WOONSOCKET â For many years, Victoria had two reliable companions: shame and silence.
By the time she was 16 years old, her self-esteem was already on the skids. Sheâd been sexually abused by a family member as a little girl, and later date-raped by a neighbor old enough to be her father.
When she reached her mid-40s, sheâd already been through two marriages, both of them shattered by abuse. Often, the slights werenât physical, but verbal, and just as painful. She remembers her second husband telling her sheâd be better off dead, that he wished she was gone so her children would never have to know she was their mother.
âWhen youâre told something over and over again,â says Victoria. âYou begin to believe it.â
Now 46 years old, Victoria (which isnât her real name), has been living at Haven of Grace, a faith-based shelter for battered women and recovering substance abusers located in the onetime Holy Family parish rectory on Coe Street. Despite the torment she suffered for years as a victim of domestic abuse, it wasnât until she arrived at the shelter in early 2013 that she could muster the courage to talk about it â with anyone. The hard part was explaining how the abuse led her to chemical dependency, a problem which, in turn, caused her to lose custody of her children.
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