Lisa, one of our Grand Haven area clients, has participated in services at Center for Women in Transition for several years. This year, she offered to share her story publicly. Her name has been changed to protect her identity, but the words below are hers alone.
He had his arms wrapped around her neck. He was choking her, until everything suddenly went black. Everything felt fuzzy when she came to, as though she was in a dream. Except her head hurt. Confused and trying to gain her bearings, she looked at him. He had a glazed-over look in his eyes but he was screaming at her. And then he picked up a knife. This was all because she had spilled Kool-Aid. She was only 15 years old. That girl was me.
I grew up in a two parent home in Grand Haven, Michigan. Both of my parents worked, were highly educated, and made six figures. We lived in a nice home and I got whatever I wanted.
But your wealth, education, even your race don’t matter when it comes to domestic violence. Even the most fortunate amongst us can become victims. I fell prey to a man who abused me, and remained in the cycle of violence for a long time.
The physical abuse was the tip of the iceberg. The manipulation and emotional abuse were the hardest to handle. Those paved the way for the physical abuse and the downward spiral of my self-esteem. My abuser made me doubt the abuse was even happening and I wondered if I was going crazy.
We had been married seven years, with three young children, when I first considered leaving. My ex was working out of state and I saw an opportunity. Because of his control over me, I had no money, no car, and few contacts to help. A church friend who worked at Salvation Army found me emergency shelter. My husband, despite being out of state on work, quickly found out where I was and began threatening and stalking me.
My friend suggested I contact Center for Women in Transition. They immediately moved me into their secure emergency shelter. While there, they encouraged me to attend their group therapy sessions. I went once and didn’t say a word.
The constant pressure of being stalked 24/7 began to get to me. My ex had a friend tail me all the way back to the shelter, forcing the facility into lockdown. He also went to my church, my friends, and even my family trying to convince them to help him. I caved in and went home.
As I was leaving, one of the Center employees became teary-eyed. She told me that the agency would always be there for me, no matter what. She warned me to prepare myself, saying that now my husband knew I was capable of leaving things were likely to get worse. She was 100 percent correct. My ex threatened and intimidated me all the time, following through on threats of physical abuse. One day it got so bad he held a gun to my head.
I snuck out one evening and attended another group therapy session. There was an older lady there, perhaps 55 or so, talking about how she had left her husband fifteen times before she was finally able to permanently leave him. At that moment I made up my mind. When I left my husband again, it would be for good. I had some hurdles to overcome such as finding a job (I had been a stay-at-home mom for the past 7 years), as well as a place to live and transportation. It wasn’t easy, but CWIT put me in their transitional housing program which meant a portion of my rent was paid, I met often with a caseworker, and I was safe. I counseled with them weekly and continued attending the group therapy sessions.
Thanks to CWIT, and especially my counselor Holly, I went from being broken and abused, to going back to school and getting my business degree, to being a licensed personal banker. All of this while caring for three kids! I went from having no self-esteem at all to feeling confident even in a room of strangers. But that’s not to say I’m fully healed. The devastating effects of domestic violence don’t just disappear.
In the future, I would like to partner with CWIT in their work with youth. It’s so important to spread the message to the young people in our community that they can and should expect respectful, healthy relationships. The fantastic work of the Center changed my life and my children’s lives for the better. I want everyone to know what an amazing place it is, and how deeply I appreciate those who support their mission through financial gifts and advocacy. I cannot thank you enough.