We received the following letter in mid-December from Courtney*, a client who received services last year:
“Words truly cannot express the impact that services from the NWAWS have had for my family, but I wanted to reach out and share what I can.
After years of struggling to leave my abusive husband (now ex-husband!), I reached out for services in 2020. Even though I had a college degree, a stable job, and a loving, supportive family, I struggled to get away. Previous attempts involved moving my daughter and me in with my parents, filing for divorce (and dropping it), filing an order of protection (and dropping it), renting a new home in secret (and eventually, him finding me). He took whatever he wanted, when he wanted, and I had resigned myself to spending all my effort sheltering my daughter from his abuse. The older my daughter got, and the more she was able to understand, the worse the abuse became, because he knew I would do anything to make sure she didn’t see anything she shouldn’t see.
I felt hopeless and trapped in a never-ending cycle. I was too ashamed to ask my support network for help (again). I didn’t even know what kind of help to even ask for. The advice I heard, everywhere I turned, was “just leave.” But it didn’t feel like I could safely do that. It’s just not that simple. When I tried to enforce a small boundary, he picked up my daughter from school and kept her away from me. He’s violent, a drug addict, emotionally abusive — that only had to happen once for me to know he would use her to hurt me. When every choice was a risk, it felt safest to just weather the storm as it came. Not surprisingly, things got even worse. And when the risk of not filing for divorce was greater than the risk of filing, I was finally ready to try again. It was around this time that a friend of a friend recommended reaching out to the NWAWS, just to have someone to talk to.
I figured trying one more thing couldn’t hurt — but I had no idea the extent to which the NWAWS would transform my family.
Meeting [one of the advocates] last year was truly a blessing for me personally and for my family. I wouldn’t have known what kind of support to ask for. Talking with [my advocate] – I didn’t need to know what to ask for. She asked questions that it never occurred to me to consider. Like, “What are you doing to care for yourself, through all this?” She called just to check on me, and she listened with an open and understanding heart. She gave kind, gentle suggestions and guided me toward solutions I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. Her reassurance that I was doing a good job, that I’m a good mom – it reached me, when the same words from family and friends couldn’t. I knew that [my advocate] understood what I was going through (the shame, sadness, fear, hurt, hopelessness), and that my family would never truly understand. They couldn’t. [My advocate’s] support and reassurance gave me the strength to do what I needed to do to protect my daughter.
When my daughter disclosed witnessing physical abuse between her dad and his girlfriend, [my advocate] helped me find a solution to teach my daughter the coping skills she would need in the months ahead. Navigating the official separation and divorce and fighting for custody was a turbulent time for my family. My daughter started struggling in school. She went from bright and bubbly girl to sad, quiet, afraid. With [my advocate’s] help, my daughter has learned the coping skills and emotional regulation that she needed to get through that difficult time. We use the skills she learned from NWAWS every day.
With the support I received from NWAWS, I was able to hire a lawyer (rather than trying it on my own), prove my case for full custody, and support my daughter more fully. Since then, I’ve bought a house for me and my daughter. I’m now engaged to my incredibly supportive partner. My family is steadily healing and growing. We are safe. And while my ex-husband has not relented, I am stronger and healthier and better equipped to navigate whatever lies ahead. And with a happy, healthy, stronger mom, my daughter has a better chance for a happy, healthy life herself.
Forever grateful for [my advocate’s] support, and for the NWAWS. Both are such a blessing for this community. Thank you for providing such incredible care to families like mine. We wouldn’t be where we are today without it.
Wishing you all a warm and safe Christmas with your family.”
*name changed to protect privacy