Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to control, coerce, intimidate, threaten, manipulate, and/or exert power over a current or past partner. Domestic violence may be physical, emotional, sexual, and economic. Domestic abuse and relationship violence crosses all races, cultures, religions, ages, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic groups. It can happen to anyone and to any marriage or relationship.
15-year old Lacey was confused. Her boyfriend of three years always said he loved her but his behavior suggested otherwise. He was physically abusive and was starting to exert more control over her day-to-day life. He kept Lacey isolated from friends and recently pressured her to shoplift with him.
Shoplifting landed Lacey in a youth diversion program through Denver Juvenile Probation. Fortunately for Lacey, part of the diversion program curriculum included a four-week Teen Dating Violence Intervention group facilitated by a SafeHouse Denver Advocate. During this four-week, girls-only group, Lacey made a point of talking with the Advocate before each class. She expressed her concerns about her relationship. What they were learning about in class, she shared, mirrored what she was experiencing with her boyfriend.
Lacey easily identified that her boyfriend’s behavior was hurtful. Through group, she now had the language and the knowledge to recognize that his behaviors were not only hurtful, they were also dangerous. Her advocate encouraged her to journal about her feelings and reflect on what she took away from the group sessions.
Before the last session, Lacey shared that she had decided to break up with her boyfriend but was afraid of how he would react. With the support of her Advocate, Lacey created a safety plan, identifying allies she could trust at school, at home and in her social circle. These allies, along with SafeHouse Denver, served as a support network for Lacey when she did end the relationship.
At the last session of the diversion program, Lacey, now free from the burden of an abusive partner, looked like a different person. She was energetic, hopeful and confident of her self-worth. Though the intervention group has now ended, Lacey maintained her support network as part of her safety plan and checks in with her SafeHouse Denver Advocate from time to time to let her know she’s doing well.
Leigh's Story - From Her Perspective
We were married for 14 years. Early into our marriage, he began to call me names or put me down when he was angry or frustrated. He was jealous of the time I spent with friends, family, or even the kids. Soon, he demanded to know where I was going, who I talked to, and even controlled what I was wearing. A couple of times he shoved me. I told myself it wasn't that bad. At least he never hit me. That would change. The first time he hit me, he promised never to do it again. And he didn't for several months.
Things were good for awhile. He was back to the man I first fell in love with. Then slowly, it started again. The intense jealousy, name calling, accusing me of having affairs when I wasn't, and then eventually he hit me again. The kids heard the fights. They didn't understand.
I wasn't ready to leave my marriage. I felt like I was in the middle of a tug-of-war with myself. I wanted my marriage to work but I knew that my children and I were not safe. My family and friends told me that I needed to stay until I had tried everything to make it work. The problem was that I was running out of things to try and he didn't want to try anything.
I heard about SafeHouse Denver from a friend. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I was scared. I finally called their 24-hour crisis line. They listened. They understood. They didn't judge me. They didn't tell me what to do. They offered support. They told me about resources and options available to me. They helped me put together a safety plan for my children and me.
I met weekly with an advocate at the Counseling Center. It was a safe place for me to go and talk about what was happening at home. The abuse continued. My husband came home after work one day and was furious because I hadn't gone to the post office yet. Later that night, I was putting our 3-year-old son to bed. He pushed me down twice while I had our son in my arms. It was getting worse. Despite how much I loved him, I knew we had to leave. My advocate helped me make a plan. We stayed with my best friend. It wasn't easy. I joined a SafeHouse Denver support group and the kids went to a weekly children's group. I realized I wasn't alone. There were other women going through what I was experiencing, and there was hope.
I have been away from my husband for over a year now. With the support, information, resources, and safety planning I received from SafeHouse, things are getting better. I am getting back the pieces of my life that were taken from me by my abusive husband. My children are getting support and healing from the abuse they witnessed.
We are making it. I am reclaiming our right to a life free of violence.