To a lot of people, this month means the rusty, earthy hues of autumn but there’s another October color – a bold purple meant to bring awareness to domestic violence and the many resources available.
To me, October always brings me back to the time I met a now beloved survivor. Through her story, I came to realize that domestic violence can be any mix of abuse: physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, social, spiritual and financial.
A phone call came in about the needs of a woman over 1,200 miles away. The woman’s safety plan included moving to Arizona and she needed Winged Hope’s help.
This woman and her teen fled their home with only two backpacks crammed with a couple changes of clothes.
They stayed in emergency lodging while we gathered donations and prepared an apartment. Because their move-in was late at night, we took over beds in my truck and left the other things for the next trip. While my husband and I stood outside of her door, a woman with a contagious smile and a small load of groceries stepped out of an Uber.
Looking back over her scattered grocery bags, I asked what she had put back or reluctantly walked past in the store. Her list included simple things such as hand soap, plates, silverware and towels.
I took to social media, desperately enlisting help from my friends and family. Using every penny received, we extended her wish list so much that the shopping cart became hard to see over and difficult to maneuver.
I saw a lift in the mom as some burdens fell off her shoulders when she saw the bags. I eagerly presented this mother with a new, soft comforter in her favorite color… purple and saw that spark of hope she carried with her fully ignite.
She hugged me and then the blanket before hurrying down the hall to make her bed. I didn’t know it then but this bed would change her life and mine, too.
We continued emptying my garage and hauling in loads over the next few days – newly painted bedroom furniture for the boy and a black headboard for the mom. I bought her a tool set as a gift, unaware of the inspirational moment that purchase would bring.
The mom became eager to build her bed, with an interesting mix of restlessness and giddy behavior. She asked how we were going to put it all together and I ceremoniously presented her with her own toolbox.
Her response has stayed with me for years now and I never want to forget her enthusiasm. Just after the tools were put into her hands, she raised them overhead saying, “I have the POWER!”
I was taken back. With the authority in her voice, I knew she believed what she said.
After many days and loads of physical goods, I finally asked this woman her full name. We talked and among other details I learned her favorite author was Maya Angelou and her favorite holiday was Halloween.
She then told me about the day she fully committed to safety. She had her son, her backpack, and an ability to purchase two one-way tickets.
She looked at her flight options and chose Arizona for its sun. She’d lived in the Pacific Northwest where the rain felt inescapable and the dark clouds always hung over her.
A few minutes later she shared why she was so driven to set up her bed. She’d lived with her abuser for over 10 years and endured all sorts of physical and emotional pain in that relationship but in all that time he never allowed her to sleep on a real bed.
He said she needed to “live humbly” in order to arrive at a good life and then forced her to sleep on a thin mattress on the floor. The situation didn’t change even when she’d saved money from her own job for a bed.
He didn’t work, yet he had control of all the finances. He took her earnings and dignity.
This donated bed made her feel loved and respected.
After years of suffering, she had her needs met by strangers and that love was symbolized by a black headboard and purple comforter.
Her abuser attempted to control her by withholding a bed, which the Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation delivered upon meeting her.
He threatened her enough that sleep felt impossible but our team provided her with a comfortable night’s rest before even knowing her last name.
Our advocates created safety in her environment and poured love back into her for no reason other than that is what she deserved!
Through her I was able to see how empowering compassionate care is and witness the transforming power of community.
She had a new life trajectory and the hope came through in her words, “I’m so happy I am safe now. I am free! I can be any emotion I want to and it’s OK. I won’t get in trouble for it. I can be myself and I haven’t been that in a very long time.”
If you are struggling, know that you don’t have to do it alone. Please reach out to us at www.wingedhope.org or speak to someone at the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233.
If you want to join us in our efforts, please consider a financial donation through our website. Winged Hope relies on donor support to continue providing services to families statewide.
Rachel Allen is a volunteer at the nonprofit Winged Hope Foundation in Gilbert. Information about the foundation: wingedhope.org or 480-757-7030.