Throughout the month of October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month), REACH has been sharing content on the theme of “Creating Space for Change.” As Director of Prevention Programs Jessica Teperow shared earlier this week, the spaces we try to create are not so much physical spaces (although those ARE important and making a big difference!) but spaces for connection, transformation, and sometimes even laughter. As we look for ways to carry this theme forward, now that DVAM 2017 is over and our office move is complete, we wanted to share these words from one of the survivors we work with. Melinda* wrote this piece about creating space while reflecting on her experiences with REACH in our old office. With your help we can continue to provide spaces like this for survivors like her.
Like many of you, I follow REACH on social media (as much as I follow social media!). Their theme for DVAM “creating space” has me thinking. I hold so much affection and gratitude for the space of REACH. Creating space is not just something physical for me. I ended my marriage because my husband was abusive. I wanted to create a safe space for my kids. It didn’t go smoothly. My kids were left reeling and devastated by the loss of their dad. They did not know any other life besides chaos and threat of violence. But they did love their dad. I needed to take a leave of absences from my job to care for them. With my husband in jail and me not working, we lost our home. I was devastated. I felt I had failed in my effort to give my kids a safe home. The violence ended but we were homeless. We would move to shelter and eventually to our own apartment. But I struggled and despaired. My kids had been through so much. I recall one day, my teenage daughter looking at me, her eyes filled with tears. She said “I just want to go home.” Her words would play in my head for years. I felt so much guilt.
I struggled over the years to create a safe space for them by being there for them. I knew I couldn’t let the abuse or the aftermath of leaving destroy me. I got my sustenance at REACH. REACH helped me meet our basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. But REACH also fed my soul. I knew I belonged to a community of advocates, donors, and fellow survivors. REACH gave me a sense of having a home base. I took strength and comfort from REACH. I realized that my presence in my kids’ life was their home and their safe place. When I finally realized this I felt a sense of relief. I was able after all to provide for my children. I know it was because of what REACH provided for me.
Today, REACH is the place I call or come to when things get tough or when I want to share something good. REACH is my space. Like many survivors involved with REACH, I feel a sense of belonging. I feel a part of REACH. I feel important at REACH. The [old] physical space at REACH was small, cramped, and definitely more shabby than chic. But I can say, without exaggeration, that I have had moments of conversation and decision making in that space that saved my life. Because of REACH I worked up the courage to end a violent relationship. REACH was there for me: so many people, advocates, other survivors who came to REACH to share, to give and get guidance, everyone who works in the office. REACH is my place, my safe and always welcoming place. I feel an ownership of this place. I am part of the REACH community – I feel a deep appreciation to this space. That appreciation motivates me with a desire to give back. I try to do this by participating in the Survivor Speakers Bureau.
*name has been changed