SafePlace Saved My LifeWritten by Victoria Berryhill
I was a prisoner in my own home: watched day and night by my husband or members of his family, and required to leave one or both of my children at home when I was allowed to go to the grocery store or to run a quick errand.
I had already lost so much. Early in our relationship my husband told me what I could and couldn’t wear, and he messaged me constantly. I started planning our break-up but then was surprised when I became pregnant, as we always used protection. I suspect he tampered with the protection in order to “tie me” to his side.
I felt obligated to marry the father of my child in order to avoid the “shame” and struggles of single parenthood. But it only became worse with marriage. My children and I became possessions to control, rather than family to cherish.
Then one day a rare opportunity presented itself: my husband was gone and there was an unexpected illness in the family, resulting in everyone rushing to the hospital. I was home alone with my children.
I had already spoken in secret with a domestic violence hotline and they helped me develop a safety plan. They told me what I needed to have ready if and when I could make a run for it. Now was the time.
I gathered my stash of documents, money, and clothes from my secret hiding place, grabbed my children, and took off in the car. I drove as fast and as far as I could before stopping to make the call to SafePlace to ask for shelter.
SafePlace had an emergency space available and was ready for us to come immediately. When we arrived, I thought the building looked like a fortress from the outside – and I was grateful for the security. Once inside the gate, I felt safe with my children for the first time in years.
What if there hadn’t been a SafePlace for me and my children? I am eternally grateful to all of the good people whose contributions made finally rebuilding my life – and my the lives of my children – possible.
I met with staff and was given food, clothes, toothpaste, and other basic needs items that are often taken for granted. We were assigned a room of our own and a bathroom to share with another family, and we also shared a kitchen and a living area with four other families.
I started working right away with a SafePlace shelter advocate who helped me figure out what I would need to become self-sufficient. A counselor helped me understand I wasn’t alone, and that I was not to blame. My children enrolled in the on-campus Strong Start program for toddlers and preschoolers, which helped them to begin to understand they were also now safe and could move on.
The legal services coordinator worked with me to develop a plan to begin a custody case and continued to work with my shelter advocate to keep us safe. SafePlace provided everything I needed when I was enduring the worst possible time of my life.
My story — and that of my children — isn’t yet finished, but today we are safe and happy because of SafePlace. I am in my own apartment and my children continue in Strong Start. I am also working on job skills and finding employment
With sincerest gratitude,