Gayle's Story

Safe Harbor Voice  |  December 15, 2023
Gayle's Story

Dear Friend,

Hi, my name is Gayle, and Safe Harbor has been sharing my story this year.

As you may have read in my previous letters, my life has not always been easy. I had a tumultuous childhood, and I suffered with alcoholism at an early age. I met the man of my dreams while in recovery, just to discover that he was hiding his true self. His abusive self. At first his attacks were targeted at me, but soon they were aimed at my son, Kevin, too.

Kevin and I suffered years of abuse. I was desperate for help. One day, after a life-threatening event, a marriage counselor urged me to call Safe Harbor. My life and my son’s life were on the line. With Safe Harbor’s help, I was finally able to escape. Safe Harbor services changed my life.

I thought things were better, but I soon realized that was too good to be true. My ex-husband started causing more problems.Once again, I worried for my family’s safety. Once again, I felt powerless and hopeless. I reached back out to Safe Harbor, and without hesitation, they welcomed me with open arms. I started group counseling, and Safe Harbor helped me get a no-contact order against my ex-husband.

With the help of Safe Harbor, I was finally free from my abuser.



Gayle had a long road to finally escape her ex-husband, but that was not the end of her journey. Like all survivors, Gayle is now learning to live with the lasting effects of her abuse.

Now that I am free from abuse, I can finally focus all my attention on my son. Kevin is my world, and I am so grateful that Safe Harbor gave me the resources I needed to escape and give him the life that he deserves.

Today, life is wonderful. I am on a journey of healing and reinvention. I’ve picked up a paintbrush and started expressing myself through art. One day, something magical happened. While painting my usual landscapes, I did something I had never done; I painted a woman. She simply appeared in my mind and somehow ended up in the picture. She was strong and beautiful, and I realized that she was no stranger. I had painted a self-portrait. It felt like everything came together in that moment and I knew, like the canvas before me, I could finally control my life.

This single moment has turned into my livelihood. I now make art for a living and sell enough paintings to support my family. My most recent collection is a series of portraits of strong women.

The path of leaving abuse is not linear, but Safe Harbor was there with me every step of the way. Safe Harbor provided relief during a time when I felt the world on my back.

One of my favorite services I received at Safe Harbor was through their Holiday Program. They were already providing me counseling and legal support, and then they went above and beyond to make sure that my son Kevin had presents that holiday season. Because of donors like you, my son got to experience his very first Christmas.

Now I’m giving back to Safe Harbor and sharing my story. This holiday season, I ask you to join me in supporting Safe Harbor so they can continue being a safety net and resource for survivors like me.



Gayle spent several years stuck in a cycle of abuse. She was desperate to get away to save herself and her son. Thankfully, the resources Gayle received at Safe Harbor empowered her to break the cycle of abuse and start a new life.

Right now, countless other victims and their children are facing abuse like Gayle did. They feel alone, scared, and are desperate for help.

They need your support.

Safe Harbor offers life-saving services that help victims at all stages of their journey to escape abuse. Domestic violence persists in the Upstate — we need your help to continue offering critical intervention and supportive services to everyone in need in our community.

We asked Gayle where she thought she would be today without Safe Harbor’s services, and she immediately replied, “Without Safe Harbor, I don’t think I would be alive today.”

This holiday season, I ask you to make a financial contribution to Safe Harbor to help ensure that we can continue to provide programs and services that save the lives of domestic violence victims like Gayle and her son.

Your commitment today helps us continue to change lives and create a safer, brighter future for all.

With gratitude,

Danny Varat, CEO


I am a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused because...

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.

“I didn’t know that I was being abused because my definition of abuse looked different. My husband pushed me, but most of my suffering was verbal and psychological. I left my husband to protect our young daughter. Almost immediately I felt the weight of his oppression begin to lift. I could see a difference in my daughter as well. Then he broke into my home and assaulted me in-front of her.

I sought help and was led to Safe Harbor. My daughter and I are in counseling now. I am sorting out the mess that abuse has caused. I am finding my voice and seeking opportunities to grow and better my life as well as my daughter's. She will gauge her self-worth from my own self-worth. I must show her that she deserves the best, by expecting the best for myself.

Many years I suffered in silence. By telling my story and being honest with friends and family, I am taking control of my life again.”

- Beth



When you give to Safe Harbor, 82 cents of every dollar goes directly to our intervention services and prevention initiatives to break the cycle of domestic abuse in the Upstate of South Carolina. 

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We are available to provide domestic abuse education and information about Safe Harbor’s services through speaking engagements, trainings, workshops and awareness campaigns.





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