"Six strangers came into my life and helped me believe in myself again"

We could not think of a subject line beyond "a story from the source" for two reasons: First, there is no subject that could give this story -- and this openness -- justice.  Second, the story you are about to read (or might consider reading) is a letter coming directly from one of our program participants.   Often times, we share statistics or stories about the people we serve. When we received this letter, we felt compelled to share it in its entirety. 

Please know that the story below is one of incredible emotion and strength, and it might be difficult -- or triggering -- for some to read. It's a story of pain and happiness, and of hardship and success. 

The woman who wrote this letter has committed much of her life to helping others...in fact, she recently reached out to us about forming her own "village" (she was a part of our One Village One Family program). We have eliminated a few identifying factors from the story, but (other than that) it is in its original form. 

Thank you to this woman for having the courage to share her story in hopes that in can impact other people.
I recently got out of a very abusive relationship with the man that I have a 2 year old son with. You never realize how much abuse you can take or will accept until you have a child. My life before him was completely different. I was a normal college student, I will not say that my life was perfect, but I wouldn't think that I could say that this kind of thing was something I saw all the time. I was very naive about relationships because in my household, nothing was more important than work, school, and family. My father was a very strict man, still is to this day. He was a migrant worker, no English and worked his way up through school, graduation, to citizenship, to business owner, to home owner, to a family man. In most perspectives, my father lived the American dream: he came from nothing and made something out of himself. So, as you can guess there was no excuses for us to fail, because he proved anything is possible if you work hard and want it.
So, in all honesty my child's father was nothing of what I had come accustom to know from my father and his brothers, as far as a family man. He was carefree, he had children, but could still do everything that any other 21 year old could. He came and went as he pleased, he knew all the fun things to do, he could be gone for days at a time, and he had what I thought was absolute freedom. As someone like myself, it was enticing, I had always wanted to see what it was like to be a kid, have fun, and just let loose. I had just graduated college with my CNA license and was preparing to start work, but then I met him. As you would assume things happened rather quickly. We met, started dating, became a couple, fell in love hard, and then a few short months later I was pregnant. He had completely taken me away from everything that I knew to stay away from.
Of course the prince charming came out and assured me that everything would be ok, he was there for me, and everything else that seemed fit to say. Until I started to have complications. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with [life-threatening heath complications]. In a short way of explaining it, my body wasn't functioning properly and my body functions were impaired to where I needed medical attention quickly. As for my baby, at 8 ½ weeks, it was not moving or growing properly, and would most likely pass away within the months that followed. The three specialists I went to only gave me one option, to let my child go and get the help that I desperately needed or cause irreversible damage to my internal organs and brain functions. I had the abortion, alone, he never showed.
Months went by and no word from him. Then he finally called. He drew on my emotions and fed on my vulnerability and got me to go back to him, after all he was the only one that knew about it and we could comfort each other. At the beginning it was a healing process, but I didn't realize that the control and abuse was already there. Just like his spirit, he came and went as he pleased, he was in complete control of the relationship, when we were together, not, his rules were different than mine, and I should be happy to be with such a wonderful person, because no one else would want someone like me after what I did. The secret I had, was his new ammunition.
The saying, "treated me like a dog," sounds bad until you see that pet owners actually treat their furry friends better than he treated me. In 2012, was the first time he hit me. He blamed it on his overzealous passion for me and that he gets so jealous because he appreciates me so much. He groveled and cried over it to me and I forgave him. That was also the year I graduated from acting and modeling school. I had found a new sense of confidence and starting feeling normal. He realized that and that is when the emotional and physical abuse spiraled. I was getting too much attention, and the only person that is allowed to control me is him, not some photographer, and I shouldn't be anywhere near another man if I am truly not cheating. So with all the backlash and humiliation, I gave that up too. I wasn't allowed to do or be better than him.
By 2013, the abuse, his temper, his paranoia, and accusations got the best of him, three blunt hits to my face and my nose was broken.  There was excuses and cover stories for everything at that point, this time, if humiliation wasn't enough, being a thug was just the added step to add to my newfound self. My face was an example for Thanksgiving conversation to his family of what happens when you get into a bar fight. I started distancing myself from him and he got angry. No matter where I went he found me. If things weren't bad enough, I ended up pregnant. I had serious thoughts of adoption, I would go away to have my child, and come back. But then the thought of my baby I had to give up was so overwhelming, I wanted this baby even more than I wanted my first. I was back and forth for weeks and then finally told him. That was the day I became his property. I had inside of me what was his. Even with the doctor stressing the pregnancy as high risk, still at 3 months, 4 months, 5 ½ months, and 7 months he hit me. A price I pay for having such a good life, and paying for my mistakes. He said he isn't perfect but he loved me. A good woman loves a man for the good he does and not the bad.
The last months of my pregnancy I was alone and away from him. He wasn't around for pictures, baby shower, doctor's appointments, or even the hours leading up to my son's birth. I called him to say his son was going to be born and he came. It was the most awkward time I had ever had with so much tension. My parents didn't' know about the abuse but have witnessed his off the charts behavior. My son finally came after 48 hours of labor. The happiest moment in my life! But just like everything with this man everything is short lived. 6 hours later after a sour proposal, he had me on the floor in the hospital bathroom cussing me out for the last couple months and calling me a worthless mother, and every other vulgar name you can think of. Up until my son was 9 months old did everything become too much to handle and it was visible to everyone mine and my son's unhappiness. An intervention from the school I was going to was the push I needed. In October 2015, I got a lawyer and filed a restraining order for Domestic Violence. Eight different types of documentation and it was passed straight to permanent. I was officially 100 yards protected from this man for a lifetime. Until I received the paperwork for custody.
As it stands, just because there was domestic violence between parents, it doesn't give grounds that the abuser was abusive toward my son even in the case of utero or witnessing it. So now, he is on supervised visitations and not allowed to be with my son alone. He was allowed to get him unsupervised, but was restricted once again, with the belief that my son endured trauma while in his care. A child family investigator and therapeutic reunification was requested by the court. My son still has a lot of problems but we are making progress, little by little. I have taken classes to untrain my mind of toxic thinking, joined a non-profit organization for Domestic Violence, have me and my son in therapy, attend weekly meetings with the non-profit organization, as of April I will be a mentor for [a local organization], and am now going to 10 week class on how to care for a child that has been through trauma.
One Village One Family was the best thing that ever happened to us. After abuse, people see you as this fragile person, not ready or capable of taking care of yourself and that your abilities are limited. You're seen as a battered woman seeking attention. I have always been a stereotype and it felt as though through this experience with my ex, I proved to everyone that at the end of the day I am just that: a single, unmarried minority, on assistance, no job...OVOF gave me the independence that I needed. All I wanted is for someone to see that I am well and capable of being a responsible adult and mother for my child. I wanted to break the stereotype and become the woman I lost a long time ago. I had consistent encouragement and lifelines when I needed to talk and needed help. The monthly meetings were great because if I needed something for me and my son the village helped me with getting it or helping out with the resources I needed. I got outside perspectives to my situation and other knowledge on how to start my new life. But everything that I accomplished was of my own free will and based off of how hard I worked and what I wanted. I broke my own cycle of abuse. I wasn't scared of being dependent on my ex for financial or emotional support. Six strangers came into my life and helped me believe in myself again. They encouraged me and helped me build a resume, find a job, and get a home of my own to be safe and secure for my son. We are so happy and it feels like even though my son still has problems with his dad, [my son now] has a positive influence that can show him that our past doesn't define us; it helps us survive and builds our strength to make a future. I sincerely thank One Village One Family for being a part of our lives and taking a chance on me, and thank you for showing me that even though I have been through this, I am worth it, he didn't break us, I am worth a chance, and I am the woman I always dreamed of being. 

Thank you.

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