Thursday, August 12, 2010

Signs of an Abusive Relationship and How to Get Help.

The following warning signs are taken from this website.

Does the person you love...

  • constantly keep track of your time?
  • act jealous and possessive?
  • accuse you of being unfaithful or flirting?
  • discourage your relationships with friends and family?
  • prevent or discourage you from working, interacting with friends or attending school?
  • constantly criticize or belittle you?
  • control all finances and force you to account for what you spend? (Reasonable cooperative budgeting excepted.)
  • humiliate you in front of others? (Including "jokes" at your expense.)
  • destroy or take your personal property or sentimental items?
  • have affairs?
  • threaten to hurt you, your children or pets? Threaten to use a weapon?
  • push, hit, slap, punch, kick, or bite you or your children?
  • force you to have sex against your will, or demand sexual acts you are uncomfortable with?
Getting out of an abusive relationship isn't easy, but help is out there!  Call 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or go here. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Luisa, 20 Years at House of Ruth: Part 4

One day, I asked Luisa the question, "Why do women get back with their abusers?"

Luisa responded, “The women take action and the guys realize that they are going to lose the women. So the guys act all sweet, like they’ve changed, and women want that. But women can avoid it by joining support groups and taking domestic violence classes. There they can learn the signals and red flags because they learn the behavior of abusers.”

"It’s like a woman who is walking towards a hole. She sees the hole. She knows it’s there. Well eventually she is going to fall in that hole. Women also go back because they are embarrassed to tell family about their situation, and also because they are afraid financially. Religion and culture is another reason. Some Latino women see abuse as a normal part of life. But I know that God disagrees with the abuse.”

Luisa, 20 Years at House of Ruth: Part 3

Luisa remembers a particular client’s story. This woman came from Guatemala and ended up traveling with her daughter and three coyotes. The men were planning on raping her and her daughter, and the woman knew she wasn’t safe and had to escape.

She pretended to be very sick and begged one of the men to take her to the pharmacy. Her real plan was to buy something to drug the men. She went into the pharmacy and instead of buying medicine for herself, bought sleep medicine. Meanwhile one of the men was waiting at the doorway watching her, but trying not to look too suspicious.

That night, she offered to make the men coffee and in doing so she slipped the sleeping pills into the drinks. They slept real well, and the woman and daughter were able to escape. God gave her the wits to survive that night unharmed. She eventually came to live at House of Ruth, where she received the support and safety that she needed.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Luisa, 20 Years at House of Ruth: Part 2

One experience at House of Ruth showed Luisa what she was capable of.

It was 1990. There was a client at House of Ruth who came from Juarez, fleeing domestic violence. Not even 5 months after moving out of House of Ruth, she got back together with her batterer. They moved into an apartment together. One evening, while Luisa was working night shift at House of Ruth, the ex-client showed up at the door. She was beaten, and was begging to stay because she feared for her life. The house was full, but the staff decided to allow her to sleep on the couch.

Not long after, the woman’s abuser showed up at the house, pounding at the door and demanding, “I came to pick up my wife. Let me in.” The door was locked, but the man jiggled the handle enough to somehow get the door open. Immediately Luisa put her foot in front of the door and stopped the man from entering. She smelled alcohol on his breath. She said, “I don’t know where your wife is, I’m sorry Sir. I don’t know you or your wife.” He continued threatening. Luisa stayed strong. “You have to leave. We’ve got women here sleeping. No men are allowed inside.” At this, the man moved his jacket to reveal that he was carrying a gun. “Listen”, Luisa continued, “If you don’t leave I’m going to call the police. We are a shelter and they protect us. They are right around the corner.”

Luisa was the only staff person there that night, but instead of showing fear, she pretended there was another staff member. “Teresa, call the police! Sir, for your own good you should leave right now.” Being that he was undocumented and feared an encounter with the cops, the man left and the woman was safe that night. They helped her get into another shelter.

Luisa credits God for giving her the wits and courage to get through that terrifying situation. She states, “I can manage crises very well. I don’t show fear and I am brave in the moment. I tend to take action right away, which can sometimes get me in trouble.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Luisa, 20 Years at House of Ruth: Part 1

Luisa has worked at House of Ruth for 20 years and has experienced both good and bad, triumph and failure, joy and sorrow, and moments that made her realize what she was made of.

In 1991 or 1992 while Luisa was childcare coordinator, there was a 15 year old girl who became a client of House of Ruth. Her name was Pearl, and she had a baby at the age of 14 who was the consequence of rape from a gang member. The father was a minor too.

Her boyfriend at the time wanted her to move out of House of Ruth and go with him to wherever he was going. He came to the porch and was calling her. She came out and they were arguing on the porch. Luisa and Sr. Judy came out. Sr. Judy brought the girl inside and locked the door, locking Luisa and the young man out.

Luisa knew her job was to convince him to let the girlfriend stay. “If you really loved her you would want what’s best for her. If you love her, you should leave.” The young man wasn’t convinced. He became frustrated and angry and threw his fist through the window. Then he fled.

The staff at House of Ruth called the police, and the man was caught just after that. They had followed the trail from the blood, since the young man’s hand was cut up from the glass. After this incident and the one above, the rules at House of Ruth changed. They did away with the visiting hours and the place became a confidential location.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Carmen, Childhood Experience

Carmen lived at House of Ruth as a young girl. Her mother, Blanca, moved the family into the shelter when Carmen was 6. Carmen remembers being at the house, and a few moments stick out in her memory as especially happy. One of her favorite memories was Christmas time. She remembers Santa Claus came and brought presents. She received a big doll that was as tall as she. "It was my height!" she says with a smile on her face.

Carmen also remembers her mother’s case manager, also named Carmen. She was excited to share a name with someone so wonderful. Carmen was one of her favorite people here. She told her stories and tried to motivate her by asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Even as a 6 year-old, life changed for Carmen at House of Ruth. She says that all of a sudden there were more people and more kids to play with. It taught her how to interact with people of other races.

Carmen says that she would have her children go through the same thing because she trusts everyone at the house, and because it was a good experience for her. She says, “When I was 17 I became pregnant. I never had a doubt that I could do it.” She knew this from the fact that her mother was young when she had children, and she was confident that she could raise her children because there were places like House of Ruth that would help her.

Carmen has lived in Los Angeles her whole life and thanks God for all the good work House of Ruth has done for the community. House of Ruth has changed Los Angeles from a place of despair to a place of hope for many families. She believes that without House of Ruth, more women and children would be suffering.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


House of Ruth is more than just a homeless shelter; it's a place of opportunity. The reputation of the program is known, for a lot of women come to House of Ruth seeking more than shelter. They come because they want to be challenge. They want to make a better life for themselves and their children. Some women come with the goal of finally getting their GED, others, learning English. For some women, it's obtaining a full time job, for others it's leaving their abuser for the last time. Whatever their goal is, they feel it's possible to achieve it at House of Ruth. And so they take the giant leap of faith and make the phone call that becomes one of the most important phone calls of their lives.

15 years ago, Maria made the phone call to House of Ruth because her friend had given her the number. Maria was homeless and living with her sister. "I wanted to change my life,” she says.

Looking at the person she is now, I would say that Maria did change her life. Not only did House of Ruth change her employment status, but it changed her character. At House of Ruth she learned about responsibility and how to be a better mother. Instead of putting the parenting on family members, she started to actually communicate with her daughter. Instead of going out with her friends and partying, Maria began to spend her time doing healthy things with her daughter, like going to the park together.

While at House of Ruth, Maria stumbled and broke the rules, but she was given a second chance. From then on, Maria’s goal was to prove herself, and to prove everyone else wrong who didn’t believe in her.

Maria went back to school because she had dropped out in the 9th grade. "Being back in school reminded me of being young... and I felt free." Her case manager, Carmen Rodriguez, was constantly pushing her. She was always checking up with her and the other clients. Carmen would call the school to make sure she was there or even go over and sit in the parking lot outside the building. This accountability is what kept Maria on track and helped her change.

When asked where she would be without House of Ruth, Maria responds, "My kid would have been taken away. I really believe that... and I wouldn’t be the person I am right now.” Maria wanted to change her life, and she did just that. But she hasn't grown complacent; she hasn't stopped dreaming. "I'm still reaching up," she says. Maria’s goal is to buy a house and open her own restaurant.