Kristin’s story: Breaking the cycle

Written by SAFE

At this year’s SAFE Gala, Kristin shared her story as a survivor of violence and abuse. She spoke about the traumas of abuse, the healing she experienced, and her commitment to break the cycle of violence for her children.

CONTENT WARNING: The below video and transcript include descriptions of violence that may be upsetting or difficult to read. If you watch or read further, please give yourself time to process what you’re feeling and listen to what your body is telling you.

Below is a transcript of Kristin’s speech.

Good evening,

Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be sharing this kind of story. When I say this kind of story I mean the story of Domestic Violence that almost killed me and  sent my six children into foster care.

I actually spent most of my teenage years watching my older sister be abused. I had front row seats watching her fight off her abuser. So many times I was caught in the crossfire of their fights.  Yelling and screaming would always turn physical. So by 18 years old I had seen all the dysfunction a person of my age could see! Surely I could never end up in that kind of relationship! I knew better than that. At Least that is what I thought.

Ten years later I met the person who I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. He was My best friend, my husband. and the father of all my six children! It didn’t start off bad, it was actually really really nice.

Things were so good I don’t really remember when things started to take a turn. It’s like one day I just wasn’t his best friend anymore and he wasn’t mine. After a while we were literally arch enemies. First it was jealousy, then lies, then the arguments and finally, the hitting.  It is like the more HE lied and cheated, the more I became his target.

The Fights became more frequent and they also became more violent. Slapping, shoving, hitting, pushing, those words became my everyday life. I would wake up in a nightmare. Always afraid to start the day because I didn’t know what it entailed. What was it going to be like today?  Would I find out about another woman or would someone be picking me up off the floor? This went on for several years. It became my normal. It was my life.  No matter how many times I asked him to leave, or kicked him out, he would always come back. It was like this vicious cycle that I could not free myself from him.  Honestly I think I was just too beaten down to ever get back up!

Until the last fight.  The last fight I will never forget. That fight shook my whole world.  It almost took my life. I was beaten so badly that his boot was imprinted on my arm.  If the beating wasn’t enough, he then hit me with his car and left me in a puddle of water when it was freezing outside. The neighbors saw me lying there and called the police. I woke up drenched in muddy water. The police arrived not sure what was going on. They searched my house, saw my bruises and told me to get a protective order, and then told me that CPS would be calling.  I knew that wasn’t good. What I didn’t know that day, was how bad it would turn out to be or, that I was pregnant again.

My husband left that day and with him our only source of income.  Our electricity was turned off the day after he left and CPS arrived a couple days later. I looked terrible, I was bruised and in pain. I was disoriented from the attack, was overwhelmed by what was happening.  I was a mess.  And our power was off and all of this combined made me “unstable” in the eyes of CPS.  My mother was there with us that day, and CPS asked if it was possible for us to go live with her.  She said yes.  They did a home visit and approved, and my mother took me and my five children in. And, while I was not being investigated for child abuse, I still had this open CPS case and still had certain requirements I had to fulfill. I did everything they asked me to do to show them I could provide a stable and safe home.  The case was supposed to be closed on Feb. 5th 2019, but the paperwork to close it just never got done.

Then on April 20th, I went into labor.  When it was time to deliver the baby, my mother kept my kids, who were 12, 5, 4, 3, and 2, and watched them while I was in the hospital having the baby.   I guess because I had this “open case”, immediately after the baby was born, CPS had me tested for drugs and said I tested positive for amphetamines.  I knew it wasn’t true and my doctor told them it was due to the efedra that I had been given. Both the baby and I were re-tested and the tests came back negative, but it was too late.  CPS took my children from my mother’s home, where we had lived for the last six months, and took them into custody.   They never even gave my mother or sisters the opportunity to foster my children. My oldest was so scared she started having a panic attack.  How do you explain what was happening?  I didn’t understand myself.

All I knew was that instead of recognizing that I was the victim, I was now being painted as the perpetrator. I was now an unfit mother because my husband beat me, and left me with no safe place to call home. ….. My children were taken from me while I was giving birth to my sixth baby.

And then they took him, too.  My newborn baby was taken from me that day, that moment and placed in foster care with a stranger.  We never got to be skin to skin. I was not given the opportunity to nurse him, to bond with him, to simply be with him for few days, not even a few moments, to let him know I was his mother and I loved him. They took him and never even told me what happened or where he was or who had him. He was just gone. I was discharged from the hospital and told I had to leave.  I was in such a state of shock, I left the hospital alone, in a hospital gown and walked 3 miles to my mother’s home. My c-section tore open, and I didn’t even know it.  My baby was gone. My children were gone.

My six children were placed in 3 different foster families. I was allowed to see them once a week for 2 hours in a tiny room, not big enough for six children. The CPS staff watched us from the other side of the glass window! That day in the hospital when they were taken away, I asked what I had to do to get them back…. and so it began, a very long road of doing anything and everything CPS told me I needed to do to earn my children back, when all I had really done was fall for a man who stopped loving me, did not value or respect me, and did not allow me or my children to be safe from violence in our own home.

I did everything they asked me to do and more.  This is when I met SAFE ALLIANCE – during my darkest hour. They became my partner through it all.

During my first “case” with CPS, I enrolled in some classes I was required to take, but I signed up for every program I could find at SAFE. Anything that I thought might help us be a stronger family.  After I lost my kids, I was enrolled in SAFE Futures, a program designed to bring families with open CPS cases back together.  Too often, kids are sent into foster care for reasons  just like mine – when the violence gets so bad, you have no choice but to leave – but with no income, no ‘stable’ home,  – you can’t be homeless and keep your kids.

Through SAFE’s counseling program, I was able to do one-on-one therapy and group sessions with others that were going through the same thing. This helped me be proud of myself, me strength, instead of being ashamed! I was finally out of this toxic relationship which meant I could focus on myself and on my children.

I utilized one of SAFE’s housing programs to find a safe place to live and received help with a deposit, which became a turning point in my fight to get my children back. I needed safe housing before they would ever considering returning my children.

And I needed a job. I had been in the apartment industry years ago, and found a job, a good one, but lost it because my visitation schedule was so difficult and would take hours to get there and back, but I wasn’t willing to miss a visit with my children. They needed me. They needed to know I loved them, and missed them and was doing everything in my power to get them back.

When I lost that first job, I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I went to work for a temp agency that specializes in apartments and leasing. I was given an assignment with a women who owned several properties.   I went in every day and quickly we began to talk and get to know each other. I told her what was happening in my life and how I was working to get my children. The next thing I know, she asked me to come on full time as her property manager!

With that, I had a safe home and a good job.  I had completed parenting classes and counseling. I had done everything I needed to do and in January 2020 – nine months after my children were taken away, my first two kids came, in February 2 more and finally in March my case was closed and my children, all of my children, were HOME with me!

I was told that at this event you usually hear from survivors of child abuse. Young adults who have survived the abuse and the system that is supposed to protect them. Tonight, I represent six children who may have spent nine months in foster care, but foster care will NOT be their story.

Their story is a home filled with love and family…..My kids are HOME tonight because SAFE was there for me when I needed them.  My kids will not be products of the foster care system because SAFE stood beside me and gave me the tools, the skills, and the encouragement that I needed when I was tired.  My kids know their mother loves them and will do anything for them.  My kids will not be your speaker one day, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for supporting SAFE and the programs that bring families back together.

I am happy to say it was that battle that increased my faith in God and in myself. I would pray everyday because I knew this was bigger than me. Losing my children for those 9 months was worse than all the beatings I could have ever gotten. My kids were my life, they were my happiness. They were the reason that in the darkest of times I would see light! I had to get them back.