The following was written by Kristin* and shared at Catholic Charities’ 2014 Annual Meeting

“Life has seemed like a challenge and a struggle for me. Seems like the harder I tried, the harder I fell. Even when I was a child it felt more challenging than it should have been. My parents were a bit harsh and school was difficult for me. I lived a very sheltered life growing up causing me to be naïve until my mother left our family when I was in ninth grade. In school, I was held back twice before third grade, in speech class until fifth grade, bullied for several years, and did not graduate until I was twenty with a local diploma. My mother’s abonnement and the experiences I had at school ignited my depression and anxiety. This created a pattern of me accepting and withstanding mistreatment from those whom I loved and cherished most. In addition, I had a constant fear of being abandoned and left alone or feeling unworthy of others love. Although, like most females, I had the vision of achieving my happily ever after by finding my prince charming.

Before I reached out to First Step Victim Services at Catholic Charities I went through two divorces on my own and lost my home, dignity, and hope. At this point I knew I had met a low I had never experienced. Thankfully, I was referred by Schuyler County District Attorney’s Office and I have been working with First Step advocates on and off since 2011. They have assisted, educated and empowered me after dealing with abuse from my ex-husband, my mother, and intimate partners. I was resistant and attempted to do it all on my own for the first incident that had brought me to First Step, but by the second incident my life felt out of control and the advocates assisted me in getting my feet back on the ground.

This past year, I had fallen back into the same trap and knew right away where I had to go for support. First Step Victim Services Supervisor, Bethany, and Schuyler Outreach’s Director, Nancy, listened to my situation and made me feel like everything was going to be okay. Bethany was there for me anytime I needed her and we spent many hours in her office talking, she referred me to other services that have helped me, and she was always there for me at the drop of a hat when I got into a dark place and needed someone to talk to on the hotline phone. She helped me to find my self-worth and value and I am very grateful for her unconditional support. Nancy assisted me in keeping my housing when I was at risk of being homeless and I don’t know what I would have done without her assistance. Thanks to the support and education I received from Bethany I am able to identify when I’m slipping back into my old habits and then I remember my self-worth.

Now I am able to utilize coping skills that I did not have before, I am confident and have hope in my relationships, I do not need a man in my life at all times, and if I ever need support First Step Victim Services and Catholic Charities are here for me. I am not just a survivor, I am a thriver.”

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*Name changed to protect her identity.