Dealing with domestic violence often means hearing sad stories. Today I would like to share some good news. These stories are found on the PADV (Partnership Against Domestic Violence) website. Here is the link. PADV’s mission is to end the crime of intimate partner violence and empower its survivors. They have been working for 37 years empowering and supporting battered women and their children in metro Atlanta.
For the last several years, PADV has given out a Purple Heart with Hope award as a tribute to domestic violence survivors who transformed their life through empowerment, courage and determination. The winner is given her award at PADV’s Hearts with Hope gala held in February.
Astou Dieng: Seventh PADV Purple Heart with Hope Honoree, March 2011
Astou and her lovely, affable children live in peace now. They do the usual things: homework, share dinner, take baths, and relish a bedtime story together, yet their home is strikingly different from it was. There is order, tranquility, food and hot water, no nightmares, or 911 calls. Astou is grateful to PADV, but it is Astou who is to be commended for her courage and perseverance against a grim likelihood that she might not survive.
The 2011 Purple Hearts with Hope Award belongs to Astou. Ironically, it has been eleven years since she entered an epoch of agony that would come to define her love, her marriage, her pregnancies, and her American dream and – for far too long – her hope. Today she smiles a gentle and trusting smile. Her eyes shine with confidence, conviction and expectation.
Astou’s abuser denied her water warm enough to bathe their infant children; he denied food for her hungry newborns. While her belly was swollen with innocent life, eager for nutrition of its own, Astou’s husband starved both mother and child. He locked her in their house and cut the telephone lines. She was unable to even call her worried mother in Senegal. “She was afraid he would kill me.”
Speaking in their native French, Astou’s abuser chided her. “You’re never gonna leave me. You don’t know English. You have nowhere to go,” he threatened, censoring her hope before it could take root. She cowered in the locked apartment, babies at her breast, her senses keen to the echoes of yesterday when he returned fit with a yen to choke her physically and emotionally as he so often did.
Astou did, in fact, have somewhere to go. She contacted PADV, which she had learned about while serving a jail sentence as a result of a 911 call, in which her husband convinced the police that she was the offender.
PADV connected Astou with legal counsel, transitional housing, food, education and childcare support while she found and fed her hope. Today, Astou has her green card and works providing elderly care. She is seeking certification as a licensed practical nurse.
After eleven long years of uncertainty, Astou recently visited her mother in Senegal. She recalls, “My mother, she hold me. She cannot believe that I am alive. She can rest now. PADV help us as a family. I can say happiness.”
I invite you to follow this link and read the other stories PADV shares on their site. In these stories, you will hear how 8 other abused women:
Found the courage to step outside the isolation that their abusers kept them trapped in and sought the help of others
Eventually asked for help from their local domestic violence organization (PADV)
Began to realize their abuser had been lying to them. They were NOT worthless and stupid. And they DID NOT deserve to be treated with disrespect and abuse
Most of them took the chance to get an education that was previously denied them and/or learned new job skills so that they could become independent and care for themselves and their children
Some of them work now to help other abused women
All of them have turned their hopeless lives into lives filled with hope for a brighter future for themselves and their children.
The Lord is not honored when women and children are treated with disrespect and abuse. Abused women are living without the protection of a loving husband. In this sense, they are widows, and their children are orphans. But they ARE loved and protected by the God of the universe. The Bible’s promises resound with hope for abused women and their children. As it says in Psalm 146:9:
The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Dear Lord, I pray that any abused woman who is reading this today will draw strength and courage from the stories of these formerly abused women. Please let them feel your love, Lord, and allow them to understand their worth in Your eyes. I pray that they may take the first steps to get help for themselves (and for any children they may have.) Be with them in the days to come, Lord. Amen.
If you would like to get some help, please check out my Get Help page.