“I AM NOT ONLY LABELED AS A SURVIVOR, I BECAME ONE.”
“I didn’t know what to expect when my advocate Lyndsay from Family Shelter Service walked into my world. I was abused, scared, and alone.” In a powerful letter, a client of Family Shelter Service of Metropolitan Family Services DuPage (FSS of MFSD) shares her experience working with Adult Advocate Lyndsay Hartman.
Raising her children and her abuser’s children on her own while her abuser was incarcerated, she found FSS of MFSD and immediately connected with Lyndsay. “Among her quiet confidence was an empathetic, direct woman who taught me how to show myself grace and begin to find my joy again,” she shares.
Lyndsay reinforced self-care as she supported her client through her legal issues with her abuser, her own health concerns, parenting a child with special needs, and beyond. Together they’ve created safety plans, worked on budgeting and resume building, and processed past traumas – as her client puts it, “to trust and believe in myself again, which to me is priceless.”
Her client shares, “I vented, cried, laughed, and screamed almost daily with her but didn’t realize at the time that I was recreating myself and boundaries that hadn’t existed in over a decade.”
Now a leader in her domestic violence support group, she shares, “I hope to serve as a living example of pain, trauma, hardship, struggle, triumph and freedom, which is in turn allowing me to heal.”
“[Lyndsay] is an amazing advocate,” shares Lisa Horne, Domestic Violence Program Director. “I’m so proud that she is part of our DV team, and the quality services she is providing our client.”
In our client’s own words:
I didn’t know what to expect when my advocate Lyndsay from Family Shelter Service walked into my world. I was abused, scared, and alone.
My abuser was in jail for four months at the time for domestic battery charges against me. This was the eighth time in eight years he had been jailed for hurting me. I was raising my two children alone, a son and a daughter. In addition to my children, I also assumed the role of mother and caretaker to my abuser’s daughters. One of his daughters has special needs child with lots of medical challenges as well.
“Among her quiet confidence was an empathetic, direct woman who taught me how to show myself grace and begin to find my joy again.”
Lyndsay’s non-judgmental, laid back personality instantly connected me to her. She’s a great listener, which with me she had to be because I’ll talk anyone under the table in speed and in duration! Many things struck me about Lyndsay. Among her quiet confidence was an empathetic, direct woman who taught me how to show myself grace and begin to find my joy again.
I remember in the very early stages of our talks she kept reinforcing self care and guided me through my own doctors’ visits, jail phone calls from my abuser, court dates, being unemployed and parenting 4 children with virtually no help. I had been battling multiple health issues for over a year, unable to eat most days, and using drinking as my coping mechanism.
Lyndsay has been the ONLY one who has NEVER judged me and seems to understand me even better than I understand myself. She opened up her heart to me about her struggles and fears in her own life and this woman even had a background in taking care of a special needs child. I do believe it was fate that she be a part of my life.
Low and behold, unbeknownst to me, I slowly started to reclaim back my life under Lyndsay’s direction. Pre-Lyndsay, I was making all decisions for my life out of being manipulated by my abuser. Apprehensively, she convinced me to buy a planner and urged me to start writing down every accomplishment, big and small, each day while my abuser was still in jail to remind myself that I was one of the most self proclaimed unproductive, productive people she knew. Hilarious!
“I vented, cried, laughed, and screamed almost daily with her but didn’t realize at the time that I was recreating myself and boundaries that hadn’t existed in over a decade.”
Lyndsay continued to encourage me to start carving out time for things I loved separate from my abuser and his children, even after I allowed him back home upon his release from jail. I kept a journal and began to write about my feelings, arguments and happy times with my abuser. I love to write! I missed that! I took a temporary job so I could have life outside of the house and something to call my own.
Initially, I stopped drinking alcohol because my abuser couldn’t drink alcohol as a condition of his probation for his domestic battery conviction against me. Soon enough, I decided to continue my journey with sobriety for MY health and to be present for MY relationships. I am proud to say, this is still true 6 months later.
Lyndsay taught me how to develop, plan and execute safety plans in an effort to not become another statistic or victim. It must be said that she was actually an integral part of my safety on several occasions. She was on the phone with me while my abuser manipulated the police into taking his side in an attempt to make me look irrational.
She’s also the only one I could call and painfully explain how afraid I was that my abuser might kill me and leave my children motherless. Because of her training, I was able to execute a safety plan on my own that left me unscathed and ultimately led to my freedom from the bonds of his abuse.
She was also my angel the day my daughter ran away from home because of my abuser. I couldn’t find the words to bridge the gap between my daughter and I, but she did. Lyndsay comforted my daughter over the phone and earned her trust while she explained how much I loved and protected her despite what my abuser told her.
The domestic violence classes played a role in my emergence as well. Initially, I missed several classes due to scheduling conflicts, but attended the ones that I believe in hindsight, I needed to attend at the time. Just knowing that other women were going through what I had, helped me gain strength to ultimately leave my abuser. At the advice of my advocate, I am currently retaking those classes and meeting new women.
“In addition to learning how to define, identify and prevent domestic violence from reoccurring in my life, I’m also honored to give my testimony to these women each week. I hope to serve as a living example of pain, trauma, hardship, struggle, triumph and freedom which is in turn allowing me to heal.”
My daughter has been paired with a child advocate, Elizabeth, recently to begin her healing process as well. In a few short weeks, Liz’s impact on her life has been nothing short of amazing. I’m proud to say that my daughter has found her Lyndsay.
Lastly, but equally important, Family Shelter Service has provided for my family financially in a multitude of ways.
I was fortunate to receive a full month’s rental assistance when I was behind on rent, clothing and gift cards for my entire family for Christmas, self care kits for me and my daughter, essentials/appliances for an entire kitchen delivered by Lyndsay directly to my home, a furniture and housewares voucher to a local resale store, and the list continues to build.
In true fashion, Lyndsay continues to provide me with tools to reclaim my life. We’re now working on budgeting, resume building, essential certifications for my dream job, job searches, and mental health referrals to treat my trauma. She continues to teach me to trust and believe in myself again, which to me is priceless.
“I didn’t just gain an advocate in Lyndsay. I gained a friend, confidant, rescuer, warrior and lifeline who shows me unconditional, never-failing support and compassion.”
I can not begin to express the gratitude I have for Family Shelter Service and their staff. These advocates are gifted and steadfast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their jobs don’t stop on days off, nights, weekends, or holidays. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate against anyone and their help can mean life or death to someone like me and it definitely has!
Because of this organization, I am not only labeled as a survivor, I became one. I truly believe there can be joy in the struggle. The struggle is real but I choose to find my joy in it.
Thank you all for helping me reclaim my life and my joy!