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Rebuilding Piece by Piece

I am originally from the State College area, home to Penn State. I lived there my entire life until I moved to Pittsburgh with my children and now ex-husband in 2018. 

At the time, I had just accepted a position in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical Program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. I desired to obtain entry into dental school, but God had other plans for me.

Within a few months of relocating to Pittsburgh, after roughly 12 years of marriage, I nearly lost my life to the man who had vowed to protect me.

We were arguing, and the next thing I knew, he had picked me up by the throat, threw me on the stairs, and began choking me. I remember not being able to scream for help, and I remember the fear that flooded in as I gasped for breath. 

My last thought was of my children’s faces as they stood on the far end of the room, watching everything transpire, and I was helpless to stop it. Then everything faded to black. I woke up hours later on the stairs. 

I knew that day that I had to get away from this man. In the weeks that followed, I prepared both emotionally and financially to leave. I sought help from a local women’s center, and I obtained a protection from abuse order (PFA) against my ex-husband.

I informed my landlord of what had transpired, and I asked for permission to break my lease early and leave for my safety. My request was denied.

Having no choice, I tried to make it work until my ex-husband violated the PFA and began stalking me. He followed me home, on the way to work, and on the way home from work. He proceeded to steal my mail, including all of my court documents. 

On top of all of this, I had to find ways to pay rent on my own, pull my ten-plus-hour shifts in the operating room, and make sure my children were well fed and had a roof over their heads.

Eventually, I could no longer live with the fear and frustration. I fled, moving with my three children 45 minutes away to a local women’s shelter. We stayed there for six weeks. 

Today, I live in HEARTH’s transitional housing facility with my children. Our apartment is designed with extra safety measures in mind, and my neighbors are others who have endured what I have endured.

With the help of HEARTH, my children did well in school and are currently enrolled in a day camp to keep them busy during the summer. And I’m studying to become a paralegal so that I can advocate for other domestic violence survivors. Piece by piece, we are putting our lives back together.