By Claire Bennett, Greenville Shelter Counselor
“Ivory” and her two young children, a girl age 8 and a boy age 3, came to our shelter from Columbia fleeing her abusive boyfriend. She and her boyfriend had been together for nearly two years and the abuse had been mainly verbal until the moment she decided to leave, at which time he punched and pushed her as she was trying to leave. His parents would not allow her to speak to the police to report the incident. She arrived at Safe Harbor as an overwhelmed and fragile mother.
Shortly after arriving in the shelter, Ivory’s daughter began to feel comfortable enough to disclose for the first time that she had been sexually abused by her father. We immediately began the referral process to the Julie Valentine Center for individual counseling. Because her family arrived during the summer, there were many fun activities for her children while she received counseling and attended groups. As the weeks passed, Ivory grew stronger and her children became happy, healthy children – blossoming from the fearful selves they previously had been.
Before Ivory moved into transitional housing, Ivory’s mother unexpectedly passed away. This was a devastating blow for Ivory and her children. On an individual basis, we began talking about her grief and processing the trauma. The children also received counseling to process their grief in their own way.
After three months in the shelter, Ivory moved into her own apartment but continued to keep in contact with me. We met regularly either in person or by phone. Her daughter continues to receive counseling for her sexual abuse, and both of the children are thriving. One year later, Ivory still calls and comes to Safe Harbor to check in. She and her children have moved into their own place after living in transitional housing for a year.
Ivory and her family were able to attend our weekend camp last fall. As I observed Ivory and her family during the weekend, what I saw was not a feeble victim but a strong mother and her happy children. They were able to relax and be with other domestic violence survivors for a weekend. Safe Harbor truly was her safe place to start a new life. hen her daughter celebrated her ninth birthday, the place she said she wanted to celebrate was not Chuck-E- Cheese or a park but the Safe Harbor shelter. We were a place of happy memories for her. We had cake and sang and made her birthday one to remember.