Jane* grew up as a minister’s daughter in Alabama. She had what could only be described as a normal upbringing with two supportive and loving parents. In her late twenties, Jane was married despite warnings from her mother. It wasn’t long into the marriage that the violence began – both physical and emotional. During this time, Jane and her husband, moved to Elmira, leaving her family and support system behind. The abuse continued for 13 years until Jane’s husband and abuser threatened her life. It was at this moment that Jane realized it was time to leave. Even when asked nearly two years later, she can’t quite explain how a woman that had never known violence would allow herself to stay in such a toxic relationship. “Once you’re in it, it’s hard to get out and away from that person, I don’t know why; I can’t give you a reason why. I don’t really understand why, other than I was scared. Scared of having to start over, scared of what he may or may not do to me. Can’t tell you why it took me 13 years, but it did.”
Finding herself homeless and alone in a city where she had no family was a frightening moment for Jane, as it would be for anyone. She first turned to the Salvation Army’s domestic violence shelter; this initial contact helped Jane get settled in an apartment. She was working and attending Elmira Business Institute for a Medical Assistant degree when the bottom dropped out again. Jane lost her job; followed by her vehicle and apartment. In an effort to stay housed, Jane began a cycle of couch surfing in which she would stay with friends, constantly moving when the circumstances were too uncomfortable. She describes this time in her life as “unsettling.”
Jane once again found herself in a difficult situation, but her drive to succeed never diminished. “I wasn’t going to let anything keep me from finishing school. I was determined to start making changes in my life. (At first), my motivation for going to school was to prove to him (my ex-husband) that I have motivation and I am a strong person. I don’t need him. But after I got to school, I wanted to stay and make sure I finished…and I have finished.” Jane came to Catholic Charities’ Second Place East Homeless Shelter in July 2014. It took her about two months to find another place to live. However, during the entire time of dealing with and divorcing an abusive spouse, sleeping on different friend’s couches and staying at two homeless shelters, Jane missed only a couple days of school. In the Spring of 2015, Jane planned to take her CMA exam to become a Certified Medical Assistant.
When Jane was asked how she felt about the help she received, she responded, “I am so grateful that there is help out there, because I was getting to the point where I was going to have to sleep under the bridge. The Shelter worked with me and my schooling and job. The staff was very encouraging and supportive.” Jane now has her own apartment, a cat, a job and as she states “goals.” “I thought of myself as a victim for a while but not anymore. I see it as another way to grow; it’s helped me become stronger. I’m very determined to get what I want and it will happen. It might take a few years, but it will happen. I have the confidence.” Jane truly shows that will a little help and motivation, anything is possible.
*name changed to protect her identity.