Monday, June 4, 2012

Once a victim of abuse, a mother of three finds independence through college

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Becky heads to class at the CSM's La Plata campus
Last summer, Becky walked into Catholic Charities’ Angel’s Watch Shelter after she walked out of a scary domestic abuse situation. Her husband’s violence, which she had endured for years, had begun to threaten the safety of their three young children. Enough was enough.  

“I’m a feminist now,” Becky said. “Before I thought I had to stay in my marriage, since I depended on my husband to support me and my kids. But Angel’s Watch has helped show me that women can achieve whatever they want to achieve. I don’t need to stay with a man just for financial reasons. ” Today Becky is studying for her nursing degree at the College of Southern Maryland, caring for her kids, and holding a weekend job.

Becky (right) with her case manager, Dayon
Catholic Charities’ Angel’s Watch Shelter, located in Charles County, Maryland, provides a safe haven for women and their children fleeing domestic violence and homelessness. “Often women who have been abused come here with just the clothes on their backs,” said Dayon Jackson, Becky’s case manager at Angel’s Watch. “They also have a lot of difficult emotions that we need to work with them to overcome.”
Like many victims of domestic violence, Becky had fallen into a dangerous cycle. During her husband’s abusive episodes, she had tried to leave many times, but could never go through with it. She was afraid of how her husband would react, she worried about how she could support her kids, and she felt guilty about uprooting them from their home.

When Becky finally found the courage to leave, she went first to CAP (Center for Abused Persons), where she was referred to Angel’s Watch. Once the crisis of safety and shelter was addressed, Becky worked one-on-one with her case manager Dayon to develop a plan to gain financial independence, since she needed to support her kids.

This summer Becky's tackling some Gen. Ed. courses at CSM
Becky already had a career in mind; she had dreamed of becoming a nurse ever since caring for her dying grandmother several years back. “I had tried to start nursing school when I was still with my husband,” she said. “But I couldn’t leave the kids behind while I was in classes. He didn’t want me to go, and he wouldn’t care for them while I was at classes. So I kept deferring.” Dayon helped her apply for daycare vouchers through the Department of Social Services, which allow Becky to pay for childcare on a sliding scale based on what she can afford. Becky also received a grant that helps with her tuition.

“Dayon is so good for me. She is always encouraging when I am down. She always has a smile for me,” said Becky.

This summer, a time when most students enjoy a few months’ vacation, Becky is packing in extra coursework. “I’m taking three courses for the summer session,” she said.  Doing so will allow her to earn her nursing degree in just two years.

Of course, there are many challenges. Becky often stays up late into the night to crunch in a few hours of studying while her children sleep. Sometimes she needs the kids to play quietly while she studies through the afternoon. “But I hope they know that this is good for me and good for them, because we won’t be financially dependent on anyone once I get a job,” she said. “I want to be their provider from now on. I’m going to break the cycle.”

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