After more than a decade living under the weight of fear and violence, Nicole Webber* finally feels hopeful. She finally can think about the big picture. But just a few years ago, she felt frightened, hopeless and didn’t dare consider any sort of future. For her, life was “really dark.” Living in a domestic violence situation has that effect on people.
Today, with her past behind her, Nicole feels that she has everything to look forward to. A career that she loves, dreams of growing her business, full custody of her daughter, Ricky, and finally, the freedom to imagine the possibilities in her life. When Nicole came to Sound in 2016 she had just left her abuser for a second, and final, time after more than a decade of marriage. Though her own mistreatment was demoralizing, Nicole made up her mind for good when the abuser started to repeat the pattern with Ricky. Realizing then that her struggle would only become her daughter’s, Nicole did not hesitate.
“When my ex began to become verbally abusive to our daughter—this happened twice before—I made my mind to leave him,” she says.
Nicole attributes her success today to Sound’s Children’s Domestic Violence Response Team (CDVRT), which she and Ricky participate in weekly. CDVRT is a unique, one-of-a kind program in partnership with domestic violence agencies, DAWN, LifeWire and New Beginnings, that collaborates to support the legal, emotional, and mental health needs as survivors go through the healing process needed to navigate life after leaving abusers.
“Both my daughter and I were suffering with PTSD from the abuse we continued to endure throughout the divorce process, but being active members of Sound and attending the domestic violence support groups that Sound offers,” she says, “we had help with safety planning, symptom management and meeting others who understood our situation.”
The strength and empowerment she gained was instrumental in preparing her for life after the marriage.
“I learned how to love myself,” she says. “This knowledge not only made me a better mother, and a happier person, it also gave me the courage to face our abuser in court.”
Gaining full custody of Ricky allowed the complete healing process, and the living, to begin.
“It has been some time since my daughter has seen her father and I have watched her blossom. Her grades have improved, her self-love is exemplary and both her and I are super happy to finally have our own home, something I didn’t think was ever possible when I was in the marriage.”
She points to Sound and the CDVRT program as the keys for her. Being part of the program, feeling surrounded by the care she received—the advocacy, the therapy, the tools—all made the difference.
“It just gave me a lot of hope,” she says. “Tons of hope that if something went wrong, I’d have a place to go. Having Sultana (Graham, her Sound therapist) to talk to, having Ricky’s counselor, it just makes these kind of life challenges a thousand times easier to tackle.”
After years of losing confidence, Nicole’s faith in the process was restored, and she grew as a person. “When I first met her, she was surviving the impacts of domestic violence and fighting to protect the physical and emotional safety of her daughter,” Graham says. “Despite adversity, she kept moving forward to provide healing for herself and her daughter. Today, she has the capacity to empower other survivors of domestic violence by offering hope, encouragement and guidance.”
For Nicole, the future is coming into view. Ricky, who is being homeschooled, is concentrating on her grades and hopes someday to go to medical school. She has good friends and a healthy and close relationship with her mother. Nicole, who lost interest in her hobbies, now looks forward to reigniting her passion for art, fashion and creative pursuits. She also is now making plans to open up a daycare business. She’s got a stable home environment for her and Ricky and dreams of owning her own place one day.
Things are looking up for Nicole, and she has learned that she can’t take life for granted. She knows things are looking better for her and Ricky and feels fortunate. Her hope, of course, is that others like her can seek the support they need and experience hope again.
“The resources are there but they are only good if you use them,” she says to others in the community just like her. “So, reach out and talk to people because they really want to help. Don’t lose hope. There’s always help out there for you.”
*name changed to protect identity