My name is Kristine and my family and I are clients of Family Connections. Sometimes I find that hard to say because I can’t believe how much my life has changed over the last ten years. I’d like to share my story with you, so that not only will you understand how Family Connections supported me through the most difficult time in my life, but also how important your support is to the organization and to the incredibly resilient people they serve.
When I met my husband, we were living outside the U.S. He was smart, handsome, and sweet. So, when he got a job that would relocate us to New Jersey, I agreed without a second thought – excited to start our life together in a new place!
Shortly after we moved, I became pregnant with our first child, and a switch flipped within my husband. He became verbally and physically abusive. I was terrified, but thought it was because of stress and that it would pass. It didn’t. We had a baby girl, and by the time she turned two, he had become abusive towards her as well. He would lock her in her room because she was crying, he would scream at her, and sometimes get physical.
I felt alone and scared. When I told my parents about my husband’s aggression, they said he was a “great provider” and that “no one is perfect.” I thought to myself, “marriage is hard, we can get through this.” We had three more children together, all boys. By the time my two younger sons were born, my oldest son who was three at the time, began to show signs of aggression towards me, his siblings, and his peers at school – mirroring his father’s behavior.
I found myself living in a home with two abusers.
Something needed to change.
The day I left, I found out that my husband was cheating on me and was showing my oldest son inappropriate videos. Although I was physically free of him, I had four children struggling with severe trauma from being physically, verbally, and sexually abused, and from witnessing my abuse as well. I also had my own trauma and a long court battle ahead of me.
I realized I could not do this on my own. I called the Essex County Domestic Violence Liaison and she put me in touch with Family Connections.
My four children and I immediately began individual and family counseling, as well as art therapy, at Family Connections’ Domestic Violence program, Dreams. The counselors at Dreams worked on raising my children’s self-esteem, helped them work through their feelings and, most importantly, helped them understand that they were not to blame for their father’s abusive behavior.
My counselor supported me while we worked through the trauma that I had experienced and provided me with the tools and strategies I needed to help my children with their own struggles.
My children and I have come a long way and would not be where we are today without Family Connections.
Although our time at Dreams has ended, all four of my children are still receiving outpatient counseling services from Family Connections. I’ve also started mentoring a mother I met through Dreams’ group art therapy.
Our counselors are still an important part of my support system. I call them often to check in and fill them in about my kids and their well-being. With Family Connections’ help, I am so fortunate to have a happy ending to my story – not everyone gets one!
I hope my story has shown you how truly important Family Connections’ work is. The staff are invested in the clients they work with, and the breadth of programs they offer continues to support my family’s healing.
When you give to Family Connections, 90 cents of every dollar you donate goes directly to serving individuals and families like mine. I hope you will consider making a gift today!
Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!
*The names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.