Marilyn*,32 years old, arrived at Greenhouse shortly after the holidays with her 2 sons: William 13 years old, and Noah 8 years old. Marilyn was fleeing from her husband who she had been with since she was 15 years old. Marilyn and her children had been living in a suburban home with her husband, her children, and her mother-in-law. While in the household, she experiences emotional, physical, financial, sexual, and spiritual abuse. Marilyn experienced all those things at the hands of her husband and her mother-in-law. Marilyn was diagnosed with severe depression and C-PTSD.
Marilyn arrived at Greenhouse aware of some ways her children may have been affected by the domestic violence they had witnessed. However, it wasn’t until arriving at Greenhouse and working with the counselors that Marilyn realized her children had been deeply suffering in the home.
William was in 8th grade when he arrived at Greenhouse and although he may have been described as a “normal” teenager, William was fully aware of the abuse that took place and had been deeply impacted by it. William took on the role of protector since he was the eldest. Being a protector didn’t only mean he would look out for his younger sibling but also his mother. William was often described as mature for his age. William, although a “normal” or “good” kid on the outside, was struggling internally. Witnessing and experiencing domestic violence caused William to be depressed to the point that it was debilitating. William’s grades had recently been slowly slipping since his parents’ arguments were becoming more severe at home. In the first week of arrival to the shelter, those C’s turned into F’s. William was now at high risk of not graduating on time and having to attend summer school. When asked about his grades, William stated he had no motivation to do the homework. While at the shelter this fear came out by him regularly checking on his mother or sibling if they were gone for too long even if they were only in the kitchen or talking to staff in a counseling room. William stated his father didn’t scare him but he often feared he would hurt his younger sibling. William’s counselor dedicated her time to ensure he had a space to talk. William was taught ways to soothe and express his feelings and trauma. William was also helped with his homework while at the shelter. He attended art therapies and was referred to a trauma therapist.
Like William, eight-year-old Noah wasn’t immune to the violence at home. While Marilyn was at work, her husband often took out his anger on her youngest child. When Noah arrived at Greenhouse Shelter, he was struggling with anxiety and would frequently lash out at his mother. During his stay, Noah received counseling services and was connected to a Family Trauma Therapist.
After three months at Greenhouse Shelter, and with the help of a CAWC Housing Specialist, Marilyn, William, and Noah moved into a new apartment. They now live violence-free – both boys successfully completed the school year and Marilyn secured full-time work, allowing her to support her family, “From help with housing to counseling, we are so thankful to CAWC for all the services we received.”
Marilyn says Greenhouse Shelter saved her children. William and Noah say it saved their mother.
*Names in this story have been changed to protect privacy