For years, Karen’s husband verbally, emotionally, financially and physically abused her. When they moved into a house together and started IVF treatment to try to have children, Karen assumed the abuse would lessen, if not stop completely.
The IVF treatment was successful, and Karen gave birth to two twin girls. Karen’s husband was addicted to alcohol, and she remembers right after giving birth, her husband came to the hospital and sat outside the room, going through withdraw from alcohol since he was not allowed to drink in the hospital.
After coming home from the hospital, Karen and her two twin were in her bedroom with her mother spending time together. Her abuser came into the room, opened a drawer, and started counting.
One, two, three, four.
“What are you doing?” Karen asked him as he slammed the drawer. He turned around and told her, “I am counting bullets for you, your mother, and the kids.”
Karen was shocked and started trying to safety plan for herself and her newborn daughters. But, Karen was in school, working full time, and now taking care of two babies, and she didn’t know where to turn. She stayed with her husband and hoped that abuse would end after he started spending more time with the babies.
Unfortunately, the abuse did not relent.
As the twins got older, Karen looked for ways to help them escape their home life. “My friend bought me a annual pass to the Amazeum so that I could take the girls somewhere in the winter that was indoors. I could do the park all summers, but in the winter I was stuck at the house and so it got me that pass and that was kind of like the lifesaver,” Karen said.
“There was somewhere to go more space building good memories instead of bad memories. One day he was drunk, so I took the girls out and when we came home, it broke my heart. We got in to the garage, and I let the girls out of their car seat. One of them said, ‘now be really, quiet because he might be asleep.’ If he was passed out, I was able to get the girls to the bedroom and lock the door, and I would bring them supper in the bedroom. They knew our routine.”
Karen remembers that moment, realizing her daughters were cognitive of the abuse, had seen her husband physically abuse her, and were scared for their safety. She decided to leave her husband and started safety planning.
Sadly, ten days later before she had had the chance to escape, Karen experienced the worse physical abuse of her relationship. “When I walked back into the house, I went into my bathroom and my look at myself in the mirror is looking at a stranger. I was so broken.” She contacted the police.
Police were able to transport her and her daughters to the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter where Karen was able to start rebuilding her life.
While still working full time and going to school, Karen started court battles with her husband during her time at the NWAWS. While in shelter, she got an order of protection, her husband was forced to move out of her home, she started counseling sessions, and her daughters received advocacy services, as well. Karen is still a client of the NWAWS and receives individual counseling and legal advocacy as she fights to get a divorce.
When asked the most impactful thing about her stay in shelter, Karen said, “It’s one thing, you know, you get some deodorant that you’re not used to wear it for the next month. You’re itching, you know, but they take the time to say, ‘Hey, is there a certain kind of, it works for you?’ It seems so small to be able to shave your legs with your own brand of razor, but they make that happen. No one probably thinks of that is a big deal until everything else, your life feels like it’s falling apart. But, when you get the shower, you used to the sheer fear, but then you start using your favorite conditioner, you smell like you. That stuff made a difference to me.”