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A letter from Emilian

My sweet friends,

There are no words to express the pain that each one of you is feeling. I was a victim and lived in the same room you are in now. I remember moments of crying, and choices I made that brought me to feel regret for the circumstances I was in. From the bottom of my heart, I understand and share your pain. Although everyone’s conditions vary, we share one thing in common. We are survivors.

I am a mother of two children. I immigrated to the United States in November 2012. I was verbally, physically, and psychologically abused by my ex-husband. My two children who witnessed the abuse were innocent.

This is what I remember as the darkest moment of my life. I was new to the country and I had no friends, no job, and no money. I lived with my ex-husband, but didn’t know my way around. My ex-husband would call the police and spread lies about me. His goal was to have me deported or put in jail. If this happened, my children would also be taken from me.

New to the country and having no family or friends to lean on for support, I thought, “How can I leave without my children?” The thought is still unbearable and it felt like the end of my life.

I thank God for a neighbor who knew about Safe Harbor and the team who provided shelter to my children and I.

I don’t know what your specific experience is, but I seized this wonderful opportunity to write to you. Please do not be discouraged by your present challenges and don’t feel abandoned. There is a survival instinct in every living creature. This is how hope stays alive.

When I entered Safe Harbor’s emergency shelter two years ago, I thought I would never be myself, love, find employment, be able to take care of my children, or fully integrate into the system in the U.S. It was a tremendous challenge, but with the help of God, love from the Safe Harbor team, and support, I got back all that I had lost.

I am now proud to have full custody of my children, a job, a bank account, and a car. In less than a year, I will obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Health Care Administration, allowing me to pursue a career concentrating on long-term care. I was loved and cared for while at Safe Harbor and want to return this same love and care to our seniors. I am grateful to Safe Harbor for giving me space to achieve my goals. In the shelter, I was able to use computers, take an online class, and received my Associate’s degree in Arts a year after leaving.

When you are ready, I encourage you to take advantage of services provided through Safe Harbor. It is truly a safe place to start a new life. Today, my children view me as a positive role model because during our stay in the shelter, I was working towards a degree and building a future where we were all safe.

Recently, I met my manager in the coffee room while getting my morning coffee. We got into a discussion, and I told him part of my story — the same story I am sharing with you. That I once lived in a shelter, I was able to continue and advance my education there, and today, I am able to work and support my children. My manager could not believe my story; he was impressed with my ability to move forward, and survive, despite numerous obstacles.

I believe that every person has the ability to make a difference. It’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship, but I believe that we can change the world we live in with our knowledge, strength, determination and resiliency. We can bring about change if we find ways to push forward towards a brighter future.

This letter is written to my dearest friends who are staying in a Safe Harbor shelter. I was once a victim and now I am a survivor. Please, do not give up on yourself. There is hope in all situations, and no circumstances are hopeless. Believe in yourself, and you can and will make a difference.

Your Friend,

Emilian, A Survivor