Emily: A Survivor’s Journey
The photo is from our Freedom House virtual tour film, and is representational only, per confidentiality.
A survivor, a one-time resident of Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House and now a member of our Board of Directors, Emily shares her intense, inspiring journey, as part our domestic violence awareness month coverage.
I grew up in an unhealthy environment. Never had “a good enough mother.” I was abused as a child in every form. I Know what it is to be hurt in life. I am a survivor.
In 2009, I decided that I had enough of living in an abusive relationship with my children’s father and picked up the phone to find shelter. I was accepted at (Barrier Free Living’s) Freedom House (domestic violence shelter) and my new life began.
I entered Freedom House with my children and was greeted with respect and empathy. I stood there, with bags and suitcases at my feet, scared and drained of all energy.
When asked if I needed any help carrying my bags to my apartment, I shook my head no and smiled. I still remember the lady on staff that night saying to me, “If you need help and someone offers it, you should say yes.” That single sentence has stuck with me from that night and has helped me tremendously.
Freedom House saved my life. A few days after my arrival, the psychiatrist came to my room to see me because I did not want to see her. I did not want to be labeled as “crazy”.
I told her “I am fine, I am not crazy”. She said “You are not crazy and I am here to wish you a belated birthday, and to welcome you to Freedom House and want to let you know that I am here for you if you want to talk. “
I felt like a human being for the first time in my life. From then on I could not wait to see her every week.
My stay lasted for a little over three months. My favorite times were my meetings with my social worker and psychiatrist. For me, it was this support system that kept me from falling apart. It was this support system that stepped in when the rest of the world seemed to step out.
A year after I left Freedom House I went to Barrier Free Living’s Secret Garden program for counseling. My social worker listened to me cry, cared if I had food to eat, and stood by my side as I faced my abuser in court.
They gave me advice on everything from cyber security to safety planning and where to find resources that would help me get back on my feet. It was because of their care and guidance that I ended up embarking on my journey toward healing, toward recovery, toward a new life (and eventually to becoming a social worker and to joining the Freedom House board).
A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, recommended for abuse survivors and depression patients alike, plus psychiatric medication, helped me reach a separate peace. There is no doubt in my mind that I couldn’t have done it alone.
Barrier Free Living (and its programs) gave me a second chance in life. They gave me hope. They advocated for me. They cared about my struggles. They listened with a loving heart. And every single time I was down, they were there to remind me of my strength.
I am forever grateful for their patience, understanding, and empathy.
Next week, read part two of Emily’s searing story and how she found healing forgiveness a route to give back to the people that helped her so much.