10.23: Charmaine’s Story

I distinctly remember looking in the mirror not recognizing the woman staring back with a huge gash across her face. I was unrecognizable to my family and friends as well, a woman who had once exuded confidence now living in fear that her husband would lash out at her.

I married young, at the age of twenty. Even before we were married my husband, then boyfriend, would choke and belittle me but I loved him and I thought he could change for me. When I became pregnant with our first child together, the abuse worsened. He would punch me in the face and hit me but worst of all he cut me off from my friends, family and the ability to make decisions for myself. When I would go out and look for a job, he accused me of cheating on him, starting arguments which would inevitably lead to physical abuse. While my ex-husband never directly hit my children, he abused me while I was pregnant throwing me on top of my oldest daughter and beating me.

After my last trip to the hospital, staring at my broken face in the mirror, I could see my teeth with my mouth closed and I realized I needed help. My husband and I had been living in a homeless shelter and one of the women working there saw my battered face and called the police.

Things became clearer to me while he was away and his time in jail made me realize that his absence in my life needed to be made permanent. He promised me that he would go to counseling to be a better father and husband. He never did.

And so, the first order of business was to perpetually get my children away from their abusive father and I did so immediately with a restraining order and eventually a divorce. But the emotional toll of separating myself from my husband was taxing and painful, my mother died and I truly was alone. It was the lowest point in my life.

Overwhelmed with feelings of depression and uselessness triggered by my ex-husband’s words, I felt that I had nowhere to go. Thoughts of taking my own life seemed more and more appealing.

It was about a year after I filed for divorce that I sought emotional and financial help and was referred to Second Chance. I had tried other organizations and had received minimal assistance and so I was initially resistant and skeptical.

But I was motivated by the desire to regain my self-confidence and protect my children. I was immediately offered unparalleled support and inspiration from my first phone call with Second Chance.

As promised, Second Chance provided me with counseling services, career coaching, resume writing and interviewing skills and first class business attire to go to my job interviews. With their help I landed in a wonderful job with benefits in Corporate America so now I could provide for my children.

The feelings of hopelessness and depression have been replaced with self-assurance and security. While I was once prohibited from working, having friends and even wearing the clothing I wanted to wear, I am now the leader of my household taking care of my three children as well as my brother and my sister; none of which would have been possible without Second Chance Employment Services.

Second Chance Employment Services (SCES) is a nonprofit organization that places financially at-risk women in meaningful employment positions.

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