It’s been said that home is where the heart is, but what if home is also where the hurt is? What if within your four walls there’s not freedom to be who you are—there’s fear?
This is the story of many men, women, and children suffering from domestic violence, and it’s certainly the story of Ruth*.
Ruth is a mother of three, and most notably, a survivor.
After an unremarkable seven years of marriage, with no red flags present, Ruth’s then-husband decided to pursue a different career path. But according to her, what came with his newfound profession was an immense amount of pressure, and the expectation to be everything to everyone eventually led to his substance abuse.
Over the years Ruth had her suspicions, as her husband attempted to hide his drug dependency, but it wasn’t until she walked in to see him actively using that she knew it was time to act. She ran for the phone, but would never reach it. The last thing she remembers was a body on top of her chest and hands around her neck.
If it wasn’t for her son entering the room, allowing her to break free and run for help, she’s sure the outcome would’ve been much worse.
She was hopeful for a reconciliation to keep her young family together, so when she was served with divorce papers—while also dealing with a tragic loss within her extended family—she was completely shocked. That same day, her husband changed the locks on her home, the ignition to her car, went through her belongings, and without permission, picked the kids up and took them away.
Ruth describes this period of her life as complete “mental anguish.” Her husband was attempting to turn the children against her; using them as leverage. She was filled with fear that he would harm them in order to hurt her. The stress caused her to lose her job. She felt directionless but knew the next step was to secure an attorney and make sure her children were always kept safe.
During this time, Ruth was also searching for new employment and happened to attend a Texas Workforce meeting where she heard an outreach specialist from The Family Place give a presentation that moved her to tears.
And then, hope.
The Family Place empowers victims of family violence by providing safe housing, counseling, and skills that create independence while building community engagement and advocating for social change to stop family violence. They’re the largest family violence service provider in North Texas—including the state’s only shelter for men and children—with three emergency shelters providing 177 shelter beds each night.
Not only do they service victims of domestic violence, but The Family Place offers services to batterers to assist in changing their behavior, as well as youth education programs. Their goal is to shift victims to survivors – and that’s exactly the encouragement Ruth needed to hear on that day.
Moved with emotion, at the end of the presentation, Ruth asked for the contact information to The Family Place and called immediately. She says,
I just never thought of abuse in that way before. They were speaking about the red flags—the verbal abuse, the spiritual, financial, emotional abuse—all of that was my story and I had no idea. I was eager to educate myself.
Ruth began individual and group counseling services with The Family Place, as well as family counseling with her children. Her main focus was to get them the services they needed to excel in school and at home.
And excel they did.
After a divorce that lasted over two years, Ruth was finally given custody of her children and home. And even though her ex-husband continued to attempt to control and manipulate her, Ruth now had the resources she needed to move forward without fear.
Ruth once said something to her daughter that resonates as true for so many dealing with domestic violence. When her daughter asked, “Mommy, do you want me to hate him?” she replied, “No. I want you to be aware.”
That awareness—for all men, women, and especially young children—is the cornerstone foundation of The Family Place. They’re driven to educate and empower, and that’s certainly been the experience for Ruth.
They have great information: safety plans, resources. There are stipulations—criteria they have. You have to be moving forward. You have to try, and they will do whatever they can within their means. So don’t give up. Stay with like-minded people coming out of similar situations. Don’t go back. You deserve better for yourself and your children.
Today, Ruth is excited about life again. She says that she hopes to one day fall in love and marry, and she’s honored to share her story if it means someone experiencing a similar situation can be saved.
Don’t let anyone control you to the extent that you miss God. Don’t people-please. Please God. You have to persevere. You have to stay connected…and you have to be gentle. Spend time with your kids. Don’t take frustrations out on them. Take time and pause so they don’t have fear put in them. I made it out by the grace of God—suffered and ashamed for years— but you don’t have to be that way. There are tons of people who have gone through the same. You have to live.
And live he is. From the hardest place, to The Family Place, to a space of grace. Ruth is a warrior, and a true testament to the fact that: Hurt will never, ever overcome hope.
If you or someone you know needs help, connect with The Family Place, call the 24-hour Crisis Hotline at 214-941-1991, or visit www.familyplace.org. The website has an “Escape Website” tab in the event that you feel like you’re being monitored or stalked.