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Ava’s Invisible Wounds: Domestic Violence & Its Hidden Effects

COMMUNITY SERVICES

After she fled her abuser, Ava found hope for a new life at Endeavors’ Bonanza Project. 

If you caught a glimpse of Ava at the grocery store, you might not think twice about it—she seems like any other mom of three, filling up her shopping cart with bread, eggs, and cans of soup.  

But, just like all of us, Ava has a story that extends far past the aisles of the local grocery store. 

For years, Ava and her children were trapped in a dangerous and abusive family relationship. And though the physical bruises may have disappeared, the long-term wounds of domestic violence often take much longer to heal.  

It is, however, possible to escape and recover from the trauma of domestic violence—and Ava’s story gives us hope beyond belief. 

Starting the recovery process

The decision to flee from an abusive relationship is often terrifying. Many victims are haunted by a fear of their abuser long after they leave. In Ava’s case, she wanted to make sure her children were safe first. It was her number one priority, so she sent her children to live in Virginia with family members while she stayed with her abuser to appease him. 

Finally, in 2018, she was able to break free from the relationship and fled to a domestic violence center, where she was eventually connected with Endeavors. She checked into Endeavors’ Bonanza Project in August, which provides permanent supportive housing and sustainable housing to individuals and families in North Carolina. Residents are empowered through life skills training as well as through connections with education and work programs. 

Ava told us she wanted to start over. We worked with her to set a goal—her ultimate dream was to obtain a home where she could have her children move back in with her. But first, she wanted to get back on her feet. When we met Ava, she was struggling with PTSD as well as other mental health issues, and she wanted to feel steady on her feet before living with her kids. She also wanted to have a job so she could rely on a steady independent income. 

Learning to trust again

Throughout the process, our case managers were set on touching base with Ava as consistently as possible. However, it can be difficult sometimes when the client struggles to trust people in their life. Sometimes, they want to hide their struggles instead of being upfront about them, even to the people who can help. 

“Our case managers do weekly check-ins via phone or text,” explained Poole. “Sometimes they don’t tell you everything because they think they’re failing, or they don’t want you to see that they’ve slid back.”  

This is another invisible wound of domestic violence—victims may be afraid to disappoint anyone in their lives. 

“When she wasn’t working, she was embarrassed and didn’t want to tell us. We had to remind her that the program is there to help,” said Poole. “Just because you’re not moving forward, you can still start over again. Each day is a new day.”  

Instead, the philosophy at Bonanza Project is: Instead of placing blame on the client, focus on why something isn’t working

“We remind them the program is there to help them, and mistakes are just different ways to learn,” she said. “The sooner you let us know something isn’t going right, the sooner we can get you back on track. Don’t call us when the power’s out. Let us know when you’re getting behind on your bills.”

Looking for a job 

Though she was in a safe place, Ava’s new life was more difficult than she expected. She lived in a constant state of fear and hypervigilance, feeling like she was constantly checking over her shoulder—this is normal for victims of domestic violence, but it made finding work difficult.  

She was determined to find work, but since it was harder than she originally thought, she began to feel hopeless. 

“Despite her chronic health conditions, she applied for jobs endlessly,” said Endeavors Case Manager Karen Poole.  

She did eventually find a job that would be suitable for her, and two of her daughters returned to live with her in January of 2020. 

“She was relieved and ecstatic that her girls were able to be under the same roof as her,” said Poole. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic hit soon after. “She was just starting to catch up, and then [COVID-19] happened,” said Poole. She had a job as a temp for six months before COVID-19 hit, leaving her jobless again because she didn’t feel comfortable leaving her kids home alone. 

Thankfully, she never gave up. During the summer of 2021, she found a job working from home that would pay enough to get back on track. 

Ava graduated from the Bonanza program towards the end of 2021 and has been moving forward with her life. When we heard from her last, she was employed, engaged, and still living with her daughters. 

About Endeavors 

Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org

For referrals/admissions to the Bonanza Project, please contact the Housing Coordinator at: 910-302-7650 or [email protected]

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