Over the next 24 hours, the question was answered all across social media. It started with Beverly Gooden (@bevtgooden), who shared her experience with domestic abuse using the hashtag #WhyIStayed. The hashtag quickly caught on and pretty soon Twitter was flooded with men and women alike sharing their painful stories and courageous escapes. The #WhyIStayed hashtag often accompanied with #WhyILeft and how they were able to get out of the abusive situation.
The reasons for staying varied. Many were victims of mental abuse and believed the lies that they weren’t good enough for anyone else. Others thought they could change their significant other and trusted things would get better. Some said they stayed for their kids, their families, and their church. More said they were afraid of losing the support—emotionally and financially. All felt shame, fear and brokenness.
Broken is how Deb described herself when she first entered New Choices at 51 years old. A few years earlier, in 2005, her 15-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Deb spent the next year nursing her daughter through bouts of chemotherapy and radiation to reach remission. Her husband, though, had turned to alcohol to cope. He became unspeakably abusive and violent over the next few years, eventually arrested in 2007. By then, Deb was so damaged by the domestic abuse that she believed she didn’t deserve to be treated with human decency. She realized she needed a place to regain her confidence, create life changes and make new choices. In the midst of her three-year divorce, Deb found Pennsylvania Women Work and New Choices—the place that would, in her words, transform the broken, displaced homemaker into a self-sufficient woman with new options.
Deb took courses in Career Development, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel and said she was constantly inspired by her New Choices instructors. But she said New Choices taught her more than just valuable work skills, it also taught her valuable life skills. She realized that she wasn’t the only one with a troubled past in the program and that everyone is a little broken from time to time. She was proud to find that out of the brokenness came nine program graduates who were some of the most courageous women she would ever know.
After graduating from New Choices, Deb decided to attend Bidwell Training Center under the Medical Coding program. Unfortunately, her daughter passed away on August 9, 2010. Despite her grief, Deb decided to make her daughter’s life meaningful by becoming victorious in her own life. She graduated from Bidwell with honors and was hired as a Medical Coder for UPMC two weeks after her externship.
In addition to New Choices, Pennsylvania Women Work has tools and resources to help women overcome abusive situations. As part of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, we have formed a partnership with the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh and Neighborhood Legal Services Association. Together, we offer women free career development classes, case management and legal services.
We’re three organizations committed to helping women start over. No matter what your situation is, if you’re experiencing a crisis, we’re here to help. Whatever problems you're facing, we want to help you get back on your feet.