#ThisIsDV: A Family Story

Through the month of October, we will be sharing stories #ThisIsDV stories from survivors like Shelly and her family. Have a story to tell? Click HERE.


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In 2015, Shelly shared her survivor story with us, along with three of her four children. Her journey to Central Oregon began in 1991 when she moved here from California. Twenty-one years later in 2012, Shelly’s husband and the father of her children would be arrested for domestic violence related crimes.

“At that time, I didn’t understand the dynamic in my marriage to be “domestic violence” as I learned to understand it.” Shelly told me. “While my children knew the situation in our home was bad, they assumed that’s how all families lived, but they too would not have described it as “violence” at that time. Part of what Saving Grace and other partners did for us was to help us name what was really happening to us.”

In 2015, Shelly and three of her children participated in a video interview with Saving Grace, where each of them describe those first days of “getting free”: “Saving Grace has been a Godsend, truly. The way they came at it — so compassionately, sincerely, caring — I had never experienced that.” 

Shelly’s youngest remembers feeling “valued, not so secluded,” and Shelly remembers the hard holidays being graced with Christmas gifts and personal connection provided by Saving Grace and their church community.

In that same year, Shelly’s husband was granted supervised contact with his children, which they challenged. 

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Shelly’s daughter, Kate, remembers, “It didn’t feel like he had changed. He kept pushing instead of backing off.” Her younger brother, Evan, feels similar: “He didn’t have our best interest in mind.”

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In April of this year, their father’s probation ended, but they have chosen not to see him yet. 

“I’ve felt empowered because of Saving Grace,” Evan said. “We have more control. There’s a lot of progress that’s happened. I remember it vividly, but I’ve moved on. It’s not affecting my present-day life.”

“A lot of progress,” Kate echoed, “a lot of growing. Connecting with others was a big thing — learning how to trust people again.”

In the bestselling book, “The Body Keeps the Score”, trauma expert, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, confirms this very element of connection as a necessity in trauma recovery:

Traumatized human beings recover in the context of relationships…The role of those relationships is to provide physical and emotional safety, including safety from feeling shamed, admonished, or judged, and to bolster the courage to tolerate, face, and process the reality of what has happened. Recovery from trauma involves (re)connecting with our fellow human beings.

As we enter Domestic Violence Awareness month, we tell their story — not because you are unaware of the issue and the damage it causes — but because, most likely, you or someone you know is currently experiencing it. If their story resonants with you and you are ready to experience a new way to live without violence, call our 24-Hour Helpline now: (541) 389-7021. 

When calling the helpline, you can expect to find a safe and trained member of our team to help connect you to: crisis intervention, safety planning, peer counseling, community resources and referrals, access to emergency safe shelter, and more.

Dr. Kolk, with over three decades of experience working with trauma survivors, explains what services like these can provide for domestic violence survivors:

You need a guide who is not afraid of your terror and who can contain your darkest rage, someone who can safeguard the wholeness of you while you explore the fragmented experiences that you had to keep secret from yourself for so long. Most traumatized individuals need an anchor and a great deal of coaching to do this [recovery] work.

In that 2015 video, Evan at the age of 12 made a profound statement about the services he received as a child from Saving Grace:

It has made a big impact on me for what will happen to me in the future. I won’t make the same mistakes that I grew up around. I will progress in life, instead of staying in one spot. I will go out and seek my future, instead of being afraid of it.

Kate shared a similar sentiment regarding the life she experienced with domestic violence and the realization of what life can look like after: “I know it was the way we lived then, but it doesn’t have to be the way we live now.”

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