The verbal abuse started soon after we were married and it escalated. I have five children boys ages 3, 6, 9 and 11 and a 23 month old girl. The abuse worsened after the birth of my daughter. I left my husband several times but, as you can imagine, I could not make it on my own with the kids, and I would go back.
He would often stay up all night, as one way of controlling me. I had to sleep with my phone, my purse and keys attached to me so he would not take them. When he took them, I could not drive to work or get the kids to school. One night he punched me, stabbed a hole in the wall and held a gun to his head with our children watching. He said he hated me so much he wanted his brains blown all over me. Later when my boys starting mimicking their Dad’s behavior, I realized I had to find help.
I knew that if I allowed the abuse to continue, I was showing them that it was okay to treat women like that. I knew I had to get out for good. A friend at church did research on her computer for me so my husband would not find evidence on my computer. She found the phone number for the YWCA Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter.
I hid the YWCA hotline number in my phone—using a woman’s name to disguise it. The first time I called, I knew I had found a way to get out for good. They helped me make a safe plan for me and my family to get to the shelter. I was approved for admission, but the YWCA shelter was full and they could not find an opening at another shelter. I called back every day. The YWCA staff helped me work on a plan to keep us safe until I could get into shelter.
When I called on the 14th day, I learned that they had a room for us. I told my husband we were going to get a prescription--- to get us all out of the house. I did not tell the kids where we were going. We could not take anything except the clothes we were wearing. He actually did not miss us until the next day.
The YWCA staff at the shelter was so wonderful. They helped us get clothes, diapers, toiletries, even some toys but it was still really hard. The kids lost everything—all of their clothes, all of their toys. I lost everything too but I understood why I was doing it, but they did not. Just being able to sleep in safety was huge for me.
The children’s therapist at the shelter helped me and helped my children. She taught me positive discipline techniques and ways to help the kids understand what was going on. She showed my children how to deal with their anger. With her help my children began to learn that what they were used to seeing in our house was not right.
We were at the YWCA Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter for 2 ½ months, living in one room. I had to leave my job to stay safe. My case manager supported me as I worked on a long-term plan for my family and found a new job.
Since the shelter stay is limited, I started working on a housing plan as soon as we got settIed in the shelter. I applied for the YWCA transitional housing program and I was accepted. We moved into our apartment the first week of September, furnished by Re-New at the YWCA. It was so gorgeous. They had dinner ready for us the night we moved in, including a welcome home cake. They had something special for each child based on what I had told them about individual interests. After 2-3 weeks in the apartment, Re-New once again changed my life by providing a washer and dryer. Do you know how important it is to have a washer/dryer when you have 5 kids? I am very grateful to Re-New at the YWCA for making my apartment a home. I feel absolutely safe there.
The YWCA Transitional Housing Program is a tremendous help to me and my family. It provided me with help for utility and tenant deposits as well as ongoing rental assistance and case management. I am working on improving my credit and preparing to apply for a Habitat home. I am working fulltime at a daycare where my youngest children are enrolled. My older children attend before and after care there while I am working. The Transitional Housing Program has allowed me to start saving money –So far,I have saved $2,000!!!
The support groups I attended while in shelter helped me learn about domestic violence and especially about “warning signs” in relationships. I continue to attend a Transitional Housing Support Group. I have no family in this area but the staff and survivors in support groups have helped me know that I am not alone; there are people here to support me when I get stuck.
My family and I have been truly blessed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
"My Re-New Home is Unreal"- Yelena
I came here from Russia 16 years ago with my two sons. I was independent and single for 10 years. I worked hard and raised two fine sons. Then I met a charming man. After a while we decided to get married. The night we got married, he said “now we are going to live under my rules.” Nine months into our marriage, he hit me the first time. The violence gradually escalated. I took it and took it, hoping the man that I married would return, he used to be wonderful. But quickly the hope and the love were crushed by who he was after marriage.
I first heard about the YWCA from staff in the trauma unit at Vanderbilt Hospital. My husband had tried to poison me then beat me up and broke my leg. He said he wanted me to die and refused to take me to the emergency room. When he fell asleep I called a friend to take me to Vanderbilt.
I was in the hospital for 5 days. On the second day, my doctor heard my husband yelling threats at me when I answered the phone in my room. Vanderbilt moved me to a new room and gave me extra security. They told me I should not go home, but I knew I had no place to go. The hospital staff gave me the number for the YWCA Weaver Domestic Violence Shelter. I called the shelter, and they sent a cab to pick me up. I arrived at the shelter in a hospital gown carrying my only possession, my purse.
That first night, I slept like a baby. I felt really safe for the first time in a long time. My case manager helped me get an order of protection and make a plan for me to get my car with the help of the police. I felt really lost but the guidance of the YWCA staff helped me find my way. I lost everything except my purse, my car and a few things in storage.
While I was in the shelter, my husband violated the order of protection and showed up at my workplace. I changed my phone service, cancelled my Facebook account and changed jobs to hide my identity. Without help from the YWCA, I could have never made it!
After 8 weeks in shelter, I was selected for the YWCA Transitional Housing Program and moved into an apartment last September.
I had nothing but I was very excited to have a safe apartment of my own. I went home from work that first night. I knew that some people named “Re-New” were working at my apartment that day but I had no idea what that meant. My case manager was on the phone with me when I opened the door. The apartment smelled like someone had cooked dinner for me.
I walked in and it was HOME. Everything was there and it MATCHED –cups, plates, towels. The bed looked so pretty and inviting. Still gives me goose bumps to think about it. That first evening I kept walking around I was so amazed –crying, screaming, jumping. They put pictures on the wall, a shower curtain and toiletries in the bathroom, books on the shelf, placemats on the table; even groceries in the cabinets and my first meal on the stove in my new safe apartment. UNREAL!
I work fulltime at a salon and spa in Brentwood as a manicurist. I am so thankful to be where I am today. I have a long way to go but without the YWCA and Re-New, I would not have the life and the hope that I have now. Thank you!
Why She Doesn't Want To Go Home
Hello my name is L. Taylor. I’m 12 years old and in the 6th grade in middle school. I’m a straight A student, who enjoys writing poetry, reading, and singing. I would like to take a few moments to tell you about the Girls Inc. program and how the program has had a great influence in my life.
At the beginning of the year, I joined the Girls Inc. program at my middle school. I joined not only to meet new friends and to be in an all-girls group, but my main purpose of joining Girls Inc. was to have a place to go that wasn’t home. I know you are probably thinking…. Why doesn’t she want to go home and spend time with her family? Well, let me explain. I live in a house with 12 other people, which includes my mom, step-dad and ten brothers and sisters. I’m the second oldest of 11 children. My house is very crowded, loud, and hectic. I love my family, but after giving my little brothers and sisters hugs and kisses and doing all of my chores, there is little time left to do my homework, and I never have time to myself. I don’t have the time to relax, express myself freely and just be a middle school girl. I was always tired and needed a break.
So, the day I heard about the Girls Inc. program, I was so excited. I thought to myself “Two extra hours a day away from my household, four days a week”! Yes! I knew this program was just what I wanted and needed. I did not hesitate; I turned my application in the next day.
I have learned so much while in the Girls Inc. program. I never knew I would meet my best friend while in Girls Inc. I have many friends, but not a best friend. Girls Inc. is truly a safe place, that I feel comfortable sharing my feelings and emotions. Not, only have I learned about expressing myself, I’ve also learned about the importance of having a savings account, budgeting, and becoming an entrepreneur. We even had to opportunity to start our own business, which we named Animal Rendezvous. We worked together to design pet accessories, which we sold at our end of the semester showcase. I have time to complete my homework, which gives me less to think about when I get home. I’ve also learned a few sewing techniques, hip-hop dance movements, and how to cook chicken tacos.
The Girls Inc. program has inspired me to be a leader in school and a stronger person all around. I’m so thankful that the Girls Inc. program is a free program for my family. Because, if it wasn’t I know I would not have the opportunity to participate. Thank you.
I grew up in Kentucky in a family of eight children. My mother raised us alone. Growing up without a father was tough but my mother did the best she could do. Education was not really a priority for her but we spent lots of time in church. I dropped out and had my first child at 17.
I am a single parent with an 11 year old daughter and a two year old daughter. My oldest daughter, Nakya, and I are training to run on the YWCA team for Viva la Diva on November 17. We are working out 4-5 days a week. I want her to see the connection between training for a race and studying for an exam. I have more energy to study and play with my kids when I am also getting exercise. Nakya and I are both excited to run in the Viva la Diva and look forward to the challenge.
I moved to the Nashville area in 2006. I knew I needed to get my GED in order to go to college to become an interior designer. I enrolled in GED classes with another organization but was not as dedicated as I am now. Later I found the YWCA GED class online; it took a few months for me to have the nerve to try again. I went to the YWCA to register and take the practice test (to identify my strengths and weaknesses.) After the test, I asked about classes and was told I could start a class the next week. I did not want to wait that long. My mind was made up and I did not want to slow down. I asked for a class that same day—the staff told me about a class. I started that afternoon. I have been in classes four days a week for four months and my teacher says I am ready to take the exam. I am planning to take the GED exam on November 29th and 30th.
Two of my siblings graduated from high school, two have earned a GED. I have a sister in Kentucky who, like me is preparing to take her GED exam and a brother who is doing the same – in prison. We are working to encourage the last brother to start studying to take the GED exam this year. Education is important to me and I want to make sure my daughter knows it. Her favorite class is math.
I hope she will see what I am doing and not stop until she has a college degree. Thank you YWCA for helping me realize that I CAN do this for myself and for my daughters.
How did Girls Inc. help Adelle this summer?
I was new to Nashville and didn't have a lot of friends. Making friends in a new environment isn't the
easiest thing to do. Girls Inc. gave me a chance to make new friends and have fun doing it. In Girls Inc., I was able to be myself. I did not have to worry about anyone being mean to me and judging me. I was able to talk openly about how I really felt and get my questions answered.
I was even able to participate in the summer camp this summer. During summer camp, I was able to get in shape, meet even more girls, and just have fun. We learned about nutrition, exercise, career planning and budgeting. It was a great way to spend my summer, instead of just staying home. I know what I've learned in Girls Inc. will help me as I continue to mature.
Confidence + GED® = College
During my 8th grade year at a local parochial school, my parents were on the verge of a divorce and the school gave me a scholarship to complete the year. That summer my parents divorced and my Mom lost her job. I was accepted to a parochial high school with a partial scholarship but they would not let me start until the second semester.
Mom and I were homeless that summer, we slept in our car in the Kmart parking lot. Sometimes we could find change but often we did not have food. Mom found a job, we moved into an apartment and I started high school in January with a partial scholarship. I did fine academically but that was not enough to get the scholarship renewed for the next year. My mother lost her job again.
Now it is clear that I should have gone to public school when I could not go back to parochial school, but we were scared and confused, my mother was also depressed. The high school I had attended would not release my transcript because we owed them money, so transferring to a public school would not be easy, I just did not know what to do.
My mother found another job, we lived in apartments but often without any electricity. Eventually I was 18 and so scared. I only had one semester of high school credits, and no transcript. All my friends were graduating and preparing for college, which is what I wanted to do. I started checking on getting a GED but I was concerned about the stigma associated with a GED. I began to realize that a lot of people go to college after obtaining a GED. I found out about the YWCA GED Preparation Services in the phone book. I had never been to a YWCA program but I had a good feeling about the organization.
I had no idea how nice the YWCA staff could be. They became my support system. They said things like “this is a good thing, you should be proud of yourself” and I actually started to believe in myself. I did really well on the GED practice test at the YWCA. One of the teachers reviewed my scores with me and told me I was ready to take the GED test. Wow! The test takes an entire day. It took a month to get the scores but with my new found confidence, I took the ACT, the SAT and applied to colleges while I waited for the GED test results.
In the space of a few weeks, I found out that I passed the GED AND was admitted to Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Mary Baldwin offered me a large scholarship, but it was not enough. I looked everywhere for scholarships, including the Kaws Indian Tribe. My great grandfather was a chief of the Kaws in Oklahoma. I will be at Mary Baldwin in the fall.
Thanks to the YWCA for helping me find confidence. There is no stopping me now!
Speeches from the 2010 Breakfast of Inspiration and Influence
“Whatever we talk about in Girls Inc.® stays in Girls Inc.®” said Destiny who is a sixth grader at Jere Baxter Middle School. Morlunda Brooks, the YWCA’s Director of Youth Services, wants the girls in Girls Inc.® to feel comfortable talking about their feelings and problems, so she and the other leaders always work hard to listen without judgment. “We encourage the girls to also speak with their parents about the issues they face,” says Morlunda. Both Destiny and her fellow Girls Inc.® group member, Teondria have participated in Girls Inc.® for the past two years. Teondria explained “If something happens and my Mom is not available to talk, I know my Girls Inc.® leaders will help me figure out what to do. If I am having problems with boys, they help me.” The girls are learning to be “strong, smart and bold”, and Destiny and Teondria are already smart young women. Both of the girls love to read and Destiny told us she wants to figure out a way to lower prices so people can have better houses and cars.
Cecilia came to Nashville three years ago with her husband who is a bank manager. Cecilia grew up in Acapulco, Mexico where she had completed elementary school and middle school but married after middle school. She learned a lot of English doing hotel and restaurant work in the popular tourist town. When they moved to Nashville, they had a three year old son and Cecilia stayed home with him. This fall when he started school, Cecilia began looking for a job using her service industry experience and her bilingual skills. She quickly realized that her lack of a high school diploma made it hard to find a job. Her neighbor told her about the YWCA GED® Preparation classes, not far from her home. She called the YWCA Adult Education program, enrolled in the YWCA Antioch class and made a commitment to attend classes every day. It was not long before her teacher told her she was ready to take the Official Practice Test to confirm her preparation was complete. Cecilia recently passed the GED® Test earning her Tennessee high school equivalency diploma and she is ready to find a job. In over 10 months of classes she increased her reading ability by 5 grades levels and her math by 2 grade levels.
"The YWCA GED® program is helping me achieve my goals."
Shaye Lavender is a mother of five children; ages 12, 11, 7, 5 and 1. She enrolled in our GED® program because she wanted to better herself and her children. She has been in the YWCA GED® preparation classes for one month, attending on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
Lavender said the YWCA staff is extremely helpful, "The teachers showed me how to answer questions using a step-by-step system," she noted.
She also likes how the students help each other out, working together to prepare for upcoming GED® tests. After she obtains her GED®, she wants to work in the field of criminal justice, particularly in the juvenile system.
"Having a diploma will give me a sense of accomplishment," said Lavendar.
Today I Woke Up Beautiful! ~ A poem by Domestic Violence Survivor Mary Jones
Today I woke up beautiful!
My eyes twinkled as I passed the mirror that once reflected an ugly girl.
Skin too brown, face and smile not perfect. If only my nose were smaller.
Look at those bony arms and where did those hips come from?
To read the rest of Mary's poem, please click here.
"Girls Inc.® is all about preparing us for the future (by teaching us how to make good decisions and take healthy risks). I'm proud to say, I'm a Girls Inc.® girl."
Hello, my name is Kiah. I'm currently a 7th grader at Ewing Park Middle School. First, I would like to give all praises to God. I feel very lucky to speak to you today. It is an honor for me to represent the Girls Inc.® at the YWCA.
To read the rest of Kiah's story, click here.
"Seeing the sign about free GED® classes at the YWCA awakened my dream for me."
It is a privilege to be here in America, to have wonderful opportunities, to have life, hope and a future.
My name is Fatima. I am from Rwanda, Africa. In 1994, I was 15. I had a loving family and had the financial means to go to school. And as most teenagers, I was carefree, with little responsibilities. I loved school and looked forward to my future--finishing high school, going on to college and having a career.
To read the rest of Fatima's story, click here.
"In Girls Inc.® we talk about growing up as girls and the problems we may face....I love Girls Inc.®"
My name is Justine and I'm 11 years old. I'm originally from Washington State. I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, four years ago with my family. I joined Girls Inc.®
to get away from the boys in my classroom because they get on my nerves. Girls Inc.®
is a great place to be. I have to say, I love it. In Girls Inc.®
we talk about growing up as girls and the problems we may face. Since I've been in Girls Inc.®
, I've been able to make new friends and spend time with my old friends. It is so much fun. I love Girls Inc.®
"The GED® preparation classes are making me feel confident."
Shinque is a 32 year old single mom and is currently a student in our GED®
program. She is working hard to be able to pass the exam.
preparation classes are making me feel confident," explained Shinque. "I had taken the test before but my YWCA teacher makes me feel confident and understand that no question is dumb. My self-esteem is much higher," she concluded.
"I wasn't going to graduate from high school so this GED® helped me get a job..."
Rio's father is from Mexico and his mother is from the UK. He was born in England and came to the US at the age of 12. He didn't do well in high school and found himself still in 9th grade at the age of 17. He could not see himself there for 4 more years, so he left high school. He came to the YWCA program where he earned his GED®
. He is now working at a coffee shop with plans to go on to college and study business.
"I wasn't going to graduate from high school so this GED®
helped me get a job so I can save money to go to college," explained Rio. "I plan on going to a two year tech school and then on to a regular college to get my degree," Rio concluded.
"The GED® preparation class helped me find a job."
Sandra was born in Bogota, Columbia and came to the US in 2006. Sandra wanted to improve her reading, math and language skills in order to be able to get a job. She enrolled in January and improved her language skills 3 grade levels. Sandra was able to pass a required exam to be hired at Macy's Department Store as a sales associate. Sandy remains in our program and is continuing to advance toward her GED®
preparation class helped me find a job. I've also improved my English and sharpened my mind in math, reading and other subjects," noted Sandra.
"YWCA GED® preparation has been like a form of mentorship for me"
David is 20 years old and he enrolled with the YWCA in March and took his GED®
test in May. David earned a GED®
and scored a high score of 570. David is interested in the field of music and is working in the music industry. He plans to further his education, and his score of 570 on the GED®
qualifies him for the Hope Lottery Scholarship.
preparation has been like a form of mentorship for me. It is set up to help you with the specific things that you need to improve on before you take the test," explained David. "It is a great opportunity for someone who didn't graduate from high school. It prepares you for higher education so you can go to college or right into the work force," he concluded.
"I proved to myself and others that I am smart"
My name is Jenifer. I have had to overcome a tremendous amount of obstacles in my life to be where I am today. Being a product of a teenage pregnancy and the resentment that followed, from my mother, set the tone for my early years.
My mother blamed me for “ending her life” just as I was beginning mine. Situations in my life went from bad to worse and I suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from family members.
To read more of Jenifer's story, please click here
"I will not be a statistic"
My name is Tamika. I had what you would call an unstable family life growing up. My mother was on drugs and had little time or interest in me. Tamika, the little girl, was sad. Tamika, the teenager was angry----Angry at the mother who spent all her money and life on drugs, even selling my new school clothes for drug money.
To read more of Tamika's Story, please click here
Strong, Smart and Bold