Breaking Free: Helping Victims of Domestic Violence Start Over
Change Maker Sponsor - United Way of Greater Toledo

Breaking Free: Helping Victims of Domestic Violence Start Over

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa County.


Sitting at the side of her bed, Elaine* stared down at the white tiled floor. Eventually, she collected enough strength to tie her boots and put on her jacket. With a sweater and a few bottles of water in her arms, she walked out of the emergency room exit.

A million thoughts and emotions were racing through her mind.

Closing the car door behind her, she knew there was only one place to go—back to the domestic violence shelter at the YWCA.

YWCA, Domestic Violence Shelter, United Way, YWCA of Northwest Ohio, Empowering WomenA few days prior, Elaine’s husband came home from work in a rage, as he usually does. He often lashes out with a push, slap or closed-handed hit. But this time, he didn’t strike her once, twice or three all honesty, Elaine couldn’t really remember how many times he hit her. After a while, she blacked out.

When Elaine woke up, she was in the emergency room. A doctor explained that the trauma to her body actually caused her to have a stroke.

Before, a bruise could be covered with some makeup. A push could be walked-off. But, as Elaine looked into the bathroom mirror, she no longer saw a young woman looking back.

She was one year shy of her sixtieth birthday. Her dark hair now peppered with gray strands; hands shaking and wrinkled. She was getting older and her body was taking longer to recover from the abuse of her husband.

This would be Elaine’s fifth trip to the shelter. In the past, she had sometimes escaped her husband’s tirades, and to the dismay of the caseworkers at the YWCA… Elaine always went back.

How many times had her husband told her things would be different? How many times had he begged Elaine to come home?

With a hospital wristband on her arm, she checked herself into the shelter and knew this time was different. She could never go back. If she went home, she may never recover.

Elaine began attending group support and one-on-one therapy, to help heal both her mind and body. She also engaged in the YWCA’s housing assistance program, so she could begin looking for a new home.

It’s hard to start over this late in life. But this time, with the help of her friends at the YWCA, maybe she’d be able to begin living happily and independently again.

Months later, holding that same hospital bracelet in one hand, Elaine picked up a pen with the other. Slowly, she began signing her divorce papers. This time, only one thought was going through her head: “I deserve better.”


CHANGE MAKER ACTION: Our program funding for the “Domestic Violence Shelter” at the YWCA of Northwest Ohio is just one component of United Way’s work to assist individuals in accessing financial opportunities to escape their abuser. By donating below, you can help continue, and support, these important community programs.

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*This blog post is based on a real success story submitted by the YWCA of Northwest Ohio, on behalf of their United Way funded program, the Domestic Violence Shelter. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy. Some story details have been added in order to provide a more accurate picture of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.

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