Telling Stories

July 18, 2011

black and white photo of a close up of a woman's hands

On Friday morning, we had the privilege of meeting with Bobby Rettew to make plans for our first Safe Harbor video project.  As a videographer and journalist, Bobby is helping us to realize that making a video about Safe Harbor is much more than listing information about our mission and services.  It is about telling stories.

What does it look like to tell the stories Safe Harbor?  We’re not used to telling our stories, but it’s not because we don’t have them.  On the contrary, Safe Harbor is filled with stories…stories that remain forever in our hearts and memories…stories that may sometimes keep us awake at night…stories that often bring us to tears with sadness or laughter, sometimes both.  Safe Harbor has a million stories – stories of victims and survivors, mothers and children, brothers and sisters, volunteers and generous donors…the list goes on and on.

But, for the most part, our protocol is to lock up our stories and throw away the key.  For us, the stories are sacred, and confidentiality is such an important part of the work that we do.  We want to protect the stories, because we want to protect the people behind the stories as well:

  • The mother who came to the shelter with her 2-day-old infant straight from the hospital, healing from the bruises left from her husband’s fists at the same time that she healed from childbirth. 
  • The volunteer who answers our crisis line – when she fled from her violent relationship 35 years ago, there was no crisis line for her to call.
  • The 12-year-old boy who came to Safe Harbor with his mom after throwing rocks at his step-father, trying to prevent him from pushing her to the ground again.
  • The high school student who came up to our teen educator after she had completed a presentation about dating abuse in his class – he asked, “If someone grows up watching his dad beat his mom, does that mean that he is going to grow up to become an abuser, too?”
  • The woman who came to Safe Harbor 2 years ago with no self esteem and a hopeless outlook on life.  Today, she is working in her dream job and living in a home of her own.
  • The brother & sister who came with their mom to the shelter, struggling with nightmares and flashbacks and anxiety due to the violence they had experienced at home.  Now, they laugh and play and sleep soundly every night.

These stories mold us and change us, helping us to constantly look at the world through a new lens and with a fresh perspective.  And, perhaps for the first time, we are realizing that these stories are not just our stories.  They are not just the stories of the people who shared them with us.  They are your stories, too.  They are the stories of our community.  They are the stories of those victims of domestic violence and children witnessing violence who haven’t had a chance to tell their story yet. 

Through this project, we are learning how to tell our stories.  They will remain safe and confidential and sacred.  But, hopefully, these stories will impact our community, open our eyes, and call us to work together for change.

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

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