By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Domestic violence survivor Kelly Wells shared her story with the United Way of the Ocoee Region’s Women United group during its Brunch & Bubbly fundraiser Thursday. Though she said her …
Domestic violence survivor Kelly Wells shared her story with the United Way of the Ocoee Region’s Women United group during its Brunch & Bubbly fundraiser Thursday.
Though she said her story is a hard one to tell, she wanted to give the group a glimpse at what life is like for someone dealing with domestic violence.
“I am extremely passionate about standing in the gap for those affected by domestic violence. … I had people stand in the gap for me,” said Wells.
She began by sharing what she termed a “shocking” statistic. According to the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee is the fourth-highest state in the country for the number of murders committed against women by men. The majority of these murders were by men the women already knew.
She urged her audience to support organizations and resources which help domestic violence victims regain normalcy in their lives.
“I am asking you to be aware and to give out a helping hand,” Wells said.
Wells said it can be “extremely difficult” to break the cycle of generational domestic violence, but she is living proof it can be done.
Her audience was transported to the room of a scared little girl locked away in a room, crying while listening to violent happenings on the other side of the door. This was part of her upbringing.
While she did not enjoy growing up in an abusive household, Wells said domestic violence victims can sometimes find themselves getting caught up in other abusive relationships later in life.
“It’s because you think that’s the way everybody is to be treated,” said Wells. “It’s normal.”
Wells said she got into an abusive relationship when she was a young adult, and she thought she could “change” him.
“I thought getting married would change him. It didn’t,” Wells said. “I thought having kids would change him. It didn’t.”
At one point, she found herself and her two kids — a son and a daughter — living in a hostile environment which was not healthy for anyone involved.
Needing some place to go, she and her children found themselves at the Harbor Safe House, a shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence. It is run by the Family Resource Agency’s Family Violence Program.
She said it was very hard to learn how to support her little family on her own. At one point, she had “several” jobs, doing everything from working as a school teacher’s assistant to pet-sitting.
With tears in her eyes, she said her sad story has turned into a happy one. She found a “wonderful” man and remarried, together taking on the task of creating a supportive home for her two children.
She, her husband and her daughter, now a freshman in high school, now live on a small farm, with plans to build their own house. Her son successfully graduated high school and is now a freshman in college.
Wells stressed that she could not have found this happy ending had it not been for the support of other people in this community.
“Everybody who was supposed to nurture me and love me — they were gone,” said Wells. “This support and encouragement made all the difference.”
She spoke of how a friend unexpectedly invited her to church, where she found her Christian faith and a congregation full of supportive friends.
She spoke of others, like a local school principal, who offered support to her on the worst of days, when everything seemed overwhelming and the tears started to flow.
The United Way and its donors also played a part in helping her and her family build better lives, she added. She referenced the Harbor Safe House and the Cleveland Family YMCA’s scholarship program as a couple of resources which are assisted by the United Way.
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