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Calling for Help, Finding a Lifeline

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July 25, 2018 | By Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania


After 10 years of marriage, Jennifer knew it was over. She needed to return to Pennsylvania to make a fresh start. Although nothing was more difficult, she left her children in the custody of her estranged husband, as he would be better able to financially provide for them. Jennifer and her children managed the distance as best they could.

Several years passed. Then, Jennifer suffered one of the most traumatic events that a mother can experience: the suicide of her 15-year-old son. Understandably, the event triggered a deep depression. However, Jennifer dealt with her grief by abusing drugs and alcohol. The addiction led her to a life of crime. In time, Jennifer recognized she needed to cope in a healthier way and reached out for professional help. She enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility and successfully completed the program.

At two years sober, she met Santiago. Not long after their relationship began, a baby was on the way. But by that time, Santiago had become verbally and emotionally abusive.

The severity of his abuse increased during their three-year relationship. When Santiago picked her up and slammed her down on the sidewalk, Jennifer reached a turning point. She knew she had to get away from him for her and baby Olivia’s safety.

It was then that Jennifer turned to Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s (DVSSP) for help. After making a call to the DVSSP hotline, she and Olivia entered the safe house where they were provided with shelter, counseling, and domestic violence education.

Although the physical abuse she had endured caused her severe back and hip pain, Jennifer was diligent in her role as a waitress. She was granted full custody of Olivia who, at just three years old, needed special care for diabetes and thyroid issues.

Despite her triumphs, Jennifer still had one last obstacle to overcome. Due to her past drug and criminal history, she was not eligible for public housing. So, she searched for a landlord who would give her a chance. Through her persistence, Jennifer found a cozy house on a farm to rent. Because of her strength and determination, she and her daughter now live peaceful lives.