Written by Emily Djabi, Community Outreach Coordinator: Center for Victim and Human Rights
Gina and Matt had been separated for a few months when Gina bought a house for herself and her two sons, Cameron and Jacob*. But Matt soon moved back in, and the abuse Gina had previously endured began again. This time, though, it would be different: her boys would be threatened.
On the night that Gina decided would be the last one Matt wielded his power over them, she sacrificed her body to protect her sons from his rage, sheltered them as he physically tore apart their home, and covered their ears from his threats to burn down the house as they sat trapped in the attic.
After the terror of that last night, Gina needed help navigating the complicated court systems. After the seemingly endless civil hearings and criminal trials, though, she had to find a way to rebuild her home for her family.
For Gina, Cameron, and Jacob, rebuilding became a process of renovating their home and lives together. The boys frequently said, “Daddy broke our home,” and while they were referring to the physical damage throughout the house—the broken beds, walls, and doors—there was a much deeper brokenness. Matt had destroyed not just the physical aspects of the house, but also the feeling of safety a home should provide.
Gina started in the boys’ bedroom, where the incident escalated, by repainting and repairing the excessive damage, but this was only the beginning of a long process. Gina knew that in order for the boys to feel safe again, the three of them had to communicate and trust one another, a process helped in large part by praying together.
Rebuilding and repairing the physical damage also allowed Gina and her boys to work through their emotions and restore their family. It hasn’t been easy, but Gina wants her boys to understand that, while there are consequences for Matt’s actions, forgiveness is crucially important. It doesn’t mean that what he did was okay, but to heal they have to be able to forgive, too.
For Gina, Cameron, and Jacob, rebuilding was not just about fixing the brokenness they saw, but rebuilding the emotional and psychological damage that had been done. Rebuilding was about their family coming together to reestablish their home and, most importantly, their lives.
They are no longer victims, but survivors of domestic violence.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
The Center for Victim and Human Rights (CVHR) is a legal services organization providing services to victims of crime and human rights abuses in Indianapolis. The CVHR learned of “Gina’s” story when they represented her in a case for a protection order. For more information on the CVHR’s work and services, please visit cvhr.org.