Stopping abuse before it’s passed on

Written by SAFE

Susana came to SAFE’s Family Shelter with her daughter, Rose, who was about to start junior high. They were fleeing Susana’s long-time partner, who emotionally abused them both and physically attacked Susana on multiple occasions. Rose witnessed the violence.

For Susana, violence was the norm — and the same had become true for Rose. Susan grew up in a violent home, regularly witnessing and experiencing abuse at the hands of her father. She knew how it felt to experience violence at an early age.

When she got to SAFE, Susana told our staff that she suspected her daughter was not on track developmentally. She was afraid that we would see Rose’s behavior as a problem. That we would think she was not a good mom.

But that’s not how we do things. Our counselors reassured her and told her about how children can be impacted by violence and trauma. We told her that witnessing violence and experiencing abuse changes the way a child’s brain develops, which can mean that they need more care. And we explained that youth who are abused are more likely to experience more abuse as they grow up, as victims or perpetrators.

Understanding that fact is key to preventing future violence. Giving a young child the support and care they need is one of the best ways to stop abuse from being passed on from one generation to the next.

By coming to the SAFE Family Shelter, Susana and Rose had access to more than just a safe place to sleep. They had access to counseling, to a trauma-informed school, health care, housing assistance – all opportunities for healing.

After leaving the SAFE Family Shelter, Susana checked in with us when she found a new home away from her ex-partner. She said Rose was hesitant to start at her new school, but she pushed through her anxiety with some of the skills she learned at SAFE. She liked school and started making friends right away, something Susanna didn’t think was possible when they first arrived at our shelter.

Susanna and Rose are using the healing skills that began at SAFE to stop the cycle of violence in their family.