At Domestic Violence Services (DVS) of Lancaster County an average of 110 victims and their children pass through the doors each year. Some stay for only one night; others stay for several weeks, but all receive compassion, encouragement and direction.
I’d like to tell you the story of Nigat and her children; Palus and Saba (names have been changed to protect their privacy.) Nigat and her children had only been in the U.S. for three years when joy and expectation were seized by the one person who was supposed to love them above all others. While in her native country, Nigat was an independent professional woman with two degrees. Once in the U.S., with the dream of providing a better life for her children, Nigat willingly took a job as a laborer, working 11 pm to 7 am so she could be home with her children. Her husband worked during the day and kept the children at night. As time progressed he became possessive and demanding. Finally, one day when he and Nigat had a disagreement, he pushed her down the stairs and threatened to kill her should she leave him.
A friend from work helped Nigat get to the hospital for X-rays and called police, who brought her and the children to the DV shelter. She had no family in the area and few friends. She was alone in a place where no one spoke her native language. Nigat was able to make her needs known but emotions are best expressed through one’s native language. After explaining her situation, her employer allowed her to move to first shift so she could use daycare and remain employed. With the help of CCIS, she found a daycare where her children were happy and safe and provided them with the skills they will need when they are old enough to go to school. She returned to work. Her advocate assisted her to find an apartment she could afford and other services. She encouraged Nigat to find a support system with others who spoke her language. Nigat found a church whose members had similar cultural background.
On moving day, several gracious supporters of the shelter donated furniture for the family’s new apartment. Two youth volunteers, along with her advocate, moved the furniture into the new home. Palus was heard saying, “It looks like a real house!”.
Once settled, a Navigator from Community Action Partnership was assigned to Nigat to help her traverse the many organizations set-up to help individuals in poverty and assist her through the next leg of her journey. Individuals who endure domestic violence are some of the strongest people I have ever met. They undergo tremendous emotional, financial, physical and often sexual abuse, from the very people who profess to love them, yet they survive. It should come as no surprise that some experience mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Our Navigators are the focal point of how we serve our Program Participants through ‘Let’s Talk, Lancaster’, ‘Moving Forward’, and ‘Pathways out of Poverty’- all United Way Community Impact Partnerships led by Community Action Partnership.
Working with Nigat and her children has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. It motivates me to get up and go to work each day, knowing one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Whenever I hear the phrase, “Somebody should do something about it,” I think, “I’m somebody.”
Story Submitted by
Debra Hewes, LCSW
Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County
Debra Hewes LCSW is the Counseling Coordinator of Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County. After graduating from Millersville University’s School of Social Work in 2011, she worked as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor and Psychotherapist for several years but she never gave up the hope that she could help victims of domestic violence. In August of 2016 her desire to work with survivors of Domestic Violence came to fruition when she was hired at DVS of Lancaster County.