When I stepped out of the train station, a wonderful person put their arms around me and gave me a hug from the heart. I had never know that feeling before so I knew I was making the right decision.
I had been battered most of my life and felt truly worthless and less than human.
By the time I left The Second Step I had a well paying job and found my self worth. Through all the various programs The Second Step offers, my children and I learned that we do not deserve to be beaten, ridiculed, or degraded. We came out a strong, healthy family unit that was able to live a happy, normal life. The programs, volunteers, staff members, & donors were there every step of the way to guide us, listen to us, comfort us, all from their kind, kind, hearts.
That was 13 years ago! I still have wonderful memories of our time of healing at The Second Step. Plenty of pictures to smile at and getting a warm fuzzy feeling every time I think of that one hug from Ms Betty!
When times look bleak, I just run through all that was taught to me by the greatest healing place in this state.
I have been volunteering for The Second Step for three years, first working at the front desk in the office, later helping out with events, and now as a board member. The time I spent at the front desk is what cemented for me just how important The Second Step's mission is. There was nothing like being on the receiving end of phone calls from women clearly scared, and unsure where to turn. I was always so grateful to be able to connect them with one of The Second Step counselors. Once that connection was made, I knew the women were in good hands and, whether they realized it at that moment or not, had taken an important step toward a safe and rewarding new life.
I found The Second Step in the phone book, when I was desperately trying to extricate myself from my abuser. After many, many phone calls with dead ends, (most agencies could offer only short-term emergency shelter) I found a warm voice on the phone that truly understood my needs. The woman on the phone identified my immediate needs, and have helped through the long term. The Second Step's approach to helping is a holistic, all-encompassing and research-based.
Healing from abuse takes time, and The Second Step honors that. The innovative Community Program took me under their wing and have never let me fall. With their support; I have been able to go back to school, move to a safer area and ensure that my child has her educational needs met. Their IMAGINE mentoring program has provided me with caring mentors, giving me connection to the community that I would have never been able to form on my own. Domestic violence is isolating, but with The Second Step I have connected with other women that have been through similar situations. I don't feel alone.
The Second Step has empowered me in more ways that I can possibly describe here. The sum total of their impact and involvement in my life as a Survivor of domestic abuse has been immeasurable. I proud to be part of such a caring, committed and empowering organization.
The Second Step (TSS) is part of a network of domestic violence agencies in the greater Boston area that provide hot lines, emergency shelter, scattered site transitional housing, and supportive services.
What makes The Second Step unique is its understanding that it takes time for a family to heal emotionally and physically from abuse, and to rebuild their lives. As a result, families may stay in TSS’s transitional housing for up to two years. There, school-age children attend TSS’s Therapeutic Afterschool -- the only one of its kind that we know of statewide. And families may choose to remain part of TSS’s Community Program, for those who do not live in TSS residences, for as long as they need.
The most important aspect of the services TSS provides is that they are guided by the survivor herself, focusing on her own priorities, and moving at her own pace. TSS staff helps her set goals for herself and for her children, and meet regularly with her to make sure she has access to resources and programs at The Second Step or through other collaborators in the community to achieve the goals she set. Goals are set in the areas of safety, empowerment, financial and housing stability, physical and emotional well being, and social connectedness. Much research has been conducted to ascertain that these five areas represent the psycho-educational and social environment necessary for long term independence. Everything The Second Step does revolves around these areas.
In response to the extended recession, and adjusting to the new normal funding levels, The Second Step has taken an aggressive stance in trying to link small organizations in the domestic violence arena as well as the non-profits who comprise the community based supports our families depend on to leverage funds and services, to share back office staff functions, and to do everything we can to insure that the essential services we offer will be there in the future.
I lived at The Second Step for just over a year. With the support of the residents and staff at the house I was able to accomplish things that I couldn’t accomplish in the four years that I was married to my abuser. I grew as a sister, as a daughter, as a friend, as a parent and most importantly as a woman. I learned how to be disciplined and organized. I learned how to multitask and follow the program guidelines, and at the same time I learned how to live my life on my own. Living with seven other families, I also learned to be more understanding, how to compromise and to be less judgmental since I had to live with all different types of personalities and cultures in the house.
While living at The Second Step, my children and I were able to get physical, mental, emotional and even the financial support we needed. Once a week I would meet with my case manager. We talked about going back to school, getting treated for some of my children’s and my health conditions and dealing with stress, just to name a few things. The Second Step was able to refer me to some very good programs. Early intervention was and still is one of the programs that my children benefit from. I was also able to access some funds available to help me pay off some of my debts.
I don’t know were I would be if I didn’t receive these services, but I can tell you, my life is so much better than it was. My children and I live in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment. We are receiving therapy to overcome the trauma we experienced. I work as a supervisor and I will be attending school in September to finish my BA. My children and I will also be traveling to visit family that I have not seen in six years. This is a trip that four years ago I could only dream about taking. But best of all, I can now look into my children’s eyes and say that everything is going to be okay. I can say this without being afraid that something is going wrong. Thanks to The Second Step, I am able to say this.
I participated in The Second Step's Mentoring Program last year. I always looked forward to those Wednesdays twice a month. I enjoyed sharing my story with other survivors of domestic violence and analyzing and getting strength from the other survivors. The support that we had from the mentors, from the group and from each other was great. The children’s mentoring program was good for my kids, too. The money isn’t always enough for me to do things with my kids. The Wednesday Mentoring Program was like a day off, and the three of us really loved going to the program. My daughter especially looked forward to Wednesdays. She is 6 now. She loved her mentor and asks for her mentor. I can’t go to the Mentoring Program this year because I’m in school Wednesday nights. I hope to return next year. I’ve kept in touch with my mentor, but miss the community of the regular meetings with the survivors in the group. It gave me so much emotional support.
TSS has referred me to a dentist to get some much-needed dental work and to a month-long career coaching and resume writing program. I graduated from that program and have found it really helpful.
The people at TSS are wonderful. They love what they do. You see it because they are very passionate about their job. I wish there were more people like The Second Step.
I believe in myself more, that I can choose any goal and attain it. I deserve to be treated well and I deserve more from a husband than what I was getting. One day I want to be a donor to The Second Step.
I am currently enrolled in a medical assistant program. My short term goal is a medical assistant. My long-term goal is to become a registered nurse. I’ll have to take one step at a time until I can achieve my nursing degree. School is going great, my grades are good and I’m working hard because I can’t disappoint myself. I have a big network behind me and I don’t want to disappoint them, either. Every person worked so hard for me to get the money to go to school and the only way I can repay them now is to give back by telling my story.
When I decided to leave my abuser, I found out about a place called The Second Step. In accordance with the shelter protocol, I interviewed with many transitional housing programs, but their philosophy did not fit how I wanted to proceed with my life. I declined their offers of housing, which was unheard of. I took a chance on waiting for an opening at The Second Step. I read and reread their mission statement: “a way from violence to self-reliance” and I knew this is where I would begin to rebuild.
What I did not know was to what extent. While at The Second Step, I returned to work and soon decided I was capable of more. The staff encouraged me to do away with the shame of domestic violence and homelessness. The Second Step helped me find my dignity and account for the choices I had made. I so much needed to be determined for my child, who had given me reason and purpose for life … to believe and achieve, step up to the plate, and be all that I could be. The Second Step allowed me to do that and more.
I lived at The Second Step for 18 months. I placed my trust in the staff. I lived with a group of women who began as strangers and ended as some of my closest friends. I began to think of myself as a survivor. I enrolled in school and continued to work full time. Many days I did not know how I could keep up the pace, but I believed that the worst had come and gone. I was awarded scholarships from The Sunshine Ladies Foundation, The Liz Kirsch Opportunities Fund, and from an anonymous donor.
I moved on from The Second Step equipped with the tools to live free of abuse and to achieve success as a mother, a student, a professional, and a mentor to others.
Today, I am a college graduate with my bachelor’s degree in Human Services. I am a paid consultant and family liaison for a variety of national organizations dedicated to ending homelessness. My daughter is healthy, happy, and growing.
The most difficult thing I have ever done in my life was to find the strength to get out. It’s certainly not easy and people aren’t as sympathetic as you’d think they would be. I became the “abused” woman at work that people whispered about. My neighbors now waved from a safe distance. No matter how far we think we’ve progressed, there is still such stigma attached to domestic violence. I know about this stigma because I experienced it firsthand.
By the time my husband was ordered to leave our home, our finances were in shambles. We fell behind on our mortgage. Bill collectors were relentless. The house needed to be sold. Here I was at 50, about to become divorced and quite possibly, homeless. I had no idea what to do next. I soon found out that there are few places, if any, for women my age to turn to for help. Luckily, this is when I was referred to The Second Step.
At first, I was hesitant to talk about what was happening. I was so scared and too afraid to trust…anyone. I was also feeling numb from loss. It was indeed a slow process. I knew that eventually my physical wounds would heal….but not so sure the emotional ones would - ever.
At The Second Step, I was met by open arms and gentle and understanding hearts. It was in the dead of winter when I explained to Carole Thompson that I was living in a house that was freezing. My gas had been shut off for about a month. I was using a space heater in one room only for warmth. I had no place to cook and had no hot water. I could see my breath in front of me….and I was inside my house. I showered at the gym and prayed I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. I was also getting sick. I was having problems with my blood sugar from not being able to eat regular meals. Carole quickly arranged to have my gas turned back on. Carole also made it possible for me to get some groceries now that I had gas to cook with. I didn’t think I’d ever stop crying those tears of relief.
In the spring, a buyer appeared out of nowhere and agreed to purchase my home. The bank had agreed to a short sale and I had to get out – quickly. I am quite positive that I would not have been able to find a safe place to live if it weren’t for The Second Step.
I made an appointment to see the cutest little apartment in world. I was so excited…it was located in a different city, on a street that was tucked away, in a safe area…with good strong doors. I knew that I could afford to pay the rent. But you know what’s awful about finding the cutest little apartment in the world? Realizing that you cannot possibly come up with a first, last and security deposit – each equal to one month’s rent.
When people ask, “Why don’t you just leave?” This is one of the many reasons why we don’t “just leave.” The Second Step recognizes this reality. I remember feeling so defeated. I called Carole and explained what the circumstances were. Without missing a beat, Carole had names of several different resources ready and waiting for me including help for my security deposit. Carole didn’t stop there though….she referred me to several more places that offered help. Before I knew it, I was moving boxes into that cute little apartment
I have experienced The Second Step as a volunteer, former board development chair, donor, and Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign that enabled The Second Step to purchase and refurbish a second residence to double the number of families they serve in their residential program. My experience with The Second Step and the Capital Campaign was probably the single most significant and moving volunteer experience I have had in my many years as a community volunteer. It gave me the opportunity to make a concrete and measurable difference in the lives of women and children.
As a donor and a board member, I have always been impressed by how committed The Second Step staff and board are and how hard they work together to achieve the best results for their clients.. I was most actively involved at a time when major transitions were taking place: the agency was increasing the size of its staff and programming, and the board was transitioning from a founding board to a board that would be dealing with the new challenges that expansion and the next stage of organizational development present. I was very impressed by the degree of professionalism and commitment exhibited by both the staff and the board. The goal was always to focus on the needs of the families served and to find solutions to the issues that survivors of domestic violence face. Not only was the focus on current issues, but also on how to best serve these families in the future.
During the Capital Campaign I was able to meet both the donors who support The Second Step and the families served by the agency. Because of its excellent track record and the fact that The Second Step has a goal oriented program, donors were happy to commit their financial support for this project. The results of the program are measurable. Currently, 94% of those served who report back to The Second Step are abuse free, 87% are living independently, and 80% are off public assistance. The total effects on the lives of the families served are immeasurable.
As part of the campaign, we held numerous house parties in the local area, and clients of The Second Step were often invited to share their stories with the guests. It was very moving for everyone to hear directly from a client what a major impact their donations could have in the lives of survivors and their children. All of the speakers talked about what a difference The Second Step had made in their lives, and many expressed the hope that they would someday be able to give back to the program.
Personally, I have been impressed by the range of services offered to survivors and the fact that rather than duplicate the services that already exist in the community, The Second Step staff empowers survivors to connect with these resources. At the same time, The Second Step offers educational programs and mentoring for the mothers and a therapeutic afterschool program for the children. This program enables the children to deal with the trauma they have suffered, to learn how to break out of the cycle of abuse, and to heal from the damaging effects of what they have experienced and witnessed. Unlike a crisis shelter, The Second Step gives parents and children the necessary time to grow and to heal. Also, after families leave the residences, The Second Step continues to follow them. The Second Step recognizes that recovery is a long and complicated process, and staff is ready to help those who may encounter setbacks or who just need a little extra TLC. Some clients require years of support, and The Second Step is there to provide it.
In addition, The Second Step continues to expand its community programs for families who do not need to live in a residential setting, but who face many of the same problems as their residential counterparts. Staff also advocate for these clients and provide help with educational resources, job and career counseling, financial literacy training, life and parenting skills, legal advocacy, permanent housing assistance and nurturing groups.
I am writing as a neighbor of a family that has been helped by The Second Step (TSS). TSS helped the family find suitable, safe, and affordable housing, and connected the mother and children to community resources, including schools and health care. The changes in the children are palpable. It is such a pleasure to see a young boy, once fearful of every loud noise, learning to ride a bike and learning to laugh with his new neighborhood friends.
I have multiple forms of relationship with The Second Step - as a volunteer, as a Board member, and as the Academic VP at Lasell College, which works extensively with The Second Step through student projects (the partnership recently won the Massachusetts Campus Compact's annual award for best community partnership).
As a volunteer with my daughters, I have seen first hand the wonderful work this organization does with women and their children, providing them the tools to be confident and self-reliant following the terrible things they have experienced. It has been particularly valuable for me to see my daughters interacting with the children, seeing first hand what human beings can go through and how they can emerge even stronger as a consequence.
As a Board member, I have seen how passionate staff, clients, and the outside community are about the excellence and successes of TSS. It has been a joy to be involved with this great organization at this level - an organization that is always looking forward, not only with respect to the work it does with its clients, but also for the impact it can have on the larger social problem of domestic violence.
The ten-year TSS-Lasell College partnership includes: teaching of Lasell courses by TSS staff, including an honors seminar team-taught between the Director of Community Programs and myself; a long-term co-created children’s IMAGINE mentoring program in which Lasell students monthly mentor TSS children at Lasell; Lasell courses embedded with service-learning projects such as donation drives, special events fundraisers, and development of public relations materials to benefit TSS; Lasell student internships at TSS; and participation by TSS staff on the Lasell Justice Studies Advisory Board.