Every day spent walking on eggshells. Tense moments, hearts pumping with fear. A sense of solitude, desperation and even guilt – but not knowing how to get out.
In many cases, no one knows. Yet the numbers show people experiencing domestic violence are far from alone.
In fact, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates one in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner.
Becky Moore can tell you about it. That’s not her real name. She’s using a pseudonym so she can speak freely. She wanted to share her story as a mother in her 30s who found hope, but not before experiencing how violence at home was impacting not only her, but her son as well.
“My son needed anger management help due to seeing me abused by his father,” said Moore. “He was angry not only with his father, but also with me for staying as long as I did. I didn’t know about WOMAN, Inc. until I went into the shelter. This program is so needed for women like me. I didn’t know what I was going to do. They made a way for me to get my life together.”
Houston-based Women Opting for More Affordable Housing Now (WOMAN) Inc. has served over 1,000 people like Moore through its community housing developments. And the nonprofit offers more than a place of refuge.
“WOMAN, Inc. is focused on offering supportive services that foster residential stability, increased skills and income, and greater self-determination,” said executive director Michaelle Wormly. “We do this through our collaborations with community partners to provide rent and utility assistance, housing support, case management, counseling, substance abuse and mental health treatment, legal services and more.”
Regions Bank in Houston is a longtime community partner of WOMAN, Inc. One of the bank’s most recent examples is a financial grant to support the agency’s Rapid Rehousing Program, which seeks to quickly move families from shelters to sustainable housing to increase their likelihood of not returning to abusive situations.
WOMAN, Inc.’s work is also personal for Misha Burkett, a community development manager for Regions.
“I have witnessed domestic violence situations firsthand, and I know the devastating impact it can have on survivors and their entire families,” said Burkett, who serves as vice president of WOMAN, Inc.’s board of directors. “Having the opportunity to be part of creating a safe space for domestic violence survivors to be heard means so much to me.”
Creating that safe space typically involves a one- to two-year stay for families to get back on their feet. During that time, WOMAN, Inc. offers voluntary programs such as budgeting and parenting classes and employment and life skills training, among other free resources. A case manager works one-on-one with clients to provide encouragement and instill confidence, both typically in short supply following years of abuse.
“When a woman is first referred to us, her self-esteem is often at its lowest point,” said Wormly. “We find that if the family can stay away from the abuser for at least three months, they’re more likely to break the cycle of violence. And when a woman has lived on her own for two years with support from our Rapid Rehousing program, it’s transformational. We see children’s smiling faces, and the mother has a whole different look in her eyes.”
That’s certainly the case for Moore. She’s been working as part of a cleaning crew to save money and plans to start her own cleaning business now that she’s in a safer place.
“Months ago, I was afraid that I would not be able to make it out here in this world on my own,” she recalled. “After meeting the WOMAN, Inc. staff, I felt I had a helping hand.”
One that’s pulled both Moore and her son up to higher ground and a brighter future.
“The last few months were a real learning experience,” she added. “I’ve had to be both parents to my son. Time has healed both of us, along with counseling. We can laugh out loud now. I am more secure in myself; I look at others living their lives freely and realize I’m part of that.”
WOMAN, Inc. offers a new sense of family to clients, something Wormly believes is possible due to compassionate volunteers like Misha Burkett and community partners like Regions.
“Anyone who has spent years of being hit, humiliated and surrounded without compassion needs helps readjusting to life,” Wormly explained. “The spirits of our clients are usually broken, and supportive services are very important. Providing those services requires community partners and funding support, a fact that makes grants from organizations such as Regions Bank essential.”
Success stories like Moore’s inspire Burkett and fellow volunteers to keep serving, knowing there are other Becky Moores to reach.
“From WOMAN, Inc., I’ve learned that advocacy is not always necessarily just speaking out for others,” Burkett said. “It’s also about equipping others with the resources they need to make their voices heard. If all domestic violence survivors had access to an organization like WOMAN, Inc., their lives would be completely different.”