Finding her way out of the riptide

Written by Antwon R. Martin

A photo of two women facing the camera. An older woman is in front of a younger woman.Have you ever been caught in a riptide? You try to swim to safety, toward the shore, but you’re pulled further out into deeper water. The only way to escape is to swim in a different direction. You have to know you’re trapped — to recognize the pattern — to get free.

Alana was born into a riptide. Abuse and violence were the invisible currents that controlled her family. Physical and emotional abuse were the rule, not the exception. As a child, Alana was repeatedly sexually abused by her stepfather. Can you imagine how difficult that must have been?

To have been hurt so badly by someone who was supposed to love you and keep you safe?

Then as a teen, Alana ran away — but she was still held fast by those invisible forces. It would take her years to recognize the pattern and change direction.

As a vulnerable teen alone on the streets, Alana fell into the grip of a ring that trafficked her for sex. That was a dark and terrifying time. It took all the grit, luck, and determination she had to escape.

We wish we could tell you that once Alana escaped her traffickers, she didn’t suffer anymore. But when every relationship you’ve ever had has been abusive, that’s all you know. Alana couldn’t yet see the current she was trapped in.

She came to our Emergency Shelter after her latest boyfriend threw her out of a moving car.
And she did something she’d never done before: talked to a counselor, Beth.

She told Beth about the pain of her childhood and teen years — something Alana had never talked about before. Beth helped Alana recognize the patterns of abuse and violence that had trapped her. Alana began swimming in a different direction.

Long-term change didn’t happen overnight. It never does. But your past support helped Alana free herself from the powerful currents that had controlled her. And she had a trained counselor there to support her. It allowed a beautiful connection to form between Alana and Beth, so that Alana could begin to heal.

Today, she’s thriving and working as a sous chef in a local restaurant. She’s finally building her life on a stable foundation — one in which violence and abuse have no place.

Unfortunately, Alana is one of thousands in our community who are trapped in a lethal cycle of abuse. There are too many like her who are living every day with fear and trauma. They call and text our SAFEline, fill our shelters, spill over onto waiting lists for counseling. They still need help.

Your support can make the difference. Now through the end of the year, every dollar you give is doubled thanks to a match through the Micheal & Susan Dell Foundation. So your donations go twice as far to help survivors like Alana escape violence for good.