freedom Transitional Housing Apartments and was accepted. Julie continues to reside at Wings of Freedom, and just completed her first year in the Emerge! housing program. She had never reached a one year mark in any of her past apartments. Julie recognizes how chaotic her life felt in the past compared to her life now. She has a home of her own and a sense of serenity. She continues to make progress on her goals and now strives to become a homeowner. When Julie looked back after one year in Emerge! programs, she credits Emerge! for believing in her and giving her support. And finally, she is able to acknowledge her own courage in leaving the abusive relationship. *Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
Last spring, Susan* was at the emergency room wondering what her next steps could be. She had a large gash in her head inflicted by her brother, one of a series of injuries she had endured after he had decided to move in with her. Her children had just been removed by Child Protective Services (CPS) because of the abuse in the home. She felt as though she had no one to turn to, no place to go. A social worker at the hospital gave Susan a pamphlet on Emerge! services and she made the courageous decision to call and ask for help. Help was waiting.
Susan arrived at the Emerge! shelter and began to work with shelter staff to re-build her life, one step at a time. Susan remembered feeling like she had nothing—no money or job, no personal belongings from her home or past, and no support system. What Susan didn’t realize is she had the one thing no one could take away from her: her motivation. She had the motivation to regain custody of her children and passion for creating a better life for her family. Susan began making plans with staff and, little by little, she started to regain her independence. This is not to say that she didn’t have times of self doubt or what appeared to be insurmountable barriers. Early in her shelter stay, Susan remembers having terrible anxiety and she thought of quitting when things became challenging. She began to attend the various groups at shelter and this allowed for the space to reflect on her own emotions and patterns of thinking. She began recognizing where she needed extra support, but also her strengths. Equipped with new life skills and a new perspective, Susan’s challenges became fewer and farther between. As Susan’s time passed in shelter, her goals also advanced. She was able to obtain employment, build a strong support system, gain connections in the community for resources and make substantial progress in re-gaining custody of her children. This fall, Susan enrolled in the Emerge! Renewal Housing First program to establish her first-ever permanent apartment of her own. Susan had few belongings for her new apartment, but she had hope for a better future. With the continued support of Emerge!, she did not feel alone anymore. Just last month, Susan accomplished her most important goal; she received her children back from foster care. Susan continues to discuss a desire for a better future for her children. Susan realizes that she lived in an emotionally and physically abusive home her entire life. She did not know anything different; she thought it was how all families interacted. Before coming to Emerge!, she did not realize domestic abuse can be committed by other family members, not just an intimate partner. Susan continues her education about domestic abuse’s effects on children and by doing so; she has a better understanding of her own childhood trauma. She does not want her cycle of abuse to continue in the next generation, so she mindfully makes decisions everyday to create a safe and loving home for her own children.
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
Cynthia came to the US from the Netherlands with her husband in 2007. She left behind two successful businesses, a dry cleaner and a coffee shop. Cynthia’s husband had served in the Netherlands military and wanted to live free from the past. She and her husband hoped for the “American Dream,” a family, fulfilling work, safety and happiness.
After arriving in the US, Cynthia began to notice changes in her husband’s behavior. She was concerned but was determined to make the marriage work. She convinced herself, “every relationship has its difficult moments.” On Christmas Eve a few years ago, Cynthia could no longer ignore the signs of danger. Her husband misused his prescription medicine, broke down the door to their bedroom and hit Cynthia multiple times over the head. It had happened too many times. Luckily, she was able to call the police. When the police responded they called Children’s Protective Services (CPS) because the children witnessed the domestic abuse. CPS took the children into protective custody. Cynthia knew then she had to take steps to find a safer life. She moved into Emerge!’s shelter where she actively began taking steps to comply with CPS requirements. With the support of her case manager, Cynthia was connected to English classes, learned about the cycle of abuse and obtained part-time employment as a seamstress. She grew stronger in shelter and was ready for the permanent housing and self-sufficiency that Emerge!’s Housing First program offers. She moved from shelter into her own apartment and her children were returned. Now she is working on a medical certification and continuing family sessions. She is also getting ready to take her US citizenship exam. She says, “two years ago I felt lost in a new country, alone with no support and afraid for my family’s safety. Now I feel free and in charge of my life. My children and I will decide what the future will look like for us.”
Linda’s Story Linda was in a dire situation. Even though the abuse she was experiencing was so severe it could potentially become lethal, Linda’s self-doubt was so extreme that she questioned whether she was even being abused. Linda was in a same-sex marriage, in which she experienced extreme physical abuse at the hands of her partner. Her abuser regularly threatened her life, and strangled her many times—both signals that the abuse had a high chance of becoming fatal. Beyond the severe violence, Linda was denied basic things by her abuser. Linda was not allowed to read or write. The deprivation broke her down and the constant manipulation made her feel crazy. She felt as though it was her fault. When she did leave, Linda’s abuser stalked her. Her abuser would call her up to 100 times daily. She fled from her home in the Midwest to Tucson. She found Emerge! and sought services at one of our community-based sites (for those who need services, but not shelter). Emerge! staff helped Linda validate that her relationship was abusive. After coming to Emerge! Linda began thinking about things in ways she hadn’t before. She is realizing she needs to take care of herself and she wants to be the person she used to be. Today, Linda looks forward to the many things she wants to do, such as volunteering, becoming social again and making new friends. Mostly she wants to read and write. Emerge! has given her ideas and tools she did not have before.
June’s Story June came to Emerge! in April of 2013. She was referred by Pima County Attorney’s Office, Victim’s Service Division. June had been physically assaulted by the man that she loved and was feeling overwhelmed with emotions and by the legal process. Her abuser was asking her to drop the charges and was promising to change, but she questioned her safety and well-being in the relationship. She was also concerned about her little boy and the example it set for him to see her return to the man whose behavior toward her had been intolerable. June began attending one-on-one services at one of Emerge!’s community-based sites (for people who need services, but not shelter). With the help of Emerge! staff June began to learn about the dynamics of domestic abuse. She realized that her relationship was characterized with many different forms of abuse, not just physical. She attended the support groups and created a support network that offered her hope for a better life and recognition that the abuse was not her fault. With the empowerment from her peers and the desire to create a life free from abuse, June became involved with the legal process to hold her abuser accountable for his actions. She met with Emerge! staff and became educated about victim rights. She attended court hearings and discussed the case with the prosecutor, emphasizing her safety concerns. With the support from Emerge! staff who accompanied her to the court hearings, June provided her input during sentencing. The result was that her abuser was held responsible for his abusive behavior and actions. June recognized her strength through this process and gained confidence knowing that her voice can make a difference. June continues to engage in community-based services and now offers hope to others who face similar struggles.
Annie’s Story Annie was able to save a couple of dollars every trip to the grocery store without her abuser knowing. Due to financial abuse, she was not allowed to utilize her Social Security money. Other than the money she hid from her grocery trips, she had no savings. Annie’s relationship was physically, emotionally and financially abusive. She had been meeting in secret with a domestic violence advocate for nine months. Together they created a safety plan and, finally, one day she fled in the middle of the night. Annie left all of her personal belongings behind. She got on a train and rode it to the other side of the country and never looked back. She ended up in Tucson—she knew no one here. Annie contacted Emerge! for social and emotional support. She identified social support as one of her greatest needs. She realized that she knew no one in Tucson and did not want to feel lonely or vulnerable. This had led her to return to her abuser in the past. She did not want to repeat the cycle. She began receiving service at Emerge! and now attends one-on-one support and support groups multiple times a month. Annie knows that isolation is part of her domestic abuse and recognizes the importance of having friends. Annie states that she takes it one day at a time, as some days are better than others, but at least she knows that during the bad days, she has someone to talk to who understands the dynamics of abuse and supports her decisions.
Delia’s Story Delia walked into Emerge! with her head down and tears in her eyes, her two children by her side. As she started talking to a case coordinator at one of our community-based sites (for people who need services but not shelter) her tears were uncontrollable. Delia had just left her abusive boyfriend. When Delia started dating her boyfriend two years ago it seemed like the perfect relationship. She thought it was true love. He treated her kids as his own and they spent all of their free time together as a family. It wasn’t until they moved in together that Delia saw a change in her boyfriend’s behavior. He suddenly became very impatient with her. He began to make her feel as though everything she did was wrong. Delia tried to please him over and over again, hoping it would change the situation. She just wanted things to go back to the way they were before they had moved in together, but it only got worse. The frustration turned to verbal insults. He would call her names like: ugly, stupid, and worthless, it took a toll on Delia and she started to believe all of those things. She became very withdrawn; her family noticed right away. They knew something was wrong, but they weren’t sure what it was. Delia’s sister grew tired of seeing Delia so sad that finally she asked her what was going on. Delia told her the whole story and how she was feeling. Her sister had heard of Emerge! from a friend and encouraged Delia to call. Over the last nine months, Delia and her children have attended weekly groups as a family. Her children are so proud of their mom and are inspired by her strength and courage to leave. Every day they grow stronger and stronger. “I now have a better understanding of what a healthy relationship is and the confidence to know I deserve better and all because of Emerge!.” states Delia.
Claudia’s Story Claudia stared at herself in the mirror hoping to see the person she used to be. Growing up she had big dreams. She couldn’t wait to get married and have a big family. Claudia did marry and had four children but, it wasn’t the happy marriage she had envisioned. Her husband was financially, physically, and emotionally abusive. He forced Claudia to work, while he stayed home and became an alcoholic. She was the sole provider for their family and was only allowed to leave the house to work. Claudia couldn’t imagine things could get worse. Suddenly, she lost her job. Her husband was enraged. He threatened to kill her if she didn’t find a job right away. Weeks went by as Claudia struggled desperately to find a job. Her husband pressured her to start working with his friends, drug dealers. Weeks of physical abuse and threats against her life left her no choice. She knew he would kill her if she didn’t get involved with his friends, so she did. It wasn’t long before Claudia was caught by law enforcement and charged with a crime. She didn’t have a criminal record so she was only sentenced to probation. This incident forever shaped her life. Claudia was ashamed of who she had become. She knew she couldn’t go on like this. She wanted better for her family. She knew she needed help. One day while her husband was passed out, she picked up the phone and called the police. Claudia spoke with a victim advocate and created a safety plan. She quickly sprung into action, packed her bags, grabbed her children, and arrived at Emerge!. Since that day she has never looked back. During her stay at shelter, she enrolled in school and started working again. With a lot of hard work and support from her Housing First case coordinator, Claudia and her children are now moving into their own apartment. She graduates in October and plans to continue her education. “Emerge! gave me back the ability to dream again. Now when I look in the mirror I see a person I am proud to see. I am finally the role model I always envisioned being for my children and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”
April’s Story April is seven years old and lived in an abusive home. She began witnessing the abuse at an early age and became very withdrawn. April carried her fear and anxiety with her everywhere; it broke her mother’s heart. April’s mom had tried to leave her abuser many times. When they were finally able to leave safely, they came straight to Emerge!. April started attending Emerge!’s children’s group at one of our community-based sites (for people who need services but not shelter). She was very shy, withdrawn and hesitant to attend. Her mom was very concerned for her daughter and, although April didn’t want to attend group, her mom knew it was important for her to be around other children who had experienced growing up in abusive home. About a month after April first attended the children’s group she began to speak to one other little girl in the group. This was a big step for her. Later, April really became engaged during a game at one of the group sessions. It was a game where each child went around the circle and tried to remember each of the other children’s names in the group. There were about 20 other children. April watched intently as the other children tried unsuccessfully to name all 20. She then raised her hand and volunteered to go next. In a very low voice, she pointed at each child and successfully named each one correctly. It was amazing to see her so proud of herself. From then on her confidence grew. Ever since that day April has been an active participant in group. She now glows with self-assurance and loves all of the group activities. “Emerge! has changed our lives in more than one way. My daughter is now a happy and outgoing little girl. Her light that was once dimmed is now fully shining!” says April’s mom.
Lisa’s Story Lisa thought she would eventually die at the hands of her abuser. She had envisioned herself beaten and left to die many times. She endured physical abuse on a daily basis for more than 10 years. Lisa greatest fear is what eventually drove her to leave. The fear of leaving her children to grow up without a mother was too much for her bear. When Lisa first arrived at Emerge! she was hesitant to talk about her experience. She had never shared her story with anyone, not even with her closest friends or family. She carried so much shame and fear. Once Lisa engaged in Emerge!’s support group, she quickly realized that the abuse was not her fault and she was not alone. She had the support of her kids’, family, friends, and Emerge!. It was just what Lisa needed to start rebuilding her life. In a short time, Lisa has obtained an Order of Protection and is in the process of getting a divorce. She finally feels safe and in control of her and her kids’ lives. “I wish I would have sought services long before I did. I encourage anyone in an abusive situation to do so, it is never too late. Life is just beginning and I intend on living it to the fullest,” says Lisa.
Kristi’s Story “Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, this is Anna.” is what Kristi heard the night she made the call to our hotline. She had been in an abusive relationship for three years. She wasn’t sure she was ready to leave, but she needed someone to talk with. Kristi began to explain her situation. She was in a physically abusive relationship and had already had an Order of Protection. Her boyfriend had tried to strangle her! Each time the abuse occurred, Kristi had attempted to leave, but her abuser always managed to manipulate his way back into her life. The case coordinator listened to Kristi and gave her options that fit her situation. It was up to Kristi to decide what she was most comfortable doing. Shortly after the call, Kristi chose to receive services at one of Emerge!’s community-based sites (for people who need services but not shelter). Kristi was still in the abusive relationship, but after four months of one-on-one sessions with her case coordinator she decided she was ready to leave. She worked on a safety plan with her case coordinator. Safety planning is important in all abusive relationships, but in Kristi’s case it was vital. Strangulation is a strong indicator that an abusive incident could become lethal. Thankfully, Kristi made it out safely and is starting to rebuild her life. She bought a new home and is in the process of moving in. “Emerge!’s support, while I was in the relationship and after, gave me the strength to see I could live a life a free from abuse. They gave me my life back.” says Kristi.
Sara’s Story After eleven years of abuse, Sara planned an escape from her painful situation and left with only a small backpack to begin her new life. She was lucky to have friends to help her with a place to stay and some basics, and when she felt stronger, she contacted Emerge!. In just three months, Sara has become employed and moved into her own apartment. She is now able to focus on herself to start to heal from the abuse. Her healing process will take years but with one-on-one support and the camaraderie of others in the same situation, she has the strength to do the work. While she still feels vulnerable and at times lost, she grows stronger every day. She just takes one day at a time.
Farrah’s Story Tears flooded from Farrah’s eyes as she exposed secrets she had kept for so long. She grew up in a border town with a mom who was neglectful and careless with her children. Her stepfather began molesting her at the age of seven. She finally mustered the courage to tell her mother, but sadly her mom did not believe her. The abuse continued. Farrah took refuge and comfort in going to school, but it wasn’t enough of an escape. At 15 she tried to commit suicide. At this time she was removed from her home and placed in foster care where she again endured neglect and abuse. When Farrah turned 18 she went to live with her grandparents. The next three years were the best of her life. Her grandparents embraced her with love and support. She began a transformation, becoming a strong and courageous woman. However, Farrah’s strength was about to be tested; there was more trouble on the way. Farrah’s heart was broken when her grandmother died. Soon after she met her abuser and had a child with him; she already had an eight-year-old son from a previous relationship. Even after the abuse started, she tried to make the relationship work. His anger, control issues and substance abuse made it impossible. Farrah was terrorized. Farrah later found out that her abuser had killed a man for which he spent time in prison. She made a plan to leave him with her children. Her plan was derailed when the neighbors called the police during an abusive incident. It was the night before she was planning to leave. Instead her children were removed from the home, and she went to the hospital with a concussion. Farrah stated that she thought the above incident would break her. She had endured so much. However, she realized she was still alive and that she had already overcome many challenges. Farrah decided to put all her energy into fighting for herself and her children. Since Farrah arrived at the shelter, she has made every day count by learning about domestic abuse and the effect it has had on her and her children. She is putting all of her energy into moving forward and is very active in the Emerge! community. She is looking for a job and is following a case plan created by Child Protective Services to get her children back. When Farrah needs strength she closes her eyes and remembers the love and support her grandparents gave her. She remembers her amazing courage. She gains energy daily by forgiving the people who hurt her.
Stacy’s Story Stacy has been through a lifetime of violence. She was raised in a home where she experienced sexual, mental, and physical abuse. Stacy left the abusive environment at a young age and lived on the streets for many years. She jumped from relationship to relationship looking for love. Stacy desperately wanted to find someone who would love her unconditionally, but thought that would never happen for her. A little over a year ago, Stacy thought she’d met the perfect guy. He was charming and quickly swept her off her feet. They moved in together and started a new life. Three months into the relationship her boyfriend became verbally abusive. It quickly escalated to physical abuse. At first, Stacy thought she had caused the abuse and believed she could change him, but it only got worse. He became so violent that the police were called. Stacy was encouraged to leave because the police were so concerned for her safety. She was given Emerge!’s information. Since Stacy began receiving services with Emerge! she has had many successes. She is currently enrolled in a job program; is working on healing, and is looking forward to moving into her own home. She is actively working towards her goals every day and is very dedicated to improving her situation. “I am taking control of my life for the first time in my 24 years,” said Stacy. “Emerge! has taught me that I deserve better and can achieve anything I put my mind to.” Emerge! staff feels Stacy is an inspiration and has cherished witnessing her growth.
Angelica’s Story Angelica refused to speak. The people at the shelter tried to talk to her. Sometimes in a group with other kids, other times with her mom and little brother, and even one on one. Mostly she ignored them. The other children at the shelter would try to play with her. She ignored them too. She wasn’t having any of it. She had learned from experience that speaking out only got you into trouble. Silence was the only way she could show them how traumatized she was. She was confused and afraid, but most of all she felt angry. Her mother had taken her from home against her father’s wishes. She knew he would be really mad when he found them. Every day they stayed away she knew it would be worse when they went back. The yelling. The hitting. Angelica knew this time he would blame her too. What was her mother thinking? This time he might get so mad that he would really hurt one of them. Angelica wondered if this time it would be her or her mom. She wasn’t sure which was worse. Every day her fear and anxiety grew. More than a month passed. Angelica’s anxiety had stabilized, but she still would not speak. It didn’t stop people from speaking to her, even if she was only half-listening. One day her mother explained to her and her brother that she had found a job. Angelica was unsure how this would affect their lives. She didn’t ask questions; she decided she didn’t care. Then all of a sudden they were moving out of the shelter. The apartment didn’t have much furniture and no television, but Angelica had her own room. There was a pink comforter on the bed. Suddenly she didn’t know how to feel. Were they not going back to her dad? Was this really her new home? Would her mom be able to take care of them on her own? Angelica had always assumed that she couldn’t. She didn’t trust the situation. More time went by and things actually seemed okay. There was food on the table. She was starting at a new school in August, just a couple of weeks away. She saw her aunt Mary who she vaguely remembered from when she was little. Mary had a daughter who was just a year younger than Angelica. They had played together a few times since the move. Angelica talked and laughed with her cousin, but only when she thought her mother couldn’t hear. Angelica was starting to think maybe they would never go home. She was beginning to realize she didn’t want to. Angelica liked her new life. It felt warm, and it was starting to feel safe. She decided it was time to cooperate with her mom. Angelica broke her silence.
Gretchen’s Story Gretchen called asking for help to leave an abusive relationship that started when she was just 16 years old. Gretchen stated that she met the abuser when she was in high school and thought nothing of it when he would ridicule or hit her. “I thought he was showing me love.” Today Gretchen understands it was abuse. Gretchen grew up in a home that was filled with domestic violence. Her dad was physically abusive to her mom, her and her siblings. She knew she needed to break the cycle for herself and before it affected her two-month-old daughter Sky. Gretchen was able to articulate her strengths. She has always known that she was smart but she has realized that she is strong and courageous also. Gretchen had her own apartment. She felt she just needed a place to stay long enough to obtain an Order of Protection. While staying with us, Gretchen received Safety and Goal Planning from staff along with transportation and support to obtain the Order of Protection. Gretchen was enrolled in Pima Community College and was on the last semester of the Pharmacy Tech Program. Gretchen budgeted her financial aid and has her rent paid for the next several months. Money is an issue for Gretchen so staff assisted her with support to apply for DES benefits to include cash assistance, child support and child care. Gretchen also has food stamps and AHCCCS. With the proper financial supports in place, Gretchen will be able to finish her degree. She has reopened the lines of communication with her mom and sister who are supporting her through the transition. They are beginning to see her amazing strength. Gretchen and Sky returned to their apartment not only with an Order of Protection, but with a new support system, stable finances, and a bright future.
Melissa’s Story Melissa sat shaking with fear. She had made the scariest, yet bravest decision of her life. It was late at night, but she knew if she didn’t leave, she might never see tomorrow. Melissa went to her closet, grabbed her shoe where she had hidden Emerge!’s shoe card and called our 24/7 crisis line. She was in an extremely high-risk situation and needed a safe place to stay. She was immediately accepted into our emergency shelter. For the first time in years, Melissa had a night of peaceful sleep. She couldn’t imagine less than 24 hours ago, she was in a lethal situation. She quickly adapted to the shelter and was motivated to get her life back. Melissa worked closely with her case coordinator to heal and become less fearful of the outside world. She knew she would soon have to confront her abuser in court. She was terrified. In spite of her fear she knew she would be able to go with the support of Emerge! staff. Melissa filed for divorce, moved out of the shelter and is now in her own apartment. She has obtained full-time employment and is doing very well. Melissa continues to utilize Emerge! services for support. Melissa says, “I know if I hadn’t made the call when I did, there is a good chance I would not be here today. Emerge! saved my life.”
Victoria’s Story Victoria has two boys. Her husband abandoned them long ago. In spite of her master’s degree and incredibly strong work ethic, Victoria has struggled both financially and emotionally since then. Eventually Victoria ended up in an abusive relationship. For years she struggled to leave her abuser, but felt she couldn’t take care of her boys on her own. When she finally left, they had to leave the majority of their belongings behind. She had never been in a position where she had to ask for help and she didn’t know where to start. Conversations with Emerge! staff have slowly but surely helped Victoria recognize how capable she is. She is beginning to see how incredibly brave it was for her to leave everything behind. Victoria has obtained stable housing, furniture, and household appliances. She has a new sense of independence and her self-worth has increased. She is a true fighter and is motivated to do what’s best for her family.
Katie & Kylie’s Story Six-year-old twins, Katie and Kylie, lived in an abusive home. For years, their mother had endured extreme physical abuse from her own brothers. The twins had grown up in a life of chaos, violence and instability. Their mother had moved them away from her brothers many times, but they always managed to find them. She was desperate to keep the twins safe, but didn’t know how to get away. One day one of her brothers pointed a gun at her in front of Katie and Kylie; that was the moment she knew she had to take drastic measures. They could no longer move from place to place, and she knew she couldn’t turn to anyone in her family. She frantically started looking online for resources and came across Emerge!. She immediately called our 24/7 bilingual crisis line and shortly afterward, she and the twins were welcomed into our emergency shelter. When Katie and Kylie first arrived at Emerge! they were notorious for wreaking havoc throughout the shelter. During children’s group they would take turns pulling things off shelves, dumping paint, and yelling. They were mimicking the behavior they had seen all of their lives. Their case coordinator started working with the twins one on one. She would review behavior expectations with them before each group session and made sure they understood the consequences if these expectations were not met. No matter what, their case coordinator always made sure to emphasize how much she looked forward to spending time with them. The twins quickly responded to the expectations and the non-violent environment. In a matter of weeks, Katie and Kylie were excited to attend the children’s group and their behavior had improved tremendously. Even though there is a long road ahead of them, Katie, Kylie and their mom continue to work towards healing as a family. “I love living in a place that doesn’t scare me. I feel safe,” said Katie. Their mom knows that calling Emerge! saved her life and the lives of her children.
Pam’s Story It was 3:00 a.m. and Pam was planning her escape. She would leave with her children in the morning after her husband left for work. The next morning she anxiously stared at the clock; each minute that passed seemed like eternity. It was now five minutes past the time he usually left and she was growing more and more anxious. Another 10 minutes went by before she saw her husband slowly approaching her. He was holding something; it was her escape bag. He found it. She was instantly frozen with fear. With no words exchanged, he violently threw the bag at her and the physical abuse began. From that day on, Pam was forbidden to leave the house. Two weeks later, the neighbors grew suspicious and realized something wasn’t right. They decided to call law enforcement. The police arrived and removed Pam and her children from the house. Her husband was formally charged as a criminal. Pam was relieved but unsure about her future. She was staying at her sister’s house and remembered a pamphlet she had received. She decided to contact Emerge!. Pam and her children began attending support groups at one of Emerge!’s community-based sites (for people who need services but not shelter). A short time later, Pam obtained a job and began healing. With the help of Emerge!, she worked on her dream of having a place for her family to call home. Pam and her case coordinator worked hard looking for places where she and her children would feel safe. Pam was aware that finding a place of her own might have hurdles but she was well prepared through our new Housing First program. With a lot of hard work and determination, Pam and her children are now in their own apartment. “This is what I have been working towards my whole life: feeling safe, having a home and being the best mother, daughter and sister I can be.” says Pam. She knows she has a long way to go but believes she can accomplish anything with the support of Emerge!.
Cheryl’s Story Every day after the kids left for school Cheryl’s husband would lock her in the house until he arrived home from work. He had abused her this way for years, but things had changed. His drinking became out of control. He began missing work. Cheryl dreaded the days her husband would miss work; those were the worst days. The abuse became so bad she knew if she didn’t get out right away, she might not live to see tomorrow. She realized that she was living in fear for her life every second of every day, and it had gone on for far too long. She gathered up the kids, and was out the door. She arrived at Emerge! with her kids and five dollars to her name. She couldn’t believe she had escaped unharmed and was finally in a safe place. Over the last 10 months, Cheryl and her children have attended weekly groups as a family. Every day they grow stronger and stronger. Cheryl has enrolled in college and is working toward her degree. Her children are doing very well in school and are happy again. They are excited about the future they are creating with the help of Emerge!.
Ellie’s Story Ellie had been in and out of one bad relationship after another most of her life. Ellie finally came to Emerge! because she was “tired of always being sad and miserable.” With tears in her eyes she explained, “life is not supposed to be this way.” She was then able to share her story with her Emerge! case manager. After safety planning with Emerge!, Ellie left her husband of 21 years. (Leaving is the most dangerous time). She was terribly afraid she would not be able to support herself, but she had to leave for her own safety. To add to her challenges, she was not a citizen. To help him retain control over her he had never allowed her to become legalized. She feared that if she left she would be unable to work legally, and would be deported. After coming to Emerge!, she knew she deserved better. With our help and months of ups and downs, Ellie received her work permit. She was beaming and asked for assistance in looking for employment, “It is the first time I have felt alive in a really long time.” Soon she found a job and has since adopted a whole new outlook. Ellie says: “I know what my life is going to be like and it is exactly how I pictured it.”
Marcus’ Story Marcus is a teen-age boy who witnessed nearly lethal domestic abuse between his mother and step-father. Marcus wanted to talk to someone at Emerge! but was reluctant due to negative experiences with counselors in the past. Marcus came in for services at one of Emerge!’s community-based sites (for people who need services but not shelter), with the encouragement of his mother, a participant at Emerge!. From the beginning Marcus clarified that he needed to feel comfortable before he could talk about his experiences. He felt safe very quickly at Emerge!. Marcus discussed the abuse he witnessed and his feelings regarding what happened during the most recent incident. His mom was violently beaten and strangled. Marcus responded by grabbing a knife and was considering stabbing his step-father when law enforcement arrived. His step-father was arrested and remains incarcerated. This incident and the abuse Marcus witnessed growing up have left him deeply psychologically wounded. He has been living in fear for most of his young life. In spite of this, Marcus has been able to speak openly at Emerge! and is able to express his frustrations and anger regarding what he has witnessed. Marcus says he does not want to choose an abusive partner for himself when he grows up or emulate the controlling or abusive behavior he grew up witnessing. He knows he needs to break the cycle before he gets older. Marcus is working toward healing from the abuse. Marcus’s role at home has increasingly become a role like that of a parental figure. He takes care of his younger siblings. He has fallen into pattern of taking care of others rather than himself. Marcus’s case coordinator helps him to find healthy outlets and to learn to take care of his own needs. Marcus says he is very happy to be coming to Emerge! and has gained a lot of insight from staff. Now Marcus says, “Thanks to Emerge! I now look forward to my future.”
Barbara’s Story Barbara is a 44-year-old woman who arrived at Emerge! with little hope. Barbara had been brutally attacked with a hammer by her husband of 13 years. The attack was nearly fatal, but Barbara fought to stay alive. When she arrived for her first appointment at Emerge!, her mouth was wired shut and she was barely able to speak. Barbara was originally referred from the Pima County Attorney’s Office, who performed a lethality screening on her. She was unresponsive due to the severity of her attack, but Emerge! received her information anyway due to the gravity of her situation. Barbara often referred to herself as an “old woman” when she first started at Emerge!. After several sessions, Barbara began healing at a phenomenal rate, not only physically but emotionally. She was so impressed with the support and services she was receiving, she knew the next thing she had to do was bring her children to Emerge! for services. They were also deeply affected by the abuse. Barbara’s abuser has been on the run since the attack; therefore she has not been able to file for an order of protection. With help from Emerge! staff, Barbara has created a safety plan for herself and her children. Emerge! has been advocating for Barbara and relaying messages from victim services. Her abuser has a warrant out for his arrest and the grand jury plans to charge him with a felony. Unfortunately, Barbara has not had much support from her family during this process. In spite of that she has come full-circle. She has learned the abuse was not her fault, and that she and her children deserve to live a healthy life free from abuse. Barbara no longer refers to herself as an “old woman.” Barbara has a long road ahead of her but is confident she can handle it with support from Emerge!. She says, “I’m only 44 years old. I can’t wait to see what the world has to offer me.”
Gina had been married for 15 years and was a stay-at-home mom with three children. Gina and her husband had traditional ideas about gender roles in marriage. Her husband supported the family while Gina stayed home and cared for their children. She loved that she was able to stay home with her children.
However, Gina was often frustrated because she didn’t have access to money when she needed it for basic things. Every time the subject of money came up, he would tell her that he handled the money because he was much more competent than she was. This also meant not allowing her access to their shared accounts. Over the years Gina’s husband made her feel incompetent about numerous other issues. Slowly she began to doubt herself. Gina’s sense of self grew smaller and her confidence waned year after year. Gina hadn’t realized how unhappy she was until she ran into a friend that she hadn’t seen in a long time. Her friend commented on how reserved and sad Gina seemed. Gina expressed to her friend how she was feeling about her marriage and her friend suggested that she see a counselor. During Gina’s first visit with the counselor, the counselor suggested that her marriage was becoming abusive. Gina was shocked and in disbelief. Her husband was not physically abusive, so Gina didn’t consider herself to be in an abusive situation. She stopped seeing the counselor immediately. A few years later, the controlling behavior began to escalate. He yelled and used derogatory names; not only to Gina but now to their children as well. She knew she had to get help. Gina didn’t want her children to grow up in a toxic environment. Gina decided to go back to the counselor with more open perspective. After a few visits, the counselor referred her to Emerge!. Through Emerge! Gina began to learn about different forms of abuse like intimidation, verbal abuse and financial control. She recognized some of the tactics her husband had used to control her. She decided she had to leave. Gina filed for divorce and moved out. Today, Gina has graduated from college and is now teaching. Her children are doing well in school and are much happier. Gina states, “Emerge! gave me the courage and self worth to leave and start a new life.”
Carmen knew she had to make a choice. She and her three children were headed down a sad road. She knew something needed to change. She decided to bring her children to a session at one of Emerge!’s community-based office (for families in need of services, but not shelter) and see if it helped.
The first session that Carmen and her three children attended was our dance therapy class. It was a big step. After everything they’d been through they were timid and afraid of the unknown. Only a few minutes went by before Carmen and her children were dancing and laughing. They knew they were in a safe space where they could express themselves.
Each child has grown over the last month. The 11 year old now participates and interacts with other children. The eight year old, who at first wouldn’t speak during sessions, has taken a leadership role and helps the younger children in the group sessions. The five year old, who at first kept to himself, has made many new friends. They continue to attend family group every week and participate in the activities. Carmen states: “My family has transformed in a period of one month. I am so grateful for the program. I can see a new life ahead.”
Andrea’s Story For three long years Andrea was physically, sexually and psychologically abused by her boyfriend. When they met she was in college, had a part-time job she loved, and a promising future. It was love at first sight. They were inseparable. She became so entangled in the relationship, she didn’t recognize it was becoming abusive. Suddenly she began to realize that something wasn’t right. The situation came to a head on graduation night. Andrea was at a party celebrating with a few friends. Her boyfriend showed up heavily intoxicated and wanted her to leave with him. Andrea decided it was best that she drive him home. When they arrived at his house, she walked him inside. She was getting ready to leave, but he begged her to stay. Andrea didn’t want to because he had been drinking and she was afraid of him. She grabbed the keys and began to walk out. Just as she reached the door she was physically attacked by both her boyfriend and his friend. She fought back and barely escaped the highly dangerous situation. Once free, Andrea ran to a safe place and called the police. The police department referred Andrea to Emerge! via the Lethality Assessment Program (a program that provides a framework for law enforcement and advocates to work together and offer services when someone is in an abusive relationship that is potentially lethal). After Andrea made contact with Emerge! she immediately utilized our services. Andrea states that “It is a great feeling to learn so much information that I am able to feel empowered. I can also share this information with my friends and family.” She plans to keep using Emerge! services, move forward, and live a life free from abuse.
Lily’s Story Lily grew up in a struggling nation. She was 20 when she moved to the United States in search of a better life. Shortly after her arrival she fell in love and married. A year later, Lily gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. It was a life-changing experience for her; her dreams had come true. Then she slowly started to see changes in her husband’s behavior. At first the abuse was verbal. She hoped that it was just the stress—after all, having a new baby was demanding. She thought things would soon go back to the way they were. However, they didn’t, and the abuse quickly escalated, becoming physical. Lily was so unhappy and wanted to leave the abusive situation. She didn’t want to raise her child in an abusive home. Lily was scared of what her family would think if she left. So she told them what was happening in her home. Her family felt that the situation must be dealt with by them, rather than seeking outside help (which is common in her culture). So her family got together and confronted her husband. This was effective for a short amount of time. The abuse stopped for about a month but then became much worse. It had grown into a highly lethal situation; Lily knew she had to leave before it was too late. Lily was able to find shelter through Emerge!. While in the shelter, Lily was able to find a great job. She is also planning to go back to school. “Being in shelter not only saved my life but gave me the opportunity to create a healthy life for myself and my son,” Lily stated. Emerge! staff is thrilled that they were able to give Lily the support she needed to start a new life.
Patricia learned how to take care of herself at a very young age and calls herself a survivor. She grew up in an orphanage and never had any positive role models in her life. Patricia married at a young age. She was hoping to create the family she never had a chance to know growing up. Patricia married her husband three months after meeting him. The marriage was great in the beginning but that quickly changed. She never imagined that her life could be any worse than it had been for her growing up, but it was. Shortly after they married her husband began forcing her to work long hours at his family’s store. His family “kept tabs” on her during her 14 hour work day. “This was to make sure I didn’t flirt with anyone,” Patricia stated. After years of psychological, physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse, she just couldn’t take it anymore. She decided to leave her husband and re-build her life. A few months after Patricia left her husband he begged and pleaded for her to forgive him. She was terrified he would hurt her if she didn’t go back. Within a few weeks of moving back, the abuse started again. It was more frequent and violent than before. Patricia had had enough. She didn’t want to live like this anymore. Patricia began secretly seeing a therapist and was able to develop a safety plan. After many months of planning, it was time for her to leave. She grabbed what she could fit in a small backpack, collected her children and fled in the middle of the night. Once they were in a safe place she called Emerge!. While at Emerge! she went through the Y-works program at the YWCA, which assists people in learning life and work skills. Today, Patricia has secured full-time employment and has moved into her own home for the first time in 37 years. Patricia and her children are still attending sessions at Emerge!. In addition, her children have been enrolled in an anti-bullying program in the community. She wants her children to live a healthy lifestyle. “If there is anything I can take from this,” Patricia stated, “it is that abuse was NOT my fault and I had the POWER to change it.” She and her children are now happier than they could have ever imagined.
Monica’s Story Monica has been married for 14 years. She recently sought services at Emerge! because she realized her family life wasn’t working for her or her children. Her son had fallen into a depressive state and her daughter no longer interacted with the family. Monica couldn’t believe how her marriage had made such an extreme turn for the worse in the past year. Her self-esteem was almost non-existent. The blame and emotional abuse she had experienced had left her miserable. Monica knew things needed to change and decided to seek help through Emerge!. She has begun gaining her self-esteem back with Emerge!’s continued support and education. Monica has enrolled her children into Emerge!’s child services because of the great success she experienced. Since Monica and her children have been attending Emerge! services, they are much happier and feel a sense of empowerment. Monica is extremely grateful that Emerge! offers services that are free to the community and sees this resource as indispensible. They now smile all the time.
Diane’s Story Diane and her children (ages four, six and eight) have been attending family sessions at an Emerge! community-based office (for families in need of services, but not shelter). They are learning how to express feelings in a healthy way. Diane is pleased that Emerge! is teaching her children to express their feelings verbally. Because of Emerge!’s help, they have a better understanding of their negative feelings such as anger and frustration, and can express their needs more effectively. Diane sees that they are becoming capable of working through their disagreements without lashing out at each other physically or verbally. She is so proud of how they are healing as a family.
Isabel grew up in an abusive home. At 18 she left to attend college where she met her husband. He was Prince Charming, controlling and powerful. Isabel wasn’t immediately alarmed by his behavior. She had seen a lot of that at home and thought it was normal. After knowing him just a short time, they married. They had two children and moved from the mid-West to Arizona. Isabel recalls feeling very isolated; she had no friends or family here. Isabel and her abuser became very involved in their congregation, and over time she began to make friends. She could not share with them, though, that she was being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. After more than 10 years of abuse, Isabel had had enough. She began to look for help while her husband was at work. Isabel called the Emerge! hotline quite often and talked with our staff for hours about the abuse. After months of secretly receiving support from Emerge!, she developed a safety plan and finally left. Isabel went into Emerge!’s shelter where she resided for four months. She began the divorce and custody process by utilizing the QUILT program—a program of the Pima County Bar Association that offers legal services at a reduced rate for people whose incomes qualify. When Isabel was ready to seek employment, Emerge! helped prepare her for her interview. She felt excited and confident. Today she has been with her employer for more than six months. At work, Isabel shared the fact that she used the services of a domestic violence shelter with some close friends, including her employer. She was shocked to learn that her boss was both aware of Emerge!, and was a donor. She and her boss were pleased that this had indeed “come full circle.” Isabel is still coming to Emerge! for support and services. She and her children are very happy living on their own. What makes her the happiest is that she has put an end to the cycle of abuse in her family. She no longer feels that abuse is normal, and is proud that she decided to make the change for herself and her family. She is now living a life free from abuse.
Vanessa came to Emerge! in 2010. She didn’t need shelter so she accessed services at Voices Against Violence, one of Emerge!’s outreach centers. Vanessa had just left an abusive relationship. Even though she returned to her abuser several times in her process, Vanessa ultimately gained the strength she needed to leave her abuser for good. Recently, she finalized her divorce and is on the path toward healing. She has verbalized numerous times how very thankful she is for the ongoing support of staff, and attributes much of her success to Emerge!.
Vanessa has often discussed concerns for her friends that are still in abusive relationships. She has shared handouts with her friends and has encouraged them to come to Emerge!. Vanessa has used her experiences with Emerge! to help motivate her friends to seek support. As a result of her advocacy and encouragement, three of her friends have come to Emerge! for services. These women have utilized Emerge!’s resources, know their options, and are discovering their strengths.
Emma’s Story When Emma first came to Emerge! she was very shy and quiet. She stated that all her life she’d had problems with her choice of partners. Emma’s husband was abusive. She wanted to gain a better understanding of why she chose abusive partners, how she could boost her self-esteem, and gather the confidence she needed to leave her marriage. She talked about the control issues and emotional abuse she lived with. With the support of Emerge! staff and programs, Emma decided to return to school to complete her GED. As each week passed, she came in looking and feeling happier. She stated “Now I am getting ready for the journey.” Her plan is to leave the marriage, attend college, and regain her independence. Emma thanks Emerge! for the support she received during her ongoing journey. She continues attending individual and group sessions. Emma is a wonderful example of a person who has been able to find help before she needed emergency shelter. About half of the women and families Emerge! serves are able to find help through our programs, but never reside in our shelters. We have several community-based sites (walk-in locations where we offer support for those who do not need shelter) available to serve these participants.
Angel is a young girl living in the shelter with her mom. When Angel first arrived she was constantly biting her fingernails; her mother thought it might be a nervous habit. She was also concerned because Angel always looked scared. Angel began attending the children’s groups. She quickly formed strong connections with the other children attending. Soon after she joined the group, she stopped biting her fingernails. Recently, Angel asked staff if she could read at story time. Staff encouraged her. She went to her school library and picked out several books she could read to the group. Angel thoroughly enjoys reading the stories and is an excellent reader. For Angel, reading to the other children is amazingly therapeutic for her. Every day her newfound self esteem and confidence are more evident. She no longer looks scared, and her personality has become outgoing. She loves to laugh and interact with the other children. Today, Angel smiles all the time!
I never imagined my beautiful, bright daughter would find herself in an abusive relationship. When I realized what was happening, I wanted to protect her. I was, after all, her mother. Still I felt so helpless. My well-intentioned efforts to intervene only drove her away. I couldn’t understand why she would go back to her abuser repeatedly.
My daughter stopped communicating with me because she was embarrassed and humiliated. She became angry when I refused to allow her abuser in my home. Our relationship suffered, only furthering her isolation. Out of desperation, I reached out to Emerge!. Emerge! helped me understand the power and control issues that exists in domestic abuse. They helped me to learn about what my daughter was going through. I changed my approach with my daughter. What she needed was support, encouragement, and the resources to achieve her goals; not someone telling her what to do. I’m so grateful she chose to receive help from Emerge!. Our relationship started to improve. I took her to get a haircut for the first time in years. As part of her abuser’s effort to isolate her, he had been cutting her hair. As she got out of the car, I said, “Honey, you are my best friend.” My daughter replied, “Mom, you are my only friend.” My daughter now attends support groups regularly and has been residing in the transitional housing program since summer 2008. My three grandchildren are blossoming. They used to tell me, “Daddy hurt mommy’s face.” Now they excitedly tell me, “Nana, we are going to group tonight!” Attending support group has changed all of our lives. The children can better express themselves. My beautiful daughter is going to school, and I’m so proud of her progress.
Elise’s Story Elise’s husband abused her day after day. She lived in constant fear. One night after her husband had been out drinking, he came home and began to physically assault her. It escalated to the point when it might be too late to leave safely. Elise grabbed her cell phone and ran. She found a safe place and called 9-1-1. The police arrived and her husband was arrested. Elise stayed at a friend’s house and decided she didn’t need to seek outside services. She was in a safe place and he was in jail. Elise enrolled in school but found she wasn’t able to concentrate. She continued to think about the abuse. Just as she thought maybe she should quit school, she heard about Emerge! She immediately called and scheduled an intake meeting with Emerge! Since then Elise has had many sessions with Emerge! staff to discuss her struggles. She was able to move forward with a divorce through a referral to Southern Arizona Legal Aid. During this process she realized that not only had she been physically and emotionally abused, but financially as well. She didn’t know her husband owed thousands of dollars in credit card bills. Additionally, the physical abuse she endured landed her in the hospital several times, leaving her with medical bills she was struggling to pay. Through our program Elise applied for and received victim compensation which alleviated her debt. She never expected we could provide services to help someone in her situation with so many obstacles. Elise has been coming to Emerge! for more than a year. During that time she graduated from school and started a new life. Elise continues to attend sessions here at Emerge! and feels good about her accomplishments. At her last session she shared that after feeling lost, she has now found herself and can’t wait to see what her future holds.
Marie’s Story She was just trying to keep it together for her son, Eric, and her baby, Anna. Yesterday she was walking home from the store with Eric and he looked so scared; he didn’t want to go home. She didn’t want to go home either. It wasn’t safe, not for any of them. That’s when she decided. As soon as her husband went out she would quickly pack a bag, take Eric and the baby, and go to the shelter. She just had to get through the next few hours. When they got home her husband was already gone, but Marie wasn’t sure for how long. If he did come home and dinner wasn’t ready there would be trouble. Frozen with indecision, she wasn’t sure if she should make dinner or start packing. She got the kids settled and decided to call the shelter hotline, maybe they couldn’t even take her right away. She fished the hotline number out of a folder she’d previously hidden in the closet under a pile of old clothes. As the phone rang she pulled out a bag and went into the room Anna and Eric shared. She had just started grabbing clothes and toys when the hotline worker picked up. Marie’s story came flooding out. She talked about the abuse and how she was packing to leave. The person she spoke to on the hotline made all of the arrangements. She was to meet a car in 45 minutes at the corner a few blocks from her house, a route her husband rarely, if ever traveled. Marie hung up the phone and rushed to get everything ready to go. Thankfully the baby was sleeping and Eric was playing in the living room. She wildly threw things into the bag, constantly listening for the sound of her husband’s car in the driveway. It never came. Finally, she gathered up the kids and was out the door. They hurried through the neighborhood, Marie constantly looking back over her shoulder, terrified she would be caught. The car from the shelter was waiting there when they arrived. They all piled in and Marie nervously watched to see if anyone was following. She didn’t even want to breathe until they were far enough away. When they got to the shelter Marie met with a clinician while Eric had dinner and she fed the baby. They talked about the family and the abuse. Marie started to calm down when she knew they’d all be able to stay in the same room together, but panicked again when she realized she’d forgotten Anna’s diapers. Luckily they had a stock in Anna’s size right there. Once everything was settled, they were shown their room. It had a crib for Anna and beds with new sheets and pillows for Marie and Eric. That night Marie, for the first time in years, slept soundly knowing she was safe. Today they are starting their journey toward a safe, loving home.
Sandra Sandra didn’t know where to go. It was 2:00 a.m. and her situation was growing more dangerous by the minute. Her husband was on the way home from the bar. Her boys were at their grandmother’s. She was thankful they weren’t home, but apprehensive about it too. It was her husband’s mother who had them and, if she ran, she wasn’t sure she’d ever get them back. Still, it was better than having them see the violence. Even though she didn’t know where she was running, Sandra knew she had to get out. She went to the closest Tucson Police Department station and asked them what to do. Thankfully, they sent her to the shelter. When she got there they just listened. They helped her understand that it wasn’t her fault, and gave her a safe place to sleep. When she left the next day to get her boys, they told her she could always come back and bring the boys with her if she needed to. Thankfully Sandra got her boys back and had a friend who was willing to take them in for a few days. They later moved into a room at the hotel where Sandra worked. It was hard, her husband was the main breadwinner, but they survived. Even though her husband had threatened to take the kids away if she ever left him, Sandra got the family home and full custody of her sons in the divorce. Her ex continued to harass her and make threats for a long time, but finally gave up. Today Sandra manages a local hotel and is completing her college degree. She credits that one night in the shelter with changing her life in a way she never thought possible.
Jacob’s Family Jacob made perfect grades on his report card…but he didn’t want to go home. He and his brother Adam and older sister Jessica were enrolled in all kinds of after school activities. They played sports, belonged to clubs, anything to keep them away from home. During the summer they were all away at camp as much as possible. They didn’t want to go home, and Candace, their mother didn’t want them there. She didn’t want them seeing the abuse she endured. They lived in a small community in southern Arizona, where they relocated a few years ago from another part of the country. Candace thought it would be a good move, a fresh start for the family, but it didn’t change anything. In fact, it only increased their isolation from friends and family. Over time the abuse got worse. Finally, even though the traditions of her culture disapproved of her leaving her abuser, Candace had enough. She packed up her children and made the long drive to Tucson and moved her family into the Emerge! shelter. Her guilt was overwhelming. Jacob, Adam and Jessica were old enough to understand what was going on. They all felt that it was wrong for their mother to leave their father, even though none of them wanted to stay. Candace felt it was wrong too, but she couldn’t take the abuse anymore. It had torn her family apart. Over time they all came to grips with the choice that Candace made. They learned more about abuse and how dangerous their situation really was. They continued to attend groups at Emerge!’s outreach location after leaving the shelter. Over time the family healed. They now enjoy spending time together. They have a safe, loving home and bright futures.
Jenny Jenny came to the Emerge! shelter program after enduring a four-year abusive relationship where there was physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Jenny had domestic violence in her family growing up and the cycle continued into her adult relationships. Jenny had been in the Emerge! shelter program before, but had returned to the abuser after promises of change. She reports that when she returned, the only thing that changed was the increase in severity of the abuse. Jenny began to increase her involvement in the Emerge programs and began to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and the cycle of violence. She recognized that the abuse was not her fault and began to set goals for herself. By the end of her shelter stay, Jenny had accomplished many of her goals including obtaining full-time employment and securing permanent housing with the help of the Supportive Housing Program. Jenny continues to work on her goals of education, increasing her physical and mental health, and spending more time with her family. Jenny knows that her journey of healing will be a long one, but takes it one day at a time and lives life to the fullest. Her courage, strength and perseverance is a symbol of hope for all others wanting to create a change in their own lives.
Reuniting a Family When Lea came to shelter last fall, she needed medical attention and was unable to work. The abuse had left her unable to care for her four children. They were in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). Compounding the situation, fleeing her abuser left her homeless. By the time Lea completed her stay at the shelter that winter, custody of her children had been returned to her. She received a medical procedure that she needed and her health improved. She secured a job, and she moved into to her own apartment with her children. With ongoing, caring support from Emerge! Lea and her children are beginning a life free from abuse.
Saving a Young Life Alexa is an 11-year-old living in the shelter with her mother and two siblings due to domestic violence. Alexa has been exposed to domestic abuse perpetrated by her step-father since she was three years old. When Alexa came to the shelter she was upset with her mother for taking her and her brothers from their home. With help, Alexa was able to see past the change and adapt to shelter life. She agreed to have one-on-one sessions with the child and family case coordinator. Through these sessions Alexa disclosed that, in the past, she had been feeling suicidal. The steps were taken to get her the help she needed. Alexa continues to meet with the child and family case coordinator to have one-on-one sessions and groups while at shelter.
In all stories names, photos and some details have been changed to protect the innocent.