Trigger warning: intimate partner violence.
Nina had reached her breaking point. She knew she needed help.
After suffering for 12 years at the hands of her abuser, Nina came to The Women’s Center in Waukesha with a supportive friend by her side.
“I was scared,” remembered Nina. “I had just kicked my (now ex) husband out. I was lost and my kids needed support. I didn’t know how to survive on my own.”
Nina’s primary concern was ensuring her three young children learned healthy coping skills and behaviors. “I normalized the abusive behaviors at home, so my kids thought it was ok to hit people,” recalled Nina.
Nina and her children began coming to The Women’s Center every week. They met together and separately with family advocates who helped them begin to process their trauma and heal from their wounds.
“The Women’s Center advocates never judged me – that meant a lot,” said Nina. “They just gave me advice, helped me figure things out.”
Donations to United Way's Community Fund support programs at The Women's Center and other local organizations that support survivors of violence.
The kids loved coming to The Women’s Center. Staff helped them process what happened to them and build coping skills through play and art, and they received fun treats like snack packs prepared by United Way volunteers.
During this time, a big challenge for Nina was that her husband was still in her life. “I had to have contact with him. I have three children with him,” said Nina. “I think that’s why it took me so long to break the cycle of abuse.”
Nina’s darkest moment occurred when her husband tried to kill her, an incident her children witnessed. As a result of this violence, Nina experienced paralysis on her right side, had a long hospital stay, and had to relearn how to walk, eat, and move her arms.
When she was released from the hospital, the whole family went back to The Women’s Center. The children were experiencing severe trauma, especially her littlest, who had strong separation anxiety when not with Nina. Advocates helped Nina set routines for the whole family, so the children knew what to expect every day. This is a key coping skill for children who have faced traumatic experiences. Nina learned how to set boundaries with her now ex-husband, who was incarcerated but still had contact with her children.
The Women’s Center also helped Nina find a divorce lawyer and connected her and her children with additional mental health resources through another United Way funded partner, Family Services of Waukesha County.
Today, Nina feels stronger. While she still deals with the physical effects of her attack, she feels confident in her family’s routine and knows it’s ok to ask for help when she needs it. Her children have graduated from The Women’s Center program and are thriving in school and life, and that’s her driving force.
“My kids were the strength I needed to move forward and not give up,” said Nina. “I’m doing good because they’re doing good.”
When you give to United Way, you're not just making a donation. You're changing a life. Nina and The Women's Center remind us all that, to live better, we must Live United.