Survivor Story: My Daughter and I Were Homeless for Six Months After Leaving My Abusive Husband

Submitted by: *Louise, Survivor

Common barriers faced by domestic violence victims when trying to leave include financial dependency upon the abuser, lack of transportation and employment, and lack of access to affordable, stable housing. Often, victims and survivors are forced to make a choice no one should. They either sacrifice shelter in exchange for their safety or expose themselves to continued abuse and harm to avoid becoming homeless.

A series of studies referenced by Safe Housing Partnerships demonstrates how frequently victims and survivors make this choice. Estimates show that homelessness impacts nearly 40% of domestic violence survivors during their lives. Of the homeless female survivors with children surveyed, more than 80% reported that domestic violence preceded their circumstances. Startlingly, some survivors have faced additional trauma during homelessness, while others battled landlords who either refused to make necessary repairs to ensure safety or evicted them using locality nuisance laws.

Louise was in an abusive marriage for 20 years. For the first half of her marriage, she did her best to hide the abuse from everyone, including her children. Over time, as the violence escalated, Louise could no longer keep it a secret. A few years after her husband was arrested for an assault during which the older daughter intervened, Louise and her younger daughter left and ended up homeless and living in a tent for six months. Find out where Louise is now and how she is using her story to help others.

I was with my husband for 20 years, and we have two beautiful daughters from our marriage. The first time he hit me was three months after our wedding. I ended up in the hospital after that attack, but he did not hurt me physically again for ten years. During the first half of our marriage, he used emotional and mental abuse to wear me down until I was just a shell.

When the physical abuse finally resumed, I tried hiding it from my daughters. I stayed because I did not want to deprive them of their father. In public, I presented myself as a confident woman, a professional photographer and business owner, but the local police knew better.

The state of our marriage continued to decline, and the physical abuse became more violent. It even started happening in front of my daughters. They were the ones who always called the police. One time, my oldest daughter, who was 14 at the time, tried to intervene and got between us while I was on the floor. She started pushing him, and after he tried hitting her, she managed to shove him down the stairs. Meanwhile, my youngest was distraught but was able to call 911.

When the police arrived, my husband was arrested, but he also wanted my daughter arrested for assault. I had to send my daughters away because of the harassment I received from his friends. During the trial, I lied on the stand because my youngest wanted her daddy to come home, and he promised to get help. He was only convicted of harassment.

For a few years, he was okay. However, when my oldest daughter left and got married at 18, he became even more violent, attacking my youngest daughter and me almost every night. One night while I was asleep, she drove him to a party and returned home. She then called a local officer who was a friend, told him what had been going on at home, and stated that her dad was no longer welcome in the house.

The officer went to the party and informed my husband that he was no longer able to go home or he would be arrested. He was not happy. We ended up homeless for six months, living in a tent, so my daughter could graduate from her high school with her friends.

Afterward, we moved to another state and started a new life. I am a survivor, and I’m happy. It took my daughter to be the strong one. I am now a court-appointed special advocate and work with foster children in the system who need advocates.

As a result of the abuse, I have PTSD and still have nightmares occasionally. Currently, I have an active order of protection, and he has a warrant because he has violated the protective order multiple times. Despite this, I am strong and can help others now.

Recently, I participated in a documentary about survivors of sexual and domestic assault. It was very difficult for me, but my daughters said that it would be good to help others with my story. I am proud of what I have achieved and the women my daughters and I have become since leaving. It is not easy, but it is worth it.

*Name(s) have been changed – and in some cases omitted – to protect the identity of the survivor and others affected by the abuse.

**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page. For crisis services, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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