Ava called The Selene Center in November after her husband was arrested on domestic violence charges. It wasn’t the first time he had been arrested for hurting her, but it was the first time she reached out for help. Her adult children had been encouraging her to leave the relationship, but it wasn’t easy. They were fixing up a rental property together, he had just gotten a new job, and she loved him.
The temperature was dropping and Ava didn’t have heat in the home she was living in, so the first time we met it was to give her an electric heater. She had many things working to her advantage including a good job, a vehicle, a support system, and a place to stay even if it was chilly. She could even take hot showers at her daughter’s home.
Ava started coming to group counseling right away and has been attending them for four months. She arrived early on the first night and we went over safety planning measures like changing her locks, signing up for the VINE program, and informing the security guard at her work about the situation. Ava filled out a danger assessment with questions about the history of her abuse so we could measure the seriousness of the situation. She scored a 26, putting her in the highest category of 'extreme danger.' She was starting to realize why her family was so adamantly encouraging her to get help, and why they felt like they were losing the strongest woman in their lives.
It didn’t start out that way, but Ava’s marriage had become a trap. She was forced to leave jobs she loved because her husband didn’t like the hours, she was questioned for wearing makeup, questioned for straightening her hair, and questioned for letting it have its natural curl. She couldn’t buy new shoes or new clothes, and the last bra she bought was over three years ago for her wedding day. When Ava went to the store, he went with her. She couldn’t buy the food she wanted to buy because it was too expensive, but he was always permitted to buy beer. She was told which day she could do laundry and at what times and she was definitely not allowed to cook for her family.
It became too much and when her husband’s court date was scheduled, Ava wasn’t going to let his actions slide anymore. She worked with a court advocate to write a victim impact statement and submitted her danger assessment to the prosecutor. During previous court appearances he was able to intimidate Ava and convince her not to testify, but not this time. We sat together for three hours outside of the courtroom while he made his guilty plea to the judge. His sentence included jail time and a mandatory protection order, providing Ava temporary relief from his intimidation and manipulation. Her statement to the prosecutor:
“Hello, my name is Ava. Carl and I have been married for three and a half years. In these years he has been in jail for being physically abusive with me. He has always talked me out of pursuing charges. ‘Things will be better’ he would say.
Things weren’t better, especially with the day to day belittlement, or when he has continuously smashed my head into a wall causing my head to swell up. Or, breaking a TV because of throwing me into it. Or, the countless times throwing me down to get my phone so I wouldn’t be able to call for help. Smashing my hands after I’ve had surgery on one. Smashing my body in the door to try to stop me from leaving to get help. Making me physically ill at work and have to leave. Making me lose my family and have them fear that I wouldn’t make it out alive again, Make me fear that it won’t be better and I may lose my life the next time he decides to be physically violent with me again.
I’m thankful I’m now getting the help that I should have a long time ago. I hope to be strong again with my family. I’m finally able to have the support I need to do so.”
Today, Ava is hopeful for her future. She spends lots of time with her kids and grandkids and is excited to welcome a new granddaughter to the family in a few months. She has been offered a new job with amazing hours and benefits, and her divorce will be finalized this month. She’s been working hard to fix up her house and hopes to own it in a few years. Her family is already planning bonfires at grandma Ava’s house this summer and we couldn’t be happier for them to get the strongest woman in their lives back.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
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