Marlene was first involved with SOS when she fled her abusive boyfriend and father of her child. He had been extremely physically abusive toward her in the past, including once stabbing her, for which he was criminally convicted. Marlene worked with the shelter and advocacy services for the next several months to find safe housing, childcare for her daughter, and general support and services to start her life as a single mother in a new location. She went to school and is now working in a licensed professional career. Her ex-boyfriend, in the meantime, spent much time in and out of jail for other criminal offenses. He was then paroled and threatened to enter back into her life, as her Orders of Protection and custody had expired. Marlene got back in touch with SOS advocacy services for assistance in getting her case into court in Broome County. By advocating for the client with her attorney, the Law Guardian, Family Court and Child Protective Services, SOS was able to help her put on the best case in court and secure a new Order of Protection and sole custody of her daughter. Additionally, Marlene feels safer than she has in the past, because she has developed a strong safety plan and support network.
Kim was first referred to the agency by Child Protective Services due to ongoing abuse she was experiencing from her boyfriend in the presence of her new baby. She was resistant to receiving advocacy services at first, not believing that there was abuse, that it was a threat to her child or herself, or that she needed any assistance in getting out of the situation. She lost custody of her child and was re-referred to the SOS Shelter Pattern Changing group for education and support. She attended and completed the group. Kim was initially resistant to even discussing domestic abuse in her life, but became a great asset and participant in the group, even offering assistance to other women about how to leave an abusive situation. In her survey at the close of group, Kim shared that she learned domestic violence is not just physical abuse and that she understood “how much it can affect my daughter now and in the future.” Her progress is evident in other parts of her life as well – she has worked to secure an Order of Protection against her ex-boyfriend and is now enjoying unsupervised visits with her daughter, certainly on the way to reuniting her family in a violence-free home.
Olivia and her two children are an example of a family the benefited from the services of the SOS Shelter. Olivia came to the shelter with her two girls after living through years of emotional abuse and physical threats. Like many clients, Olivia thought about leaving several times, but was afraid to disrupt the lives of her two daughters and wasn’t sure what to except staying in a domestic violence shelter. One night her partner threatened Olivia with a weapon and she made the brave decision that it was time to leave. She called the SOS Shelter’s 24 hour hotline and spoke with a staff member about her situation, who made arrangements for Olivia and her daughters to be picked up at a safe location and transported to the shelter.
Olivia gathered her and her girl’s essential belongs and walked them to a nearby location where SOS staff could pick them up. Olivia’s daughters were scared and confused and Olivia wasn’t sure how to reassure them. Once the family arrived at the shelter they were given a tour and provided a room and personal items for their stay. As they settled in for the night Olivia wasn’t sure what her family was going to do next, but she was glad to be safe.
The next day Olivia met with an SOS Shelter advocate who gave her information about obtaining an order of protection from her abuser and how to obtain custody of her children. Olivia had never been to court and was overwhelmed by the process, but the advocate went to court with Olivia and explained what she needed to do. Olivia was grateful, but concerned about a long, ongoing court process. However, Olivia was surprised to learn that SOS advocates work with clients even after they leave the shelter. Olivia’s advocate would accompany her to all court dates.
SOS staff also worked with Olivia to understand patterns of abuse and power and control in relationships. Olivia was reassured to learn that controlling behaviors and threats of violence are in fact domestic violence. Although Olivia was never physical hurt by her abuser she was living in a constant state of fear never knowing if his threats would become a reality. The tension affected her daughters, they were afraid of their father and unable to concentrate at school. SOS staff also talked with Olivia’s daughters to help them understand what was happening and that it wasn’t their fault. Olivia also received help with finding housing and in obtaining temporary public assistance to get her and the girls’ setup in a new place. Staff helped Olivia work out the details of moving from shelter to her own apartment.
Before leaving her partner it was hard for Olivia to imagine living on her own, but now Olivia has her own apartment for her and her daughters where they feel safe. Olivia now has an order of protection from her abuser and custody of her children. Olivia is still in contact her with advocate from the SOS Shelter and discusses her questions and concerns regularly. She is still adjusting to life as a single parent, but believes she is on the way to a better life for herself and her daughters.