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. Sheâ€™d 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, sheâ€™d already been through two marriages, both of them shattered by abuse. Often, the slights werenâ€™t physical, but verbal, and just as painful. She remembers her second husband telling her sheâ€™d be better off dead, that he wished she was gone so her children would never have to know she was their mother.
â€śWhen youâ€™re told something over and over again,â€ť says Victoria. â€śYou begin to believe it.â€ť
Now 46 years old, Victoria (which isnâ€™t 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 wasnâ€™t 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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