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.”
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.
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!
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.
You 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 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!
Calling All Caped Crusaders: WC&S has Joined the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge!
You reach in your purse to pay for something and don’t have your wallet. Embarrassing right? Now imagine you are a woman trying to escape Domestic Violence. You know you have to get out, you want to get out, and you are ready. In fact, you know if you don’t get out now there may just not be another chance. You’ve been secretly saving for just this moment. You reach in your purse and your wallet is gone, and you KNOW you put it in there.
How can this be, you wonder? Your heart falls, and you know. There just is no way out.
Sadly, financial abuse occurs in 99% of all domestic violence. Without money to escape the abusive relationship, a woman simply cannot leave. Or worse, even after breaking free, the survivor has to return right back to the abusive situation.
Financial abuse is domestic abuse. While it’s invisible unlike the marks left by physical abuse, it’s still a trap. It’s a strong trap that prevents a victim from leaving just like being under the control of a lock and key. But there is a key to unlock Financial Abuse. And you can help; you can be the hero that unlocks that lock. You can join us in the Challenge here.
We at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh are excited to announce we’ve been chosen as one of 200 nonprofit organizations serving domestic violence survivors throughout the entire country to be a part of the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge! Since 2005, this competition has taken place every year with the goal of developing long-term security and safety through financial empowerment. This year, we’ve been selected to join this friendly fundraising competition to secure economic empowerment for domestic violence survivors in the Pittsburgh area. – Domestic violence affects one in four women in her life. – Every nine seconds a woman is abused. – 99% of all domestic violence cases include financial abuse, too.
On a greater scale, through this Purple Purse Pittsburgh Challenge, we’re ready to help the next woman flee financial abuse. She can find her inner hero again; until then, with your support, we can be her hero.
“I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”
~ Wonder Woman
The challenge begins October 2nd, but if you’d like to look around our Crowdrise Purple Purse Pittsburgh page now, please feel free to browse. From there, you can find out information about how you can be a hero by joining our team. And if you’re not the rah-rah-fundraising type but more of a silent caped crusader, that’s okay, too! You can visit the page, make a contribution, and then fly off to your next life-saving adventure.