Rebuilding Safe and Hopeful Lives for Victims of Domestic Violence
The Committee to Aid Abused Women (CAAW) has been providing free, confidential, bilingual services to victims of domestic violence and their children in Washoe County since 1977. CAAW has helped more than 70,000 families and below is a story about one of those families…
Story of Ann
Setting up a Facebook account is a routine activity for most of us these days. For Ann, it was an act of rebellion. “It was my way of reaching out, to try to connect with someone…anyone,” she says. “But once I got started, I realized that I didn’t have anyone to ask to be my friend.”
The realization of the extent to which her husband had isolated her from family, friends and co-workers was a wake-up call.
A graduate of Reno High School, Ann married young, and soon she and her husband were parents of two children. “For the first three months it was great, he was loving and patient,” she recalls. But soon everything changed. “He became very controlling and violent. I wasn’t allowed to speak to men, even when I was calling the phone company. If I got a male representative my husband forced me to continue calling back until a woman answered.”
The violence and controlling behavior continued, making it difficult for Ann to keep her job. “He would come to my work to check up on me, and sometimes he would lecture me for so long in the mornings that I would be late for work.” Despite these challenges Ann remained employed and thrived in the work environment. “What was so weird was that I was used to managing others and interacting with powerful people,” she says. “But I couldn’t figure this one out.”
What she did, was develop a series of coping strategies – all attempts to prove to her husband that she could be a “good” wife. “I tried silence because every time I talked I got into trouble. I also developed a mantra that I kept repeating to myself…to be quiet, to not show emotion, to be ‘good’. I became a zombie.”
Coincidentally it was through Ann’s Facebook page where she found hope, several years into her marriage. “The wife of my pastor reached out to me. She wondered where I had been. As we got to talking she figured out what had been going on, and she told me about CAAW.”
Ann contacted the Committee to Aid Abused Women (CAAW) and shortly thereafter entered CAAW’s emergency shelter. She then moved on to CAAW’s transitional housing program where she can live for up to two years.
“I feel so fortunate to have found CAAW,” she says. “I knew I needed help, but I never would have Googled ‘abused women’. I didn’t think of myself as abused. I didn’t know.”
CAAW’s support groups, goal setting and advocacy provided a lifeline for Ann just as it does thousands of women annually. In 2013, CAAW provided more than 9,000 bednights at the emergency shelter and transitional housing programs, assisted with 3,175 total motions and orders at the Protection Order Project and answered 9,653 requests for assistance at the Vassar Street Office.
Ann’s (not her real name) story is all too familiar. Your support of CAAW will help provide hope and support for families experiencing domestic violence in Washoe County.