When enough really becomes enough

When Alma first asked for help from The Center for Family Justice, her five children were ages 3 through 15.  She and her husband had been together for 14 years, and he was the father of the four younger children. Their first seven years together were wonderful: He worked, was responsible and a great father. Then he started using crack cocaine, stopped working and stole household money to satisfy his habit.

Alma was burying the family money in the backyard and retrieving it when her husband was asleep to provide for her family. Alma is a religious person, so she says divorce is out of the question even though there is severe domestic violence in the family. She has trouble talking about the domestic violence, but once, in trying to detail a particularly bad event, she said that when he hits her with a bat it does not even compare to what happened that day. She now tells him: “Kill me, I’m already dead.”

Alma avoids conflict by becoming unresponsive to her husband. Once, he spent five straight hours belittling her, telling her that everything was her fault as she laid with her back to him crying. When asked if she could walk away when he starts arguing, she said it would become physical and the violence would escalate.

Their 8-year-old daughter had a “vision” that her father had a bat in his hand, and her daughter was crying hysterically saying “Mommy, I can’t live without you,” and “Daddy, please don’t hit mommy anymore.” Alma said that her husband told the daughter “’Trust God, and I won’t do it anymore.” The next time they fought, the daughter kept crying, “You promised daddy, you promised,” but he ignored her cries. Alma called the police and her husband was put in jail.

Shortly after that incident, Alma came to the Domestic Violence support group at The Center visibly upset. She reluctantly disclosed that for the first time in her relationship she was angry at her husband. The feeling immediately turned into rage. She had never felt like this before and all of the abusive memories came flooding back to her. She had to restrain herself from responding angrily towards him. Previously, Alma had been making plans to leave, and now she was determined.

We moved the family in the Safe House van to transitional housing. Alma has been working as a substitute teacher for three years at a local Head Start preschool program, bringing home about $800 a month. She is not eligible for any benefits at her work, and does not receive sick time, vacation or holiday pay. We have worked with Alma on her budget and cut down many of her expenses. Alma is very resourceful in finding help for her family through the aid of her church, food banks and various local charities.

Alma continuously fights for her family’s survival and works to improve their situation; however, it is still very painful for her.