This is a familiar scene and one that many of us take for granted. But, for the protagonist in our story, this is what she imagines happiness will look like when she leaves the shelter and is finally living free from family violence and abuse.
Brianne* tells a story of abuse that goes back to the time when she was a baby; a time when she should have been loved and nurtured. The problem was that her mother’s escalating mental health issues got in the way and as a result, she spent many years away from the family in a medical facility. Brianne recalls that her mom was ‘never the same’ after she was born, and Brianne’s father blamed her for her mother’s mental health issues. And that is when the abuse started.
The abuse intensified and continued as Brianne got older. “I don’t recall a time that I wasn’t abused; I was molested by my father for many years and abused by my mother, siblings and extended family.”
“I learned very early on not to rely on my family for help”
What hurt Brianne the most was that her mother turned a blind eye to her father’s actions. She knows that her mother would hear her crying but would not acknowledge what her father was doing to her.
Brianne’s formative years were anything but happy. Drugs and alcohol became part of her world and were used as coping mechanisms for what was a lifetime of pain and suffering. At about 20 years of age Brianne entered into a relationship with a young man she knew from High School. As much as she was hopeful for a happy and healthy relationship, Brianne found herself being abused at the hands of the man who she’d hoped would love and protect her.
Brianne, now a mother of two young children, recalls that during what was a very tumultuous and abusive relationship spanning eighteen years, she and her children fled from their home three times to stay at an emergency shelter. However, with very little money to her name, she had no choice but to return to the relationship each time.
There is a strong correlation between domestic violence and homelessness. When women leave an abusive partner, they very often have nowhere to go making them homeless unless emergency shelters can intervene and assist with housing options.
After returning for the third time, Brianne noticed that the abusive episodes were becoming more frequent and more severe. The end of this dark chapter in Brianne’s life was decided by the police who removed Brianne and her children from the house. Charges were laid against Brianne’s partner and he spent time in jail.
When Brianne met her second partner, John, he was nice to her in the beginning. They got married and soon thereafter, his true colours were revealed. John did not like Brianne’s children and he started being abusive to them so they left the home, leaving Brianne alone.
John had now isolated Brianne so he abused her without anyone knowing. The breaking point came when during one incident, Brianne decided to fight back.
For a moment, the future looked bleak for Brianne. But, as soon as she fought back, she realized that she did not like who she had become in that moment. She knew she had to leave and that is how she found her way to Rowan House. That dark moment was the beginning of Brianne’s journey towards a life free from violence
“The staff at Rowan House have been so very supportive to me. I now understand what domestic violence is all about; I have the tools I need to look after myself. This is the first time in over 40 years that I feel a sense of peace and can actually start to heal.”
For Brianne, there is a light at the end of what’s been a very dark tunnel in the fact she has rekindled her relationship with her children. They are both very keen to bring her back to the east. They have promised to support her as she fashions a new life for herself… one that includes a home where the sunshine streams through the kitchen window.
If you make a gift today, you’ll be able to help women walk away from a life of violence and abuse. You’ll make it possible for them to feel the sun on their face.