Changing Lives

Mother hugging a sleeping child
Photo by Paolo Villanueva

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

The problems our clients experience are rarely simple ones with easy answers or easy solutions. Not all of our clients are sympathetic, nor do they always demonstrate great judgment. Often, they don’t have great options or choices.

Denise, for example, was overwhelmed with her life. She was separated from her husband who was abusive to her and her twin daughters. But he made a decent living, and he was better than she was at talking with social workers and police officers. He made a persuasive case that Denise was abusive and too “crazy” to be taken seriously. Sometimes, Denise thought he must be right. She was convinced she couldn’t make it on her own.

Thanks to her husband’s manipulations, Denise came to CSSW with a domestic violence charge against her and a court mandate for counseling. Lacking confidence, she didn’t present her case well in court. But she was determined to “just get through it” and get her life back on track. It isn’t unusual for the perpetrators of domestic violence to claim innocence, but Denise was different. Intensive counseling revealed the level of abuse she and her daughters suffered, as well as the necessity of a plan for her family. How else would her children ever feel safe and make sense of their lives?

Denise’s counselor at CSSW helped her understand that “just getting through it” wasn’t enough—she and her children deserved more. For the first time, someone believed her story, and together they worked to understand it. Despite her terror and lack of faith in the process, Denise began to identify the cycle of abuse, confront her problems, work with Friend of the Court, and improve her parenting skills. It was a very slow process, but a life-changing one. Denise is moving forward—gaining strength and purpose and building a better life for her family.

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