‘I feel free’: Joanna ends Abusive relationship, refocuses at mission

Joanna’s relationship with her ex started off wonderfully. He had three kids, and Joanna loved them deeply. But after a couple years and suffering three miscarriages, things began to change. “He started being very aggressive,” Joanna said. “The first time he hit me, I went to stay with my brother. We were still talking and he asked me out on a date on Valentine’s Day. He proposed that night. Two weeks later, he beat me again.”

Joanna was so involved in the kids’ lives, she wrestled with walking away from the relationship. “I had been with them for so long, and they were my concern,” she said. “My thinking was that if I leave, I’m abandoning the kids. I decided to stick it out and hoped things would get better.”

Joanna had left her job to be more involved with the children. He worked at Goodwill. Eventually, the financial struggle was too much for the couple. The kids stayed with their grandmother, but there wasn’t enough room for any more. “It was easier for us to sleep in the car,” she said. “It got really hard. But we did it for several months”

Joanna had found the mission, and started the process of applying even after she found out her partner was being unfaithful. “I thought maybe coming here would provide the structure that he needed,” she said. “I knew there was assistance here—counseling and other things—and maybe it would help him be more responsible.”

But a month into their stay at the mission, he still wasn’t straightening up. He started getting very emotionally and mentally aggressive—he wasn’t physical, but I think it was because he knew he was being watched.

“I was trying to keep the kids away from all of it,” she added. “Here we are in this positive place, with so many great classes—bible studies, parenting classes, a women’s support group—and he was so negative. The classes were so helpful for me. And as time went on, it was crazy, but the topics in those classes were so close to what I was living. We would talk about courage and strength, and about how even if things are bad, you can break free. Anything is possible.”

Joanna’s relationship only got worse. The final straw was when she found out that her partner was expecting a child with another woman. “I talked to my case manager and really opened up,” she said. “I realized I couldn’t keep holding everything inside. I let her know he hit me. I just wanted to feel safe. I didn’t want to feel in danger by being around him.”

The mission staff arranged a meeting and, finally, Joanna was able to safely and peacefully break off the relationship. Her partner left with his kids and never returned to the mission. “The staff here really helped, and they took precautions since he had been violent. Now, I feel liberated. I feel free. I started going to domestic violence counseling. Just having that support and them checking on me, is amazing. They know how much I miss the kids.”

Joanna has also really appreciated the structure at the mission. “They keep us busy with classes and chores, and even curfew—it’s all good. It makes us more responsible and prepares us for future jobs and housing.”

Joanna struggled with depression and self-harm as a child, and was worried it would resurface. “I’m so glad I didn’t go back to that after all this,” she said. “You just choose—what do you want for your life? I’m choosing to be here and surround myself with positivity. That’s my strength. Here, everyone picks you up when you’re having a bad day. We talk about what we want to pray about that day. … To me, this place is a lifesaver.”