Georgeann Newman was 19 when she met her husband. “He swept me off my feet,” she said. “His family came from money, and I lived in a not-so-great neighborhood. Everything seemed fine in the beginning.” The abuse began later.
Seven years ago Newman sought help from the Bilingual Domestic Violence Project of Philadelphia-based Lutheran Settlement House. Many people have asked Newman why she didn’t leave sooner.
“For me, a lot of it was my kids. Others [may fear] losing jobs, pets or [endangering] a family member ...,” she said. “Philadelphia doesn’t have enough shelters, so do you go on the street with toddlers?
“Women aren’t dumb. They’re keeping themselves and their kids alive while dealing with the horrible monster of abuse. They’re very smart, but they don’t have the support they need.”
“We’d argue,” Newman said of her marriage. “Then he’d push and shove me and the psychological abuse started. Then he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and the abuse became more physical. But he went for counseling and things got a little better. I had my daughter. Then we moved away from family and things got really bad.”
He said she couldn’t protect their two children if she left. She took the threat seriously. When her oldest child was 5, his dad threw him against the wall, bruising his arm.
Newman felt isolated and alone. Her husband was a white-collar professional with a master’s degree. “People turned a blind eye,” she said. “Teachers, our pediatrician, knew what was going on but didn’t want to get involved. … When I finally separated from him, the kids were 11 and 7.”
Once during their separation he came to pick up the kids and began to choke her. Police had to pull him off her. Newman went to file for emergency protection and saw the 24-hour bilingual (English and Spanish) domestic violence hotline number staffed by Lutheran Settlement House counselors.
“I was all alone, beaten down and on disability from three herniated discs,” she said. “I called that number.” And everything began to turn around.
Newman found more than safety at the Lutheran Settlement House. “I was able to find my voice, to advocate for myself and to be the strong person I needed to be for me and my kids,” she said.
Today, Newman is a trained domestic violence counselor, providing what she once needed. She helps answer hotline calls and leads support groups. She trains medical professionals in how to tell people about resources. And she is a media spokesperson on domestic violence. “If not for the people at Lutheran [Settlement House], I don’t know where I’d be now,” she said.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers