“I love living here! I feel just like Carrie, in Sex and the City!” beamed a spunky Brooklyn-raised woman. I wondered how anyone could find so much joy in laundry. Soon, I learned why.
Until two years prior, Sonia had been dependent on abusive men. Having normalized childhood sexual abuse, she spent years in emotionally and physically abusive relationships, but not today. For many, the topic of abuse is taboo, but not for this bubbly soul. I left our conversation seeing newfound beauty in everyday things, like lint traps, and the dregs of a litter-filled street. Her story will inspire you.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.”
Until the day she left her abuser, Sonia had no idea that she would find an underground army, prepared to usher her into a life she embraces, with every pulse of her prodigious heart. “Everywhere I went, my abuser found me. He came to my brother’s house, pushed through the door, and started fighting. I ran to a neighbor’s house. When I returned, my brother said, ‘You have to call the cops.’”
What happened next was the equivalent of a triple rainbow. One suggestion would lead to Sonia’s yellow-brick road, minus the flying monkeys. The police took her to massive building, designed to keep targets enclosed, and safe, during transition. “There was a medical center there. They had a school for the kids, and daycare. The had everything from counseling, to a movie theater. You were not allowed to tell anyone where you were, because that could put us all in danger.”
Through group and individual counseling, Sonia learned to prevent future abuse by identifying toxic patterns. “I had been in abusive relationships all my life—I just dealt with it. [Counseling] taught me to see the signs.”
I wondered what outsiders could do, should they suspect abuse.
“Here, in Jacksonville, Hubbard House is the place to call. Approach the person. Tell them they need not share anything, but offer the number. If they open up, tell them preparation is key. They should make copies of important documents, like leases, bills, and school paperwork, and have a bag packed, for everyone.”
She stressed, “You can not share, with anyone, even your kids, that you are about to leave, because you may put them in jeopardy. You don’t know the extent of violence the abuser will use to maintain control. Contact someone, but choose someone the abuser would not expect. Finally, you have to mentally prepare. Who you are is not who you will become.”
Sonia found true freedom, but her abuser’s ex-wife did not. He murdered her. Another ex allegedly drove a young woman to commit suicide, and this is why Sonia insists that emotional abuse can be just as destructive, and should be taken seriously. She recently made a call, but not for herself. A friend of a friend survived a brutal beating, though she wound up in the hospital. “The Hubbard House answered the phone, and the first thing the staffer asked was, ‘are you safe?’ That just touched my soul so profoundly. I thought, ‘Wow, yes, they get it.’”
Sonia’s book is called Weathering the Storm Since ‘98. She also hopes to provide emotional support and counseling to inspire others. You will find updates on Downtown Obi Brown’s Facebook page.
Here, in Jacksonville, you can contact Hubbard House, through their 24 hour hotline, at (904) 354-3114, or at hubbardhouse.org