Everything Rebekah works toward – securing a safe living environment and doing well in her studies – is motivated by her children, Emely and SJ.
Tentatively, Rebekah* hands over a poem she wrote. She can’t express verbally the emotions she felt living with an abusive husband, but through the words of a poem, she pours out her heart: words of distrust and hurt, words of an entrapped life.
He picks me up with a gentle hand,
Only to strike me down once again.
His forked tongue is a double-edged sword.
His words can be the balm to my soul and,
Rip me apart blow by blow.
But living at Buckner Family Place in Conroe, Rebekah finds freedom.
“When you basically live your life in a cage for four years, where you can’t smile at someone or brush your hair away from your face without being accused of things, it’s freeing. It’s an overwhelming sense of freedom,” Rebekah says.
Two years ago, Rebekah was trapped in her own home with her two young children. Her husband would go on alcohol and drug binges and disappear from the house, often locking the fence with chains so Rebekah wouldn’t leave.
“I was basically locked into our yard. I had no phone. If something happened, I was a duck out of luck,” Rebekah says.
Even still, she preferred him far from the house because when he was home, he was physically and verbally abusive to her, often in front of their children. She tried four times to leave, but she always came back.
It’s hard to leave, Rebekah says, because on the one hand there would be kindness and sincerity, but on the other there was shame and hurt. Her husband often showed her both sides, keeping her unsettled and feeling hopeless.
I never know which man I will see.
The man I love or the man I hate.
The lines, once so defined, have blurred
The two have become one,
Inseparable it seems.
Until one day when she was talking to his mother about some bruises she had on her shoulder after he hit her. Her mother-in-law responded that she had seen worse on herself and her daughter. That was the moment Rebekah realized she could not have her daughter and son exposed to this violence.
“That was the reason I knew I couldn’t stay,” Rebekah says. “It’s not right that her daughter thinks it’s OK because her mom went through it and her son thinks it’s OK because he saw his dad doing it to his mom. I don’t want that cycle to continue. That was a big factor of getting me out the door.”
Rebekah went to a domestic violence shelter determined to make a new life for her and her children. She unpacked their bags and began healing.
“I thought it was pretty much a sign that I was doing it for real this time because this time when I got to the shelter, I actually took the trouble of unpacking my bags,” she says. “I had never done that before. I had just lived out of my bags.”
But it wasn’t easy in the beginning. She needed to process her new situation and there were lots of tears. She felt alone and was scared about supporting her children. The shelter was a short-term solution. After 60 days, she needed to move to a different location. Hearing about Buckner Family Place motivated Rebekah to enroll in school.
Family Place provides housing, child care assistance and counseling in an effort to support single parents who are currently completing their education and trying to create better lives for their families. When Rebekah learned she was accepted into the program, she cried tears of thanksgiving. For the first time, she felt as though she had hope for a better future.
“Tears just poured from my eyes,” Rebekah says. “I have a chance to do something with myself and can provide a future for the kids, and that was my whole goal. I had to do something so that they can have a future.”
Since coming to Family Place in January 2013, Rebekah and her children, Emely and SJ, have blossomed. Rebekah’s favorite time of the day is right before the children’s bedtime. They curl up in her bed, she holds them close and they read Bible stories and recite memory verses to each other.
“I think her confidence is growing,” Buckner Case Manager Kymeicko Williams says about Rebekah. “When she first came, she was standoffish and quiet, but now she comes, and she just shines. She’s able to communicate.”
She is also succeeding in her studies. She’s getting an associate’s degree in human services, but would like to continue to earn a bachelor’s degree to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor.
“I want to be a counselor at a school or work with battered women because I’ve been there,” she says. “I want them to know that they can do it and can get out. They don’t have to live like that. You can make a difference. I just want to be a light, an example.”
Most importantly, Rebekah now feels safe and is comforted and motivated by her Buckner case managers.
“It’s home,” Rebekah says about her apartment at Family Place. “I feel safe there. I will often come to Kymeicko’s office all flustered about something, but she calms me down, and she’s there to give me a pep talk. That has helped me in so many ways with frustration and stress. Honestly, it’s helped me with healing. It’s a lot to heal from. It’s having the support right there. It really enforces things and just let’s me know that I’m not alone.”
*Last name withheld to protect her identity.