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Survivor Story: Melanie (1990’s)

Melanie met Will in grammar school, growing up together. When they became a couple in the mid 90s, they had some minor disagreements, but that is to be expected in a new relationship. Things didn’t get bad until Melanie decided to get clean and “get [her] life together.” Will was an addict as well, but he was not that ambitious. The abuse only began when Melanie refused to financially support his drug habit and got worse after her mother died.

She found herself homeless with their two children. When Will’s mother found out, she invited them to stay with her, which they did for about 18 months. Unfortunately, the abuse did not subside. His mother tried to steer him towards getting clean and to stop abusing Melanie and their children, but it did not help. He continued to abuse Melanie when she refused him money to support his habit. She even tried fighting back when he was drunk, but it was no use. 

Melanie kept coming back to why she refused to marry him. She watched her father physically abuse her mother and she vowed to never follow in her footsteps. “The irony of it all is that I ended up being abused, anyway,” she said. She felt trapped, unable to reach out to anyone for help. She felt she could not go to the police or the courts for protection because she had gotten mixed up in some of Will’s felonious affairs and had a record because of it.

She feels her rock bottom was a literal one. Melanie ended up in the hospital after Will pushed her down the stairs. Stitched from one side of her stomach to the other was the painful reminder of the mortally wounded child that was taken from her womb. She was consumed by grief and guilt. She couldn’t believe that she allowed herself to get into this situation where now she had no home, no chance for another child, and no hope for the future. Little did she know that the hospital staff realized her injuries were a result of domestic violence and found her the last open domestic violence-specific shelter bed in the city, at Family Rescue’s Rosenthal Family Lodge. Thankfully, Will’s mother agreed to watch their children. He had never hurt them, so she knew they would be safe.

In retrospect, the beginning of her new life started in the late 90s, with her entering Rosenthal. “They taught me so many important life lessons,” she said. Her advocate gave her tools to build her self-worth and inspiration to set higher goals. Although her kids were not at the shelter with her, Family Rescue’s Children’s Program staff provided weekly counseling sessions and visits to help them in their recovery from domestic violence trauma. Family Rescue’s legal advocates even helped her get her felonies expunged from her record.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” One day as she stepped outside the shelter, one of Will’s friends spotted her and told him where she was. Fearing he would come after her and possibly hurt some of her friends or the Rosenthal staff, Melanie left the shelter. Again, she was homeless. She tried coming back to Rosenthal after awhile, but no beds were available. Once again, she entertained the thought of returning to Will, just to have a roof over her head. Maybe the abuse would not be as bad as before, she wondered. She was battling the demons of her depression once again, but this time, she remembered the lessons she learned at Family Rescue. She felt equipped to fight back against her demons and remind herself that abuse is not love and a way to show love is not through abuse. She mattered, she was important, and she could accomplish anything her put her mind to. Only she could shape her future.

Armed with a fresh sense of self-worth, Melanie rejected the thoughts of returning to Will and set out to make a new life for herself, no matter how difficult the task. After leaving Rosenthal Family Lodge, Melanie would stay in two more shelters over the next year. She enrolled in college and completed the requirements to become a Certified Alcohol & Drug Addictions Counselor. She got a job at a women’s treatment facility. She began volunteering to speak to women who find themselves in the same situation she once was in, letting them know they can not only survive, but they can thrive.

In addition to her renewed life, Melanie experienced something unexpected. At the funeral of Will’s mother, she came face to face with her one-time tormentor. Will tried to charm her to into coming back to him. He recognized and apologized for his past transgressions and this time, things would be different for sure. What he did not know, though, was that the Melanie standing in front of him was not the same woman that he pushed down the stairs. She was no longer scared, helpless, or naïve. Allison quickly recognized the patterns in Will’s behavior and knew she didn’t need him to feel complete. She was complete. This time, as she walked away, she knew Will was the one that was scared of her.

Asked what she would or could change about her experiences, Melanie responded, “I would not change any of it, including the abuse.” Melanie views her experience as being tried by fire and coming forth as pure gold.