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 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.
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