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Ruthie’s Survivor Story – Reaching Out and Finding Hope Within

“I used to worry someone was going to say ‘This isn’t what we’re here for. We’re here for real abuse.’ But no one at WC&S ever said that to me.”

“I started to realize something was wrong when I saw a WC&S flyer at a doctor’s office. It asked ‘Does your partner check your social media and ask for your passwords?’” said Ruthie, a self-employed artist. “And it hit me. I was going to take a picture, but then realized I couldn’t because my husband would see it in my phone.”

Although this was the beginning of the journey for Ruthie, she was still in denial. She had been married to her husband, Jim, for nearly two decades and always thought he was a kind, caring person. “My brain couldn’t make sense of it,” she explained.

Two months later, Jim told Ruthie he had been reading her journals and then took her phone, isolating her.

“I Googled a friend’s number, hid in the basement, and called her. She said ‘Ruthie, that’s abuse. What do you need?’ But I couldn’t hear it. It was too soon. But I was one step closer.”

Jim continued to check Ruthie’s phone and repeatedly accused her of having affairs. She changed the passcode, but when Jim noticed, he demanded she change it back.

“When I told him no, he took my phone away for four days, like I was a teenager or something,” remembered Ruthie. “I recently found a piece of paper from this incident. I wrote down essential phone numbers and hid the list in case I needed it.”

Jim’s abusive behaviors escalated. He woke Ruthie up at night and harassed her with questions — Who was she seeing? Where was she going? “I told him this wasn’t okay and he said, ‘Well then, I hope you don’t make me do it again.’ He was always blaming me for his actions.”

Jim made it difficult for Ruthie to do her work as an independent artist. He picked fights with her before client appointments. He refused to watch their children and she would have to spend money on babysitters. “He made it hard for me to get my finances together,” said Ruthie.

Ruthie knew this wasn’t right but didn’t know what to call it. “Jim would endlessly ask me questions I had already answered, trying to get into my head and make me admit something. He wanted to keep me off balance,” said Ruthie. “I didn’t realize this was abuse. He wasn’t hitting me. I just didn’t know what to do.”

A friend recommended Ruthie call WC&S. “The DV advocate told me it wasn’t my job to figure out what was wrong with Jim. I used to think if I could get him to change, we could get through it. But this wasn’t on me.”

Ruthie began coming to WC&S for individual therapy. “I was surprised the first time. I was certain I would be going downstairs into a dark, underground space. But it was so bright and beautiful. The safety awareness made me feel comfortable enough to open up.”

She brought her youngest child to the Children’s Advocacy Program during her sessions. “They fed him, he did art projects, and he made friends. It was reassuring to have my child be comfortable there too,” Ruthie smiled.

Ruthie read a list of all the things that Jim had done or said to her and then started speaking about her own perceived flaws. ‘I was saying ‘I know I avoid conflict…’ and my therapist said ‘Stop. Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean you deserve abuse.’ This is the first time I wasn’t blamed. She understood me,” said Ruthie.

Now, she also participates in a support group centered around healing from trauma.

“It was the first time I was in a space where people really talked about what happened. I mentioned I had a list of things I could safely talk to my husband about. Another participant said ‘I have that list too. What’s on yours?’ In the support group, we’re free to talk about anything.”

Ruthie’s husband used to tell her what to do, and when she first started coming to WC&S, she wanted her therapist to give her instructions, too. “Now that I’m further along, I realize that I’m in charge of myself. My therapist tells me ‘You will know what to do.’”

Recently, Ruthie and Jim tried going to a marriage counselor – something that is not recommended because the abuser will often find opportunities to use power and control. Ruthie said couple’s therapy was a failure, but she learned an important lesson. “Coming from a religious background, divorce was discouraged. I thought if I tried this, I could say I tried everything. And I did,” Ruthie declared.

Ruthie and Jim are safely cohabiting and coparenting their four children. “Right now, it isn’t feasible for me to leave and give my children what they deserve. But it feels like a separation of sorts. It’s over. I don’t engage with any of the things that he does. I don’t feel scared all the time.”

Ruthie is working on financial independence so she can someday separate from Jim completely. “I’m constantly evaluating and safety planning with my therapist. I will leave when I am able. But, we will always be in each other’s lives to some capacity because we have children together.”

“I used to think that in order to feel relief from the pain I was in, I needed him to do something,” said Ruthie. “I thought I needed him to fix it. Now, I know I can’t change him, I can only influence my life. I’ll forever be grateful to WC&S.”

Lisa’s Survivor Story: Free from Abuse, 42 Year Later

“I was born into a family with many problems – drugs, alcohol, and abuse,” Lisa began. She spent her early life in a tumultuous home with an inconsistent father an abusive mother.   

In her teens, Lisa’s father kept a close eye on her and her sister, but one activity they were permitted to do alone was play tennis. It was there, on the court, where Lisa met her future ex-husband, Bill – when he was 20 and she was 14. 

“We started to see each other and soon, he began to buy things for me. He saw I had nothing. He bought me shoes, a watch, and then an engagement ring,” recalled Lisa. “I never had so much attention and so I thought it was love. I had NO idea what I got myself into.” 

When Lisa was 16, there was a family argument about Bill. Her parents made her end the relationship and sent her away to her grandmother’s house. Lisa’s adult male cousin was also staying with their grandmother. One night, he manipulated her into sharing some drugs and alcohol, and then her cousin sexually assaulted her.  

“I told my Grandmother that I was sick and needed to go home,” Lisa remembered. “I left, promising to stay away from my fiancé, and I tried. I wanted to listen to my parents, and I was struggling with what happened to me that no one knew about.” 

Bill heard that Lisa was back in town and their relationship began again. After a particularly difficult time for Lisa’s family because of her father’s abuse, her parents consented for her to marry 22-year-old Bill at the age of 16.  

“Our wedding night was very strange. He asked his best friend to go to the drive-in theater with us. They sat in the front seat together, and I sat – utterly alone – in the back seat,” lamented Lisa. “The day after our wedding, he became a totally different person. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’” 

Bill began to coerce Lisa into sex. “One day, I asked my mother-in-law for some advice. She told me a good wife will submit to her husband, no matter what he wants,” said Lisa. “She twisted scripture to try and make me believe this, but I couldn’t let it go. I told my husband how I felt, and he said he was doing nothing wrong. I argued and this is when the beatings began.” 

After a few months of physical abuse, Lisa was determined to leave. Bill lied; he said he was now her legal guardian, and he would have her committed. She was terrified, so she submitted to survive.  

“I tried to work, but I couldn’t hold a job, because he would accuse me of cheating on him. I never did!” explained Lisa. “He became so controlling that I was suffocating. I couldn’t make my own decisions. I was never allowed money, even if I worked for it.” Bill even prevented Lisa from finishing her college degree.  

Bill lost his job, and although money was tight, he began to beg Lisa for more children. “After our third child, I had a miscarriage. I didn’t want to try anymore. I didn’t think I could carry a child to term,” she shared. “He insisted and I continued to tell him no. Then, he secretly stopped using protection and I ended up pregnant.”  

Lisa kept the peace to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a “happy family.” For the next six years, there was a “honeymoon period” and she experienced no abuse. Lisa, Bill, and their five children moved and became involved with a church near their new home. Things were looking up. Then, an incident with a youth pastor and their youngest child sent things spiraling into despair. Bill got into legal trouble with their church, and they had to leave. Lisa’s support system had been ripped from under her and she was forced back into isolation.  

The family attended therapy together until Bill decided that he no longer needed to be included because “he was not the problem.” Their youngest child disclosed to a therapist that Bill was sexually abusing the child, who was removed from the home and from the safe arms of Lisa.  

This was the final straw. Lisa left and got custody of their youngest child. They lived with a friend and received services at a nearby domestic violence program. Through a referral, Lisa got connected with WC&S for her divorce case.  

In 2016, WC&S Civil Law Project (CLP) attorneys helped Lisa obtain a Final PFA Order to protect her and her child. A WC&S CLP attorney represented Lisa in 2017 for her spousal and child support case. Then, things took a turn. Bill and their adult children pressured Lisa into dropping the divorce case. They prevented Lisa from accessing the home to pick up church ministry instruments, her clothing, and other sentimental items. 

Lisa decided to move forward with her divorce case with her CLP attorney in 2020. After a hard-fought battle, the divorce was issued in April 2021. Lisa found the freedom she had yearned for, for 42 years.   

“After almost 5 long years of court, I am divorced. I lost everything, including 4 of our children he turned against me,” said Lisa. “But it is finally over, and I am so relieved.” 

Lisa and her youngest child are now happily living together in their own home. “I learned so many important lessons: there is help available, love does not hurt, and you are stronger than you know. I stayed quiet, and I never told anyone outside of my home what was happening. This was my mistake. Please learn from it. You do matter. There are people who care and can help! You can make it without your abuser.” 

Camillia’s Story of Hope

Listen as Camillia tells her brave survivor story, featured in Celebrating Survivors 2021 event.

Michael’s Story

Trigger Warning/Content Warning: This survivor story contains details that could be triggering, including domestic violence, rape/sexual assault, gaslighting, and mental health.

One Man’s Experience as a Survivor of Domestic Violence

Michael had been in a relationship with his ex-wife Kara (not her real name) since they were in high school. However, she did not become abusive until they were both in their 20s. “We never really left our adolescence – we had known each other for over half of our lives,” said Michael.

They hit some bumps in their marriage and there was anger on both sides. Michael said he was not blameless – he got angry and said unkind things, too. Michael and Kara saw a marriage counselor. Unfortunately, Michael learned first-hand why attending marriage counseling with an abuser is not recommended. This creates opportunities for abusers to exercise power and control. Kara lied to the marriage counselor, saying Michael was the abuser and Kara the victim. “She saw how her lies could control me and started gaslighting me into thinking I was the abusive person,” he said.

Michael experienced emotional, physical, and sexual violence at the hands of his ex-wife for more than 3 years. She would hurt him and tear him down and then a short while later, gaslight Michael and tell him that he was responsible for the abuse.

“There was also some self-coercion. I thought that maybe I could convince her to love me more and have her feel safe by encouraging her to hurt me. This is a really tough thing to realize after the fact. For a long time, I thought that made it my fault,” acknowledged Michael.

Michael said Kara was very skilled at subtle manipulation. The primary way she controlled him was to say that he was the abuser in the relationship. “No one had ever told me it was possible for a man to be abused,” he explained. “I recognized no red flags. I just thought I was in a bad relationship. I was raised that when there was a problem in a relationship, you work through it. But that was not the case. You cannot work through abuse.

After three years of abuse, lies, and gaslighting, Kara decided she loved someone else and wanted to be in a polyamorous relationship with Michael and another man. “She insisted that I comply and accept the third person in the relationship. I insisted she decide between the two of us and she would not. So, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I left,” said Michael.

Although Michael was the one to leave Kara, he was unable to see that he made a good choice for himself. “For years, I couldn’t give myself the win. I insisted she left me. But really, I did leave her and I know that now,” he said.

Michael moved to a new city, mostly to get away from his ex-wife, but had little success with dating. “There was a time I would be upfront with people I wanted to date. I’d say ‘I have issues because of this thing that happened to me’ and they would run away,” expressed Michael.

A short time later, Michael met the woman who would become his now-wife. At first, everything was great. Then, one day, they had a bad sexual experience that caused Michael to break down. He went to a sex therapist who told him what he was truly experiencing was trauma. Then, he was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed him anti-depressants.

“But, the anti-depressants didn’t really work for me. I wasn’t clinically depressed – I was experiencing situational depression. Eventually, I found a trauma therapist, and that is what really helped me have a breakthrough,” he said.

He and his trauma therapist talked about his past and Michael joined a message board for people with PTSD. He says he learned a lot about domestic violence at that stage and he eventually began to accept that is what he experienced.

“I didn’t understand what happened to me for 15 years. I didn’t think of it as abuse or domestic violence for 15 years. I had already accepted I was emotionally abused, but I still didn’t think of that as domestic violence. I thought I couldn’t be abused because I am a man,” Michael pondered.

Michael said that back then, in the mid-2000s, there weren’t a lot of studies or papers on men as victims of domestic violence. The mental health field has made a lot of progress in the past decade and a half. Now, there are more messages about men as domestic violence victims in academia and the media, and this has given Michael some relief.

“I think the world is better now at understanding what can happen in any relationship – man, woman, straight, gay, trans – it can happen to anybody,” said Michael. But, he says that particular fears men can have may keep male survivors from coming forward.

“Men are worried about being perceived as gay, that they wanted it to happen, or that they are not really a man at all. These messages came not just from my dad and male peers, but they came from my mom, other women, people I had relationships with,” Michael declared.

Eventually, Michael came forward about his past and he was pleasantly surprised with his friends’ and family members’ reactions. “I disclosed to my friends and family that I had PTSD and everyone was so wonderful about it. There were no issues, but I was very careful with who I told. Then, several months later, I told them why I had PTSD, that my ex-wife was abusive to me. And still, they understood, loved me, and supported me. A lot of men don’t expect that kind of reaction,” told Michael.

Michael wishes that he had more context when he was younger and that he knew his relationship was not healthy. “My life would’ve been improved if I realized what was happening to me, reached out for help, and received services,” he said.

It is important to Michael for him to help lead other survivors to healing. He is enrolled in a Master’s level counseling program and has a goal to become a men’s trauma therapist.

“Getting triggered is a real thing. I have a responsibility to myself and my family to make sure I can deal with that. I’ve struggled with not wanting to get out of bed, with anger, with stress. I’m still here, I’m working it out,” said Michael. “It is my mission to help other men to get to this stage, too, where you have the tools and the skills to keep going.”

For Michael, finding a support system through his therapist, his family & friends, and especially other survivors has helped him to heal. “We’re all survivors and we need to be allies for each other.”

While Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh serves clients of all gender identities and sexualities, including straight, cisgender men, Michael is not a client of any of our programs. We connected with Michael through a webinar. WC&S encourages all survivors to reach out for help.

In Her Words: DV Survivors Speak about Women They Honor

At Women’s Center & Shelter, we celebrate women every day. And March presents a particularly special reason to celebrate. Not only is it Women’s History (Herstory, if you will) Month, but March also features International Women’s Day on March 8th. For this special day, WC&S staff members and residents share in a lively midday party with international foods from community vendors, world music, games, raffles, and more! It’s an empowering afternoon to come together and celebrate women around the world!

DV Survivors SpeakDuring the festivities, we each have the opportunity to talk about women who are inspirational to us. Ahead of the event, I asked several residents about women who have inspired them and why. Here are their words:

Eileen

“That’s easy—my mom. I watched her go through some of the same stuff I’m going through right now. Looking back now, and especially having kids, I know it wasn’t easy dealing with that stuff my dad put her though and trying to take care of us at the same time. I really don’t know how she did it actually.”

Shelby

“Whoever it was that answered the phone when I first called here. I wouldn’t be here without that lady.”

Jonee

“My sister, Rachelle. Though she’s relapsed a few times, she’s been sober for a little over a year now. I watched her go through some very rough situations because addiction is a powerful thing. She finally learned that she is more powerful than the drugs. If she could get through those dark years and make it to the other side, I know I will be able to, too.”

Skye

“My grandma. She raised me and took care of me and my sisters when no one else was there. There’s no better woman in the world than her. I miss her so much.”

Shayna

“Can I say you ladies here at the Shelter? Because I think all of you are inspirational. You make me feel like I’m important and that my life and needs matter. I don’t know how you did it, but you pulled out hope that was deep down inside of me. My life isn’t gonna be like this forever and now I know I don’t have to go through what I’ve been through anymore.”


If you’d like to celebrate with us, click here for a sign you can print out to tell us why you celebrate International Women’s Day! Share it with us on social media using the hashtag #WCSWomenToCelebrate.

All names have been changed for the safety of the residents. Thank you for understanding.

Teenagers Experience Dating Violence, Too. Do You Know the Signs?

‘Domestic abuse.’ Think about those words. Now, close your eyes for a moment. Picture the first image that came to mind. Did you see a fist? Or perhaps a bruised face? Maybe an inebriated, pot-bellied man in a dirty sleeveless shirt grabbing the arm of his wife as she struggles to escape his grasp? I did.

TDVAM

 

 

Even after working at WC&S for a few years, and knowing that ‘domestic abuse’ personified takes many different forms and can happen in any relationship, I still pictured the stereotypical, made-for-tv scene being played out by two married adults in a relationship. If you did, too, you’re not alone. Teenagers are not the first thought on our minds when we think of domestic abuse. But the statistics tell us they should be.

 

 

  • An alarming 1 in 3 teenagers in the United States will experience physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse from the person they’re dating.
  • Fifty-seven percent of teens know someone who has been in a physically, sexually, or verbally abusive dating relationship.
  • Only 33% of teenagers who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about it.
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner; it does not end at the teenage years.
  • Abuse happens in heterosexual and same sex relationships.

Teen Dating Violence Signs

But here’s a big one—81% of parents don’t believe teen dating violence is an issue or admit they don’t know if it is. So, if you’re a parent, do you think you could recognize the signs if your teen was in an abusive relationship? Eighty-two percent of parents feel confident that they would recognize the signs, yet 58% of parents couldn’t identify all of the warning signs correctly. Get to know the signs so you can recognize when they appear. Your teen may be in an abusive relationship if their partner:

  • is controlling
  • is jealous
  • checks your teen’s phone
  • makes your teen feel fearful
  • has an explosive temper and breaks and/or strikes things
  • demands details about how your teen is spending their time
  • is condescending and belittles your teen’s beliefs and values
  • tries to restrict your teen from having contact with friends and family
  • refuses to let your teen end the relationship by threatening self-harm or harm to your teen
  • is pressuring your teen to change their appearance, hairstyle, clothing, etc.

And one more to notice–your teen has unexplained injuries (or the explanations don’t make sense) and casually mentions their partner’s violent behavior but laughs it off as a joke. But, it’s not funny and they’re not joking. Because teenagers experience dating violence.

How Can You Help?

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. So, in addition to getting to know some of the signs, make your commitment to learn about teen dating violence by sharing it proudly and publicly. Wear Orange for Love Day was February 11th, but if you missed wearing orange that day, do it any day this month! Use the hashtags #TDVAM20 and #Orange4Love to show your citrus-colored clothing on social media and interact with others who are learning, too.

If you want to talk to someone, we’re available on our 24-Hour Hotline at (412) 687-8005. Also, not only can teens call, but parents, guardians, or anyone who is seeking support or help for the teen can call – guidance counselors, teachers, family friends, etc. Our Hotline Advocates will provide emotional support, safety planning, resources, and more. We’re all in this together; our teens are depending on it.

Sites cited: rainn.org, ncdsv.org, wcscanhelp.org, firstthings.org, thehotline.org

January is Stalking Awareness Month: How Can You SPOT a Stalker?

Hey…you.

After a long week, you decide to spend Friday night journaling at your favorite café while sipping earl grey. The cupcakes look decadent so you bend down to select the one in the back with the sprinkles. Cupcake in hand, you rise and turn and bump into the guy behind you. You apologize for your clumsiness, give a half smile, pay the barista, and make your way back to the table.

A few days later, you go to your usual Wednesday morning spin class. The 5 am time slot is mostly filled with the same die-hard early birds, but this time, there’s a guy already warming up on your favorite bike. You’re somewhat annoyed because that’s your spot, but slide on to the one next to him so you can still get the same view. After class, you look over to catch a glimpse at the seat-stealer. Hmmm. Why does he look familiar? You shake it off and hurry home to get ready for work.

Stalking Awareness MonthYour Sunday isn’t a Sunday unless you spend an hour at Trader Joes after brunch. How else would you be able to post a picture of your #groceryhaul on Insta? Walking through the aisles in search of the newest finds, and your trusty staples, you see a crowd standing in front of the sampling station. You just want to reach around, grab the mini cheese wedge and go, but there’s a guy in your way. As you slide to your right, he slides to his left, and turns around almost hitting your cart. Is that Mr. Seat-Stealer? And come to think of it, he looks like the same guy from the café. You start to think he’s following you, but second guess it. That’d be crazy; it’s all in your imagination—it’s a coincidence…right?

Coincidences are just coincidences, until they’re not.

Stalking is serious and it’s a crime. In fact, a month is dedicated to it–January is Stalking Awareness Month. If you’ve ever been stalked, or know someone who has been, you know it’s not about love or to be romanticized like it is on the Netflix series You. Stalking is about control and power—taking yours and strengthening theirs.

But how do you know you’re being stalked? It’s possible to have a situation like the above, but what if it’s not so obvious? What if you have no idea someone is stalking you? Begin to take action now. Nothing is foolproof, but you can begin doing these four things to try to help prevent a scary, or potentially deadly, situation in the future. To help yourself remember, think of it as SPOT.

S.P.O.T.

Surroundings – Be aware of your surroundings. Notice the people around you. Put the phone down. Turn your earphone’s volume to a lower level.

Posting Locations – When you tag your locations so your friends can find you, chances are someone who is intent on stalking you can, too. Resist the urge to tag your every move, especially if you stick to a routine.

Oversharing – Commenting on social media. Watch what you say on your own social sites, but on the sites and pages where you comment. A simple comment of, “Oh, I love Frick Park. I go there every Tuesday afternoon,” tells a potential stalker where to find you just as easily as tagging your location does.

Trail – Keep a paper trail. If you begin to notice seeing the same individual no matter where you are, write it down. The time, the day, the location, what they were wearing, etc. Should you ever need it for documentation purposes with the authorities, you’ll have it.

Be safe out there and stay alert. If something doesn’t feel right or is causing you to question “coincidences,” by all means, trust your gut. SPOT the stalker.

Celebrating Survivors 2019: Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Sgt. Eric Kroll and the late Joyce McAneny to be Honored

Celebrating SurvivorsOur premier event is almost here!  Celebrating Survivors, will take place at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh the evening of Friday, April 26, 2019. Sponsored by UPMC Health Plan, this event celebrates survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), remembers those who have lost their lives to IPV, and will honor Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Sergeant Eric Kroll and WC&S’ beloved former Legal Advocacy Manager, the late Joyce McAneny, with Ted Craig Humanitarian Awards.

“Having worked doggedly over the years to bring the Lethality Assessment Program and domestic violence training to the City of Pittsburgh Police, Sgt. Kroll and Joyce McAneny have both shown exemplary advocacy for survivors of intimate partner violence. Sgt. Kroll and Joyce have given so much; they are both truly deserving of this honor,” said Nicole Molinaro, President/CEO of Women’s Center & Shelter.

Known as one of the training experts within the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Sgt. Kroll spearheaded the implementation of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) in the City of Pittsburgh. Police officers who are called to a home where intimate partner violence is suspected use the eleven-question lethality assessment with victims. If the officers determine a victim to have a high risk of being killed, they will connect the victim with WC&S while still at the scene. Working alongside law enforcement, the Office of the District Attorney, WC&S, and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and others, Sgt. Kroll took the lead on developing the policy, the training curriculum, as well as the implementation of the LAP smartphone app. Driven by a family member’s experience with domestic violence (DV), Sgt. Eric Kroll has shown great compassion toward victims of DV and a steadfast dedication to addressing the issue as an officer within the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

Joyce was an integral member of the team that implemented the Lethality Assessment Program here in the City of Pittsburgh, which will no doubt be a part of her lasting legacy. She also worked alongside Sgt. Kroll and members of the District Attorney’s Office to provide DV training at the local police academies. Throughout her 20 years at WC&S, Joyce provided court accompaniment and safety planning to thousands of domestic violence survivors and worked to strengthen the justice system’s response to domestic violence. She worked tirelessly with judges, court administrators, attorneys, probation officers, police, and others in the justice system so that victims were better supported and batterers held more accountable.

KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland is the emcee for the evening and Honorary Event Chairs are the mother/daughter teams of Pat Siger & Carli Siger and Barbara Jeremiah & Abigail Gardner. The evening includes catering by Rania’s Catering, entertainment by The Kevin Howard Band, a Silent Auction, Wine Grab, Mission Moment, and more!

Celebrating Survivors is held annually in the spring with all proceeds benefitting WC&S’ programs and services for adults experiencing IPV and their children.

This year’s event is now sold out, so if you didn’t get tickets yet, we hope to see you next year!

Survivor Story: How You Helped Isabelle Blossom

Because of your help, one woman, a new mother, was able to turn her entire life around.

Isabel’s entire body hurt. It was heavy, as if lifting her arm to comfort her sweet baby was just too much to bear. She could no longer tell if it was the pain from the abuse the night before, or the heaviness of depression that had set in after the baby was born.

She really couldn’t tell where one pain began and the other ended. All she knew was that this depression was pitch black, lonely, dizzying space of vertigo feelings, thoughts, and worries. She loved her baby, but most days she barely had the energy to survive. She wanted more, for both of them. Isabel had no energy and didn’t believe there was a way out.

Can you imagine how horrible this must be, not even feeling joy with her own precious baby? And with the heavy pain of severe postpartum depression and wearing the scars of physical abuse, wondering if you and your baby will survive the night? Every night Isabel wondered, “Will he kill me before the depression does?”

Every woman who survives abuse is unique.

With nowhere else to turn, Isabel arrived at WC&S with her three-month old daughter Maria and severe postpartum depression. It was no easy journey for her to arrive at the Shelter, but she was so happy she made that choice. Because of your generosity, Isabel had somewhere to go that would understand the challenges of not only the crippling depression but also the impacts of severe domestic abuse.

Your support provided for a traveling nurse to help Isabel work through her depression and aided her in attending the Children’s Program’s Mom and Me Group for new mothers. As Isabel began down the road to a better place, physically and mentally, joy returned and she was happy to be a mom.

Your support helped two lives become joy-filled instead of lived in fear

Isabel blossomed during her time as a resident as she began to heal from physical and emotional abuse. There was an overall positive change in her happiness and bonding with Maria. You had a direct hand in helping Isabel climb out of the dark place that was stealing her light. With baby Maria, she understood her life was worth living, and with your help, she was given the tools to build it free from abuse.

You helped Isabel. And because of you, other women like her who have their own unique journey from abuse have a place to go in their darkest hour.

Thank you for making the critical services available to help make a difference in the lives of more women just like Isabel.

Read more Stories of Hope

Purple Purse Pittsburgh Challenge: Heroes, You Did It!!

Ending Financial Abuse so that Women and Children of Domestic Abuse can have better lives.

This was the first time Women’s Center & Shelter joined in this friendly fundraising competition and you went above and beyond to support women in your community. Because of your generosity, so many women will now have the help that they thought would never come.

Your efforts did so much more than you could ever imagine, translating into life-saving help for women and children of Domestic Abuse. Without resources like housing, counseling, and legal support, many women are forced to return to their abuser. They just don’t see any other options.
Purple Purse

You changed that. Your generous donation made it possible for 388 women to have a fresh start. Women like Lacey will now have not only a place to land safely, free from abuse, violence and never-ending fear, but also a supportive environment to heal.

Lacey remembers what it was like just days before coming to the Shelter. In fact, she can’t not remember, it’s so fresh she still jumps when she hears a loud noise. Something unexpected like the closing of a door behind her takes her back.

She remembers sitting in her manager’s office, her right leg shaking, nervously tucking a lock of hair behind her left ear. She could hear the heels clicking down what seemed like an endless hallway. One bead of sweat that had been pooling at the back of her neck finally broke and trickled down her back. For a moment, she felt a breath of cool air on her flushed face as the door swung open. But then her boss firmly walked in the office and matter-of-factly stated what she already knew. “It should be no surprise, Lacey. I’ve told you several times before—if your husband came here and caused a disturbance one more time, I’d have to let you go. His outbursts are bothering our clients, scaring the staff, and interrupting your work. I’m sorry, but your termination is effective immediately.”

Lacey had been fired. She needed this job. She needed the money—what little portion of her check she was allowed to keep. She was trapped. How would she ever be able to leave her abusive husband now?

Lacey is like so many women who are silently suffering, often their abuse goes unseen. The Laceys of the world are why we first joined the Purple Purse Challenge with Allstate. Because ending Financial Abuse is just that important.

You heard our call for help. Without hesitation, you jumped in and joined the Purple Purse Pittsburgh Challenge to help women flee the silent trap of financial abuse. You put on your capes and swooped in to assist like the heroes you are.

You spread the word everywhere. Whether you mentioned it to a coworker, texted a tennis partner, emailed your Aunt Edna, shared posts on Facebook, held a fun-draiser, or took to the PurplePursePittsburgh.com site with a debit card in hand. You absolutely spread the word EVERYwhere. You were determined to be her hero so she would one day be able to get on her feet and be her own. And for this, we simply cannot thank you enough!

Financial Abuse

Before the Purple Purse Challenge, you may not have even heard of financial abuse. Unlike its physical counterpart, you couldn’t see it. Even though 99% of the time they come together as a pair, financial abuse was an invisible, secret weapon. No one could see that Lacey’s husband kept most of her paycheck and gave her a small allowance from it. They could only see him showing up at work, and that was only a small part of the abuse he put her through.

Because of what you so selflessly did in generously supporting her, Lacey,
and other Pittsburgh women like her, is finally going to get the help she needs.

Talk about HEROIC! You even formed your own teams to help raise awareness. So that these women would have the best chance of making their escape from the grasps around their financial independence, you took the time to ask those around you to join in the fight.

Thanks to all of your support, 776 women can have one hour of help right over the phone through our 24-Hour Hotline. We can help them even if they can’t get to us. Whether they have questions about putting together a safety plan or they finally found the strength to tell someone for the first time what they’ve been going through, they can now receive help. We will be there, because you were there for them.

Womens Center & Shelter of Greater PittsburghYou gave the gift of peace. Because of you, after going to bed every night wondering when she will ever feel free, when she will ever be able to breathe and escape the suffocating feeling of control, 388 women will get a peaceful first night of safety here at the Shelter away from their captor.

Imagine how bad it has become in a woman’s life that she has absolutely NO WHERE to go with her children. NO WHERE to feel safe. Scared to death, all options have run out. Your support made it possible for 77 families in dire, immediate situations just like that, to receive Emergency Shelter.

Because you took the time to generously give, the kids won’t be left behind either. The children of 194 mothers can receive five hours of the structured Children’s Program so they can also start on a path of healing, too. Everyone deserves a life free from abuse. And it is just so important for children that have witnessed Domestic Violence to learn that life can be different, and find out how to make those choices now before they start forming their own relationships.

And thanks to you, 760 women can now receive an hour-long call of Economic Empowerment Advocacy and safety planning. Often the first step to a new life, you made that possible. Your willingness to help starts these women on a path of taking back the control of their finances and safety.

And as all the Laceys we can now help, because of your incredible support, move through our programs they will learn about the many forms of abuse and how they can live a life free from fear.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse comes in many forms; some you wouldn’t even expect. In fact, many of the women that come to us for help don’t even realize this is what has been happening. Financial abuse, like all forms of abuse, is designed to exert control over the victim. From their abuser, the women you’ve help have faced these types of abuse–he:

• Demands an account of everything she buys
• Doesn’t allow her name to be on accounts so she can build credit
• Prevents her from learning English
• Doesn’t get a job, leaving her trapped, barely able to make ends meet
• Makes fun of her financial contributions/belittling her efforts
• Prevents her from having/keeping a job
• Harasses her at work
• Interferes with her maintaining a job by sabotaging childcare or transportation
• Takes her money
• Makes her ask or beg for money
• Ruins her credit
• Gives her an allowance

Because of what you did for these women, you have started the life-changing process of helping her out of the stifling trap of a life she’d been living. No longer will he tell her what to do with her own money because you just made sure she will have her economic power back in her hands where it belongs.

None of this would have been possible without each and every one of you rounding up your fellow avengers and being willing to go into battle against abuse. Above, beyond, and flying high! Take off those capes and take a bow, heroes. You did it!! Thank you so much, friends! Now, up, up, and away!

Purple Purse Challenge