Ending The Abuse: A Survivor's Story
After seven years in an abusive relationship, Melissa* was completely undone. Emotionally and physically drained, she was too ashamed to tell anyone what she was going through and too fearful that she would be judged or abandoned.
On one occasion at a police station, a domestic violence advocate gave Melissa a business card for Volunteers of America Oregon’s Home Free-Domestic Violence Intervention Services. She was still afraid to pick up the phone and ask for help. But when a restraining order finally forced her abuser out of the apartment, Melissa was left with two small children and no means of support. After she was evicted from her home she spent the next three weeks out on the streets with her children and sleeping on the floors of near strangers and old friends.
In final desperation she pulled out the Home Free card from her pocket and called the hotline. “It was really scary because I didn’t know what to say," Melissa recalled. "I was sure they would think I was the one to blame and that they’d take the children from me. I was so surprised to hear a compassionate voice telling me they could help and asking me to come into their center as soon as I could.”
Two days later Melissa was introduced to Nanci Jarrard, a Home Free Advocate. “She was such a lifesaver,” Melissa explained. “For the first time I felt like somebody actually understood the emotional devastation that a victim of domestic violence experiences. More importantly, she helped me see that I have value.”
Since Melissa was temporarily living with a friend, she didn’t need a motel voucher to escape from her abuser—an emergency service frequently offered by Home Free. But she did need some financial assistance. Nanci referred her to the Department of Human Services Self-Sufficiency office nearest her, and Melissa received an emergency grant to cover rent for her own apartment.
“After I moved into the new place, Nanci arranged to have my utility bills paid," Melissa said. "And Kendra Massey, another Home Free advocate, stops by once a week to talk about my options and to give me encouragement."
Melissa still suffers from depression after so many years of trauma, but after attending Home Free support group sessions and many one-on-one meetings with program advocates, she is beginning to feel stable enough to start looking for work. With her children safe and happy, she feels a renewed hope for the future.
“I can’t express how grateful I am for the people at Home Free. If it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be alive today. They were the ones that helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel, and now . . .Home Free is my light.”
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*To protect the privacy of the subject, the name and photo are fictitious.