Survivor Story #1
When we talk about domestic violence, we often assume that the survivor is a woman. However, often overlooked are the thousands of men in this country who are victims of domestic violence, suffering physical, mental and sexual abuse in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.
According to the CDC, one in four adult men in the U.S. will become a victim of domestic violence during his lifetime. That’s approximately three million male domestic violence victims every year; or one man in America who will be abused by an intimate or domestic partner every 37.8 seconds.
Anyone can be the victim of domestic abuse and everyone who needs protection deserves access to it.
For 6 years Manuel and his children suffered abuse from his gang-affiliated wife. When it escalated, he took his children and ran. They spent a month living on the streets before he finally called a crisis hotline and asked for help.
Manuel has been a client of our transitional shelter for one year. During that time, he has been able to get his high school diploma and a culinary arts certificate. More importantly,
“Thanks to the program I acknowledged the issues that led me to be in relationships that were not healthy and to work on making sure that I develop healthy boundaries…My children are happier and safer now. They went through a lot emotionally but thanks to the counselors, they have been able to acknowledge their emotions and have learned different coping mechanism, which I know will help them in the long run.”
Manuel is committed to helping others understand that, “Domestic Violence doesn’t happen only to women. Men are victims too. It is something that should be talked about because the more we talk about it, the less taboo it will become.“
Manuel tells us his next step is to find employment in a restaurant with the longer term goal of owning his own catering.
Survivor Story #2
The following is Sahara’s story in her own words.
Anthony was my childhood sweetheart and we were together since I was 15 years old.
Looking back I should have seen the signs. How he isolated me from my family and friends.
When he was jealous of the doctor I worked for, I thought it was cute and that he was being sensitive.
When he put me down, I thought it was my fault.
When he cheated on me and lied, I believed him because I was in love.
He was my family, the father of my children and I was emotionally and financially dependent on him.
When I tried to stand up for myself, he would scream at me for hours and then leave for days at a time, empty out the back account and leave me at home with three children -- no food and no money.
I couldn’t do anything right. He complained even about the way I cleaned. He would say that I scrubbed everything, I don’t clean. If I cooked it was too salty and he would throw it all away.
I couldn’t scream back -- there would be more screaming, less money, more stress.
So I took it and I tried to downplay all his behavior – I was trying desperately to hold my family together.
And then it all got worse -- he started to do meth.
He was always high and would wonder around at night. I was terrified of what he would do and couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted.
I started putting bells on my kid’s doors to keep them safe.
I finally ended up telling my mom and she said “You have three kids, men cheat, figure it out”.
Then it got worse, when he saw that I had no one to turn to and that I was all alone. That’s when the mad man came out. That scared me a lot because I had nowhere to go.
I couldn’t shower with the door closed, then I couldn’t shower with the shower curtain closed. He wanted me to get mad and then get better. And then get mad again – it was a vicious cycle.
Then it happened, the final straw. In a meth induced hallucination, he tried to attack my daughter and that was it, when he started attacking the kids we had to go.
My dad came the next day to pick me up and two years later I stand before you a woman trying to rebuild her life and that of her children and tremendously thankful to Haven Hills for the help that they have given me.
When I walked through the doors of the Haven Hills Outreach Program, I had such bad anxiety that it was hard for me to share during group. You see when I was with Anthony, I was so depressed that I would sit for hours on the couch. I was terrified of that couch – I didn’t want to get stuck.
My counselor suggested that I come in for individual counseling until I was ready for group. She cared enough to meet me where I was. It had been a while since anyone had done that.
At first I went to group and didn’t talk. But, little by little I started sharing experiences because I wasn’t the only one. Hearing other people’s stories helped. I wasn’t the only one terrified, I wasn’t the only one whose husband was using drugs. Haven Hills helped me to realize that my journey is a roller-coaster, that there is no time limit to healing.
Haven Hills has given me the support and the strength that I need to talk about anything with no judgment. The arts that we do always kill me because you need to dig deep to really explore your losses. I need to hurt before it gets better.
My counselor at Haven Hills also helped me find one-on-one therapy for my kids and myself. Between the work I did at Haven Hills and with my therapist, I have slowly started to heal. I now understand the cycle of abuse. I understood that I wasn’t crazy. I learned boundaries and that there are no right or wrong answers – what’s safer for now is all I can hope for.
I also know now that this journey of healing is going to take a while. I will have setbacks, but I know now how to keep going. Years of emotional, psychological and financial abuse will probably take me years to get over, but I now have the tools I need to get better.
I owe it to myself and to my children. They are worth it.
Survivor Story #3
Every day, Haven Hills staff sees the devastating impact of Domestic Violence on the faces of the families that come to us for help; they are suffering both emotionally and physically. To offer the help that these families require, we often must consider the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the clients we are serving. A lack of understanding of a culturally different client’s values and motivations, or the assumption that they are the same as one’s own, can be a significant barrier. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting trauma is not effective.
For example, many of our clients were brought up to neither share confidences nor admit emotional pain to outsiders. The personal disclosure and behavioral changes that counselors typically suggest can often be embarrassing and totally unimaginable to clients who would rather “handle their own business” than seek outside help from a stranger.
“Understanding the complexities of a person’s background and individual situation makes a huge difference in successfully assisting them in treating their trauma and achieve self-esteem,” explained Iliana Tavera, Haven Hills Executive Director. “We understand that beliefs and traditions are powerful forces in a person's life and that providing culturally sensitive care is essential to supporting domestic violence survivors from diverse cultural backgrounds”.
Clients like Cheri, a woman in her 30s who immigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 2003 as part of an arranged marriage agreement. Initially confronted with her husband’s verbal abuse, the situation escalated after a year to slapping, pulling hair, kicking and choking her when he was displeased. The verbal abuse intensified as he criticized her to the children, called her a prostitute and threatened to cut her throat.
Cheri tried to leave many times, but she was financially dependent on her spouse and did not have friends or family in this country. After years of abuse, Cheri finally called the police after a particularly violent episode, and her husband was arrested in 2013. After his release, he left the country and returned to Bangladesh.
That year, Cheri began the difficult journey toward independence with the help of social services and the support of the Haven Hills Outreach Program. Learning to do everything on her own was very hard, but with the aid of Haven Hills’ highly trained counselors she has grown in confidence and has become self-sufficient. Ultimately, Cheri was accepted into a nursing program and graduated in 2017.
Cultural and geographic isolation worsened by financial dependence on a spouse, can be devastating obstacles to overcome. Take for instance Amalia a middle-aged Muslim woman whose marriage to a man 25 years her senior was arranged by her parents when she was only 19.
Her husband had always been emotionally distant and controlling of the finances, but in recent years he became increasingly abusive. He prevented her from working or getting a college education, and he kept her on a weekly allowance of $25.00, requiring her to account for every penny. His criticism and blame extended to belittling her to their grown sons and claiming she was crazy. On numerous occasions, he tried to force her to take unknown pills, despite being told by a psychiatrist, following an examination, that she did not need medication.
Amalia found Haven Hills through an internet search in January 2017. At that time, she was wondering what she could do to make her husband change. Since coming to Haven Hills and attending support groups led by counselors specially trained in domestic violence, her self-esteem has improved. Amalia realized she only has the power to change herself, and she has started to work towards self-sufficiency and divorce.
She recently completed a class to become a notary. In addition, Haven Hills advocated for her to be a part of Pepperdine’s Microenterprise Program to develop the skills to become an entrepreneur. Amalia was recently accepted into the Pepperdine program and hopes to use the skills she learns there to develop a website to promote her artwork.
These are just a few of the many stories of clients who have found hope through our services. Because victims of domestic violence may experience the abuse in culturally specific ways, we strive to consider the cultural background and the unique issues faced by victims and their children and tailor services to meet their needs. To learn more about how we do this, please visit our website at www.havenhills.org.