Sacha’s life had become unrecognizable to her. After her mother lost her job and they were evicted from their home, Sacha, her mom and two younger sisters had no choice but to move in with her uncle to avoid homelessness. But life in his house was horrific. Unbeknownst to Sacha’s mom, her uncle was a violent man with unpredictable moods. Sacha and her sisters were subjected to his verbal and physical abuse daily, always when their mother was out of the house. Sacha asked her sisters to keep the abuse a secret from their mom, because she didn’t want to upset her. But when Sacha’s uncle broke her arm in a violent outrage, Sacha’s mom quickly learned the truth and immediately called the police on her brother.
Instability rocked Sacha and her family. They were forced to move into a local homeless shelter, and were suddenly involved with both Child Welfare Services and law enforcement. Almost overnight, nothing in their lives felt familiar or safe. At an urgent SAFE meeting to address their needs, Sacha’s mom expressed how scared and hurt she and her daughters felt, and how, as a mom, she had no idea how to put her family back together again. As a result of the meeting, the family was referred to FCNI’s Wraparound Program for vital and all-encompassing support.
Every member of Sacha’s family reacted differently to being in care, and expressed different needs and goals--there were going to be no “one size fits all” fixes. The abuse Sacha had suffered manifested in her behaviors; she was unpredictable and, sometimes violent, especially towards her mom whom she no longer trusted and misguidedly blamed for the abuse. So the first thing the family did was develop an evolving safety plan together--one that was flexible and adaptable as their needs and circumstances changed. Sacha was also matched with a Rehabilitation Specialist (RS) for in-home support even while the family remained in the homeless shelter. Sacha’s RS, Emmie, was there to help Sacha identify and process her emotions better, so that she could utilize healthier coping and communication skills to resolve conflicts. Sacha also started individual therapy to help her heal and process her feelings of mistrust and anger.
Sacha’s mom expressed to their team how much she was struggling with shame about her choices and that she felt that as a parent she wasn’t able to meet her girls’ needs. The team helped to establish a “no secrets” policy between her and her girls, working to rebuild the trust and safety between them. She was also matched with a Parent Partner so that she could get help navigating her “new normal” within the system--therapy sessions, parenting classes and other requirements of the program. And Sacha’s two younger sisters both started therapy to help them process their own feelings and trauma as well as tutoring to get them back on track in school.
One critical piece that the entire family needed was safe, affordable housing. Without it, there would be no hope of establishing stable routines for healing and no sense of ongoing safety for them. To help, the family was referred to a local housing assistance program, and with the help of Section 8 housing, they were able to move into a small rental home. As they transitioned from the shelter into their new home, they also received help to purchase necessary furnishings and small appliances, as they had nothing left except their clothing and very few personal items with them. While the housing was pivotal to their progress, the family did face more turmoil in light of moving into a new area; the girls had to start a new school and other new adjustments were introduced. But through it all, the team continued to encourage the family to talk through any and all fears, concerns, needs--not only in team meetings, but in their therapy sessions and between one another. The safety of being open and honest with one another had been yet another victim of their uncle’s abuse, which put big wedges between Sacha’s mom and the girls. Instead of letting these wedges grow and fuster with anger, mistrust, and pain, it was vital that the family rebuild their trust in one another.
To help focus their energy and attention on their healing, their Wraparound team collaborated with other partnering agencies to set up a weekly schedule of support, including team meetings, individual and family therapy sessions, Rehabilitation Specialists (RS) contacts, tutoring, school, and life-skills development. Each step in this process required time and patience, the team working slowly to help the family build on their strengths--their love for and commitment to each other--so that they had the skills and confidence to achieve a goal in order to move on to the next.
Thankfully, Sacha connected strongly with her Emmie, and together they were able to talk through much of Sacha’s pain and fears and how she could respond, helping to reduce her violent outbursts. And they bonded over shared interests which increased Sacha’s cooperation, allowing Emmie to model better coping and communication skills, and self-care to her. Sacha’s mom also connected well with her Parent Partner, Liv. She appreciated that Liv had walked a similar journey as her own, and had survived her own experience with domestic abuse. Together, they set new routines which helped the family feel more stable, and worked on enforcing expectations and boundaries so that no one felt unsafe. As the months went on, and each family member learned and healed, the team saw the family become more bonded and more comfortable with one another again.
For Sacha, feeling safe and heard were critical in her journey towards healing, and her mom and Emmie worked hard to help her feel both. By establishing stability and stronger communication, Sacha’s mom confirmed to her girls that keeping secrets wasn’t necessary because they could trust her to keep them safe. And regaining her daughters’ trust ignited a fire in her, increasing her self-confidence in remarkable ways which helped her secure stable employment and even enroll in online classes to get her accounting certificate. The family now enjoys more time together, crafting or taking their rescue dog out for walks, and Sacha sees her mom in a whole new light--one of safety, love, and support.
Sacha’s story doesn’t end here, however, even though her time in the Wraparound Program has. And while the family’s new skills help them be better equipped to handle the challenges of life, the imprint of the violence they all experienced leaves a deep imprint; a scar that doesn’t fade easily or quickly, and can erode every part of a person’s life, even those who were not directly abused. Healing is possible, as Sacha and her family have seen, but preventing domestic violence is critical. To join efforts to bring more awareness to domestic violence awareness, please visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at ncadv.org