Not Broken

November 18, 2013

by Ester Griffin-DeVita, Safe Harbor Community Counselor

My clients are amazing human beings. Truly, they are some of the bravest people I have ever had the fortune to meet, and it is such a great honor to be able to help them in their journey. For so many of them, they simply need just a solid touchstone in their life—a place of quiet within the chaos their abuser has whipped up around them, where they can rest and gather their thoughts and strength, and then make their move. The rate of positive change I see in my clients is often mind-boggling. I am reminded, again and again, that despite what their abusers have told them or what society may think, the “crazy” in their lives most certainly does NOT belong with them…they are not the “broken one” in their relationships. Sometimes, all that my job as a counselor entails is helping my clients see this reality for themselves. Once they do, it’s almost as if the shackles fall from their minds and hearts, and suddenly they are free and, most importantly, powerful.

Whenever I first meet with a new client, I often imagine that they are bringing into my office a big, heavy bag, filled with the chaos of their lives—like an old, overstuffed purse. During those first sessions, I start asking them to pull out the things that weigh heavy in their lives, and together we begin to examine each item. With some things, it’s easy to see that they serve no real purpose and can be easily disposed of, and oftentimes these include the focus and effort to determine the “whys” behind an abuser’s behavior. Once my clients identify that the motivation behind just about everything their abuser does is to obtain power and control over their lives, they can begin to see their abuser’s actions as just various snap-shots of a bigger picture—in other words, their “whys” are easily answered: power and control. Rather than being distracted by trying to understand each and every move their abuser makes, with the underlying question being an unspoken, “What do I need to do to make this relationship work?” my clients can begin to ask a different question instead: “What do I want for myself, now that I know I can’t make this relationship ‘work?’”

I’m working with a wonderful lady right now who embodies this as a perfect example. “Julia” was referred to me by the local victim advocate at the sheriff’s department after her husband had been arrested and charged with Criminal Domestic Violence. The abuse had been escalating for years, but this had been the first time he had threatened to use a weapon against her, and the move had been so scary for her that she no longer felt like she could pretend everything would just go back to normal. Julia had moved away from her hometown several years prior and had left all of her family behind, so the idea of leaving her home was not an easy one, and she wasn’t really sure what she wanted or needed to do next. Like so many abused women, Julia spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out the “whys” behind her husband’s abusive behaviors. She just couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around why anyone on earth would treat another human being this way, and this quest for answers kept her exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

Once Julia had the realization that she was not the one responsible for the chaos of her life, because what was “broken” lay inside her abuser and not her, she began to make plans. Freed from the weight of trying to figure out the “whys,” Julia suddenly had energy for other things. She researched housing within the local area and began to work out budget ideas on how much she would need to earn in order to live independently. She became familiar with local public transportation routes, so that she could get where she needed to go without having to rely on anyone for a ride. She started applying for full-time jobs and made a goal to fill out at least 3 applications every day. She spoke to a lawyer and found out information regarding her options for divorce and how much it would cost. She made contingency plans with her local friends, as well as her family back home, regarding the “what-ifs” if she was not able to get a job within her set time-frame. She began to move forward in her life, and once she did, her momentum picked up. As I write these words now, Julia has already accepted a part-time job and is currently at a job interview for a full-time position as well. Her goal is to be living on her own within the next month, and to begin divorce proceeding as soon as possible thereafter. I have no doubt that she’ll do it. Everything she needs to make her life what she wants is already within herself: courage, strength, tenacity, and hard work. Only THIS time, instead of spending it all on trying to make a relationship with an abuser work (a bottomless black hole), her focus is on where it should be: herself.

I’m so fortunate to play a small part in this amazing woman’s journey. If I ever start to lose faith in humanity, my clients quickly restore it for me. I am so grateful to be a part of the important work that Safe Harbor does for our incredible clients.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

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

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

“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 violence in the Upstate of South Carolina. 

Donate Now


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





Safe Harbor Resale Shop operates solely on donations from our generous community. Donations are tax deductible and make a difference in the lives of our clients.  



Your donated furniture can support our clients as they transition out of our programs and start a new life, and can also raise money for Safe Harbor by going to our Resale Shop to be re-sold.



Give us your email address and we will keep you up to date on the latest happenings at Safe Harbor.

Error Message