In Return I Give You a Smile
For 29 years, Safe Place has been a haven for families struggling to break the cycle of violence. While every survivor is unique, Allison's story shows how Safe Place can dramatically change the lives of a woman and her children.
Because she had grown up with abuse, Allison didn't expect anything different when she married her abusive boyfriend at the age of 18.
"My kids and I slept together because we were so scared of him," she recalls. "He never gave me money for food, diapers, medical care or other necessities." Allison depended on her neighbors and her grandparents to survive. She also had a strong faith in God, and she took her children to church regularly.
"I remember one Sunday last summer. The kids and I were scrounging for pennies to get enough gas to make it to church. With tears in her eyes, my 9 year old daughter came back from paying the cashier $2.67 and said, 'Mom, I wish I could help.' I broke down and cried and promised them, with God's help, I'd get us out of this." Three months later, Allison was parked outside of Safe Place, debating with herself whether she would keep her appointment with the family violence therapist.
"I honestly don't know where I'd be if I had driven off. Before I left Safe Place that day, I signed up for ‘Suits with Skills' and support group. I talked with an advocate about my legal options and applying for a protective order. I knew I had done the right thing by coming to Safe Place. My counselor helped me to know that I am okay. Each time I see her, she gives me an outstretched hand and a strong 'You can'."
Today Allison and her children are living safely in a transitional housing program. She is studying to be a nurse and has received a special scholarship to help with her expenses. She continues to check in with her Safe Place counselor. "I'm so thankful for my counselor who gives and expects nothing in return, except maybe a smile."