Tell me something about your early life? I stayed with my dad, my step mom and their children. Dad was a Boxer by profession but in reality he was an abuser. He beat my step mom unmercifully. She was 6’ 4” and he was 5’ 2”. He was a stickler for education and would beat all of us if we didn’t get good grades. I did something wrong at school one day and the teacher called him. I came home and he told me to go upstairs and take my clothes off and he beat me until I bled. I remember standing naked getting bandaged up by my step Mom while she had company. I was 8 years old. 

The first time my Dad raped me I was 15. Ironically he stopped his friend from raping me years earlier when I was just a little bitty thing. I felt safe and protected by him then. I still remember the goodness of that feeling. Growing up was confusing and traumatic. My dad molested me repeatedly and so did my grandfather. They molested my sisters and my sister’s children too. 

Not all the men in my life have been abusive. It’s just that it’s hard to trust anyone when your childhood is a living nightmare. You can’t just put it behind you and move on. My dad and grandfather are dead, but I’m still learning to deal with the memories that are alive in my brain. 

Tell me about your journey to RS. I got hurt on the job—I fell over loose computer cables and damaged my achilles tendon. When I was well enough to go back to work, I needed something sedentary, but they didn’t have anything. So, after 6 years of working for these people I lost my job. Things went downhill from there. I lost everything I owned and ended up homeless. I came to RS for their Friday night meal and got talking to Miss Sylvia about their women’s group therapy program SnAP. That was in 2014 and I’ve been connected to RS since then. I’m now in another woman's group at RS that meets each Monday.

How did the therapy groups help you? I realized, for the first time that I am not alone. Other women have experienced what I have. I felt understood, like I had a connection with them. The more we shared with each other the better we all felt. I’ve found hope and strategies to help me focus on what I want to become. I’ve learned how to set boundaries and to say, “No.” I have a greater sense of self worth. 

What’s next for you? Things are working out for me. I have my own home again, I’m paying my bills and I have peace and solitude. Can you imagine how this feels? I know what it is like to not have a penny to my name. Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine what it might feel like to have nothing but what you stand up in. You don’t even have enough money to buy yourself a bar of soap.

What are your dreams? I love to cook and I like to see people happy sitting at my table and eating the food I make. In the last few months, I’ve developed some recipes for salt free spices and I want to find people who will help me get them to market.

What have you learned and what do you want to pass on to others? I want other women to know that there is hope and to hang on and to find the right resources. Keep going and don’t give up. Forgive others and forgive yourself. Give to others and be generous!

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Story: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photos: Tom Morse-Brown