By Janelle L., Safe Harbor Community Counselor
“Laura” came to Safe Harbor completely discouraged and hopeless. She had been married and divorced three times, and each man she married was extremely abusive and controlling. Each time she would eventually muster the courage to leave and start over when things got terrible, but she somehow always found herself with an abuser again.
More recently, Laura was sure that she had found someone different, and she felt truly in love. Her new boyfriend was so good to her. They had fun together and talked about their hopes and dreams, but over time, she started to get an uneasy feeling inside. She thought the reason he would get upset when she spoke to other men was because he really loved her. But, his anger was getting worse. They worked together, but eventually he lost his job for angrily confronting one of the male coworkers that she would talk to while doing her work throughout the day.
One day, Laura’s boyfriend got so mad that he keyed her car and broke her phone. Laura knew it was time to leave. She came to Safe Harbor seeking support and counseling. She was desperate to learn how to break this cycle of violence that she had lived her whole life. Through counseling, Laura learned about domestic violence, healthy relationships, and love. She realized that when her abusive mother told her, “I hurt you because I love you”, she internalized the idea that abuse is a normal part of a loving relationship. She realized that, because she had no way to protect herself or stand up for herself as a child, she never learned how to set an enforce boundaries. She also realized that this made her vulnerable to believing the lie that all her abusers told her, that her behavior caused the abuse.
Laura started to plant her feet on the ground and grow in empowerment. She started to make choices based on what she needed or wanted. The boyfriend that she had recently left was continuing to abuse her. He broke into her garage and disabled her car. He stalked and followed her. Although she got a new phone and number, he somehow discovered her new number and would call and harass her. One night, when she was at a friend’s house, she turned around to see him standing outside the living room window. Laura continued to set boundaries for her safety and independence. With the help of Safe Harbor’s community advocate, Laura was able to get an Order of Protection, which prohibited any contact from her ex-boyfriend.
Laura completed counseling at Safe Harbor a couple of months ago. She has broken free from abuse, and she is happier than she has ever been. She still has old ways of thinking resurface, at times, but she is able to recognize these faulty thoughts and replace them with what she now knows is true. I recently received an email from Laura which said,
“Thank you for helping me regain some lost balance and discover new thinking. Tell all I said thank you. Today I was truly happy.”