Nancy’s Story

Nancy photo

I started volunteering in domestic violence prevention about 8 years ago. I left an abusive marriage in 2000 and for a long time I wasn’t comfortable reaching out. I had been with my abuser for 25 years and married to him for 20 of those years. After the marriage ended, my daughters and I needed time to rebuild our lives and heal from the trauma of the past decades.

Eventually, with therapy and time, I felt more energized. Domestic violence had been a negative focus in my life for so long.  Now I wanted to use that energy and focus it in a positive way. I sort of tip-toed into volunteering slowly and carefully. At first I helped out with paperwork and couldn’t do more than that without suffering from traumatic memories. Later, as I became more comfortable, I decided that I wanted to get involved in community education to expose the shame and silence of domestic violence and help others understand that it was not just happening to them and that it was real and destructive.

My first talk was at the local public library. There were about eight people in attendance, including a man and a woman who were a couple. It was uncomfortable to see their interactions, which were tense. And he was challenging some of the things I was saying. About a month later, I saw the woman in public. She said the relationship had been abusive and that she left him after learning about domestic violence and my experiences.  I realized that speaking out can make a difference.

I spent five years doing community education before I started volunteering with support groups. Generally, people do not see that domestic violence is the progressive deterioration of the person who is being abused. The support groups provide a space for survivors of domestic violence to have a voice.  It takes strength and courage to go through what they went through and it takes a lot of strength and courage to recover.

One thing I appreciate about Compass Center is the depth and breadth of the services offered. Having crisis services and being able to provide referrals for that immediate crisis that’s happening in your life is wonderful. But when that urgent need is over, it doesn’t mean the end of the process. You may still be in the relationship or you may have left the relationship. Either way there is a lot of unraveling and rebuilding that needs to be done. And that unraveling and rebuilding is always emotional, sometimes physical, but also practical.

The loss of autonomy and damage to self-esteem that victims of domestic violence experience are abstract and difficult for them to define to others and even to themselves.  The self-sufficiency resources provided by Compass Center help to make healing concrete with specific plans and access to constructive resources.   These tangible steps can help survivors reclaim the control over their lives that was jeopardized by their experiences and move forward in their recovery.

My story ends well.  I am happy and at peace most of the time.  But my recovery is still a process that needs attending.  The resources available through Compass Center and other organizations like it are invaluable to provide the empowerment, encouragement and support that I and other victims of domestic violence need to make the best decisions for us and our families.


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