Award allows domestic violence survivors to pursue their dreams.
PORTLAND’S WEST WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S SHELTER–Wings: Rising above the pain
by Teresa Engel –
Each year, The Salvation Army West Women’s and Children’s Shelter in Portland, Ore., recognizes a client with the Wings Award, a $500 grant presented to a woman who has overcome domestic violence and demonstrates the desire for further growth.
To be considered for the award, the client submits an essay of approximately 750 words, telling her story, including the influence of the shelter, the benefit incurred by competing for the award and her plan for the grant money. Sharing one’s story is an important part of the healing process.
A generous individual established the grant in honor of his wife, a woman who had the courage to leave an abusive first marriage.
Receiving the Wings Award in 2010 is a woman who lived with domestic violence from the age of 6, when her mother’s live-in boyfriend physically and sexually abused her and her mother, leaving lasting scars and a distrust of all men.
She met her “knight in shining armor” in 2002—a man who was kind and wanted to spend every moment with her. After she moved in with him, his jealousy surfaced. His continuous phone calls to her at work—checking in with her—caused her to lose her job. He then accused her of sleeping with the neighbor. In her own words, “slapping turned into punching, and punching turned into choking.” He also abused her sexually to “prove” that she was not cheating.
Learning she was pregnant, she hoped a baby would make things better. For a while it did, but then the physical abuse started again. While she was pregnant, he punched her so hard that she flew out of the car, resulting in a broken tailbone.
After her son was born, the man went to jail, and she moved to the Midwest with friends. However, he never stopped haunting her. He called her from jail and tried to bring her back to Oregon after he was released. Learning she was back in town, he showed up at the homes of her family and friends. At this point, she realized that she needed a safe place where he could not find her. She found this safe place and more at The West.
At 26, she is the mother of two boys, ages 3 and 5, and has lived at The West since July 2009. She learned there that what happened to her was not her fault, that she is a good person, and that she and her sons deserve a safe, happy and violence-free life. She now has goals, direction and purpose.
Her next step is to go back to school. She hopes to attend Portland Community College and earn a personal trainer’s certificate with an emphasis on women’s health. She is optimistic about her future. With the help of the Wings award, she is one step closer to achieving her goals.
“I want to be able to support my sons in a safe, violence-free and loving environment,” she wrote. “I feel that once I reach my educational goal, then I can provide this for my family.”