An abusive husband, three kids and no place to go. That’s what Bryan told LifeWire’s Helpline staff when he called. Because many local domestic violence shelters don’t have places where men can comfortably stay, Bryan and his three children were facing homelessness.
Domestic violence survivors can face many challenges when leaving an abusive partner: homelessness, financial instability and the continued threat of violence. LGBTQ survivors may experience other barriers to help. Gay men and transgender individuals may not be welcomed or comfortable at female only domestic violence shelters. Survivors may also have legal concerns about custody if they have non-biological children.
When Bryan came to LifeWire, he and his family moved into our Emergency Shelter, My Sister’s Home, right away. Because of the unique setup of our shelter, the family was admitted without any problems. For the first time in a long time, the family feels welcome and safe.
LifeWire offers individual advocacy and weekly support groups for children and youth who have witnessed abuse in their homes as well as for teens who have experienced violence in their own dating relationships. Often youth join our support groups because a parent is participating in LifeWire’s services or because they participated in one of our workshops in their school or community group. In 2017, 311 children and youth participated in LifeWire’s support groups.
When Abby, age 8, entered our transitional housing program this summer, she was so excited to finally have a stable place to call home. After bouncing from shelter to shelter, she and her mom were finally able to settle down long enough to decorate her room and make real connections. Abby is one of the friendliest kids I’ve ever worked with, but the years of instability made her nervous, self-conscious and anxious to please. It’s been a joy to watch her grow comfortable enough to show her bright personality to the other children and adults here, and we’ve worked consistently in the children’s group and one-on-one to build her self-confidence.
One week in March, the children’s group members made vision boards for their rooms by choosing words that would inspire and motivate them. We went through nearly 150 words and I asked them to consider which qualities they felt they already had and which they wanted to have on their boards to encourage them. Most of the other kids chose just a few words, but Abby enthusiastically nodded and grabbed almost every word as we read and defined them. Her vision board ended up being huge—the largest piece of cardboard I had could barely contain all of the qualities she knew she contained.
After group, she excitedly took her board back to her mom and proudly showed her and the other ladies in the house each word. It was so heartwarming to see her in action, confidently describing herself in such positive terms.
Mental health therapy can be key to helping a survivor heal from the emotional and often traumatizing effects of domestic violence. For many survivors, it is a crucial piece of recovery.
For many years, LifeWire has offered individual mental health therapy to survivors and their children as part of our advocacy services. And starting last year, LifeWire began to offer therapy groups in addition to individual support.
It’s hard to believe that my boys and I spent last Thanksgiving homeless. We were living in a warehouse with no food, no water and no kitchen. Instead of enjoying a home-cooked holiday meal together, we were wondering where our next meal would come from and praying my boys’ abusive father wouldn’t find us.
But because of you, this Thanksgiving is different. This Thanksgiving, we’ll enjoy a home-cooked meal in our very own home for the first time in many years.