“He was emotionally abusive, and my kids were seeing it and living it,” said Abigail, talking about her ex-husband via Zoom meeting last week, curly light brown hair tucked in a loose bun
(identities altered for privacy). Abigail is safe now, thanks to Jewish Family Service and her own resilience. “The day the kids and I left felt like freedom,” she said.
Jewish Family Service (JFS) helps survivors of domestic abuse move from a bad situation into a better one—mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically and financially. In Abigail’s case, the
difficulties had gone on for years, and she felt her options were limited because she does not have family in Cincinnati.
Abigail came to Cincinnati to go to University of Cincinnati, where she met her husband. From the outside she had a good life. A stay-at-home mom, she has a girl, five, and a boy, eight, each
attending good schools. Her husband was a professional. They attended synagogue when they could.
Her husband would get violent, have screaming fits, or insist on his conjugal rights; and then apologize. “It almost felt like rape,” said Abigail, tightness in her
jaw. He would apologize, and she would hope, and the cycle would start again. “I felt alone a lot,” said Abigail.
But on the inside, it was a difficult life. Her husband would get violent, have screaming fits, or insist on his conjugal rights; and then apologize. “It almost felt like rape,” said Abigail,
tightness in her jaw. He would apologize, and she would hope, and the cycle would start again. “I felt alone a lot,” said Abigail.
It was protecting her children, she said, that drove Abigail to phone Jewish Family Service initially, over a year ago. Her new case manager, Rachel, told her that JFS could help. Initially
Rachel gave Abigail some options and served as a sounding board. A year passed as she stayed with her abuser—a typical pattern, according to Rachel.
COVID-19 deepened her despair. Abigail and the children were home with her husband, who was now also working from home, and “he got irritable more easily,” said Abigail. The incidents worsened.
He knocked her head against a wooden doorframe, hard.
Finally, when her husband was out of town, “I decided I had to fight,” said Abigail. She called Rachel again.
“Rachel was an anchor in the storm,” said Abigail. “She taught me the word ‘gaslighting,’ which basically means they are denying your reality to benefit themselves. That was him.” She
paused. “Seeing that more clearly was the start of being able to move out of that situation for me.” Rachel and Abigail talked almost every week for another three months.
Then, at another time when her husband was out of town, with the help of Abigail’s rabbi, Rachel found Abigail and the kids safe shelter, and that was the start of the escape. Rachel worked to
make sure they each had food, clothes and shoes.
Currently, Rachel is helping empower Abigail to build out a plan, which includes budgeting help, and help navigating next steps. JFS has helped to pay her rent.
Now she and her children are on a safer path.
“It all just kept happening, but Rachel helped my kids and me get free. It still feels raw, but I can see the light now,” concluded Abigail. Asked how the kids were doing now, she said that the
kids actually seem like their load is lightened; that they seemed sad at times, but also much more likely to laugh and play with each other. She said, “It feels healthier, and that’s good.”