They can have happy endings. A Heart with Hope – Dedicated to Astou
Astou and her lovely, affable children live in peace now. They do the usual things: homework, share dinner, take baths, and relish a bedtime story together, yet their home is strikingly different than it once was. Now there is pervasive tranquility, enough food and hot water for all, no nightmares in their sleep, or worse – no 911 calls for help that all too often resulted in further victimization of Astou, who lacked the native language to communicate her innocence and victimization. Astou professes her gratitude for and the role they played in her present wellbeing, but it is Astou who is to be most commended for her courage and perseverance against a grim likelihood that she and her children would never live in peace. Or, that she might not survive to see it.
Astou is the 2011 Purple Hearts with Hope Award designate. It has also been eleven excruciating years since Astou entered an agony epoch that would come to define her love, her marriage, her pregnancies, her American dream and –for far too long – her hope. Today she smiles a gentle and trusting smile. Her eyes shine with confidence, conviction and expectation. It is not the end; it is the beginning for Astou and her single parent family.
Domestic violence can rely on countless, unimaginable and insidious tactics, outside of the excruciating beatings and piercing emotional and physical pain that is all too prevalent, yet silent. Astou’s abuser denied her water warm enough to bathe their infant children; he denied food for her hungry newborns – pre-and-post natal. While her belly was swollen with unblemished life, eager for nutrition of its own, or naturally to share its mothers, Astou’s husband starved both mother and child. Aware and confident in his power over them, Astou’s abuser further cut her off from the unfamiliar world in which she lived, including cutting the telephone lines, unable to even call her mother in Senegal, whom Astou professes never had peace. “She was afraid he would kill me.”
As yet unable to speak English, or navigate the American social help system, Astou believed her abuser’s chides.
“You’re never gonna leave me. You don’t know English. You have nowhere to go,” he threatened, censoring her hope before it could begin to take root. His intimidation worked. It kept her cowering in a locked apartment, babies at her breast, her senses keen and alert to the echoes of yesterday when he returned from his work fit with cowardly control and a yen to choke her physically and emotionally.
Astou did, in fact, have somewhere to go. She learned of PADV while serving a three-day jail sentence after being arrested as a result of a 911 call, in which her husband convinced the police that his wife was the offender. Her few friends assumed that it was her husband who had been arrested. They were willing to try to free him with a bail post, but soon found that he had not been arrested. It did not occur to them that it was, in fact, Astou who had been incarcerated.
“He lied. When you want to say something and you can’t, it hurts,” she said in her lilting accent, still cryptic in its literal inaccuracy. “The police kept me for three days. I was still breastfeeding and bleeding. It was really, really tough. I could not explain anything. All he wanted was that I cook, clean, and sleep with him. He laughed at me. There is something wrong to him,” she said, the anger and injustice of it all but surpassed, save the profound irritation of illegitimately being estranged from her children for 36 unbearable hours that she remains unable to forget. Ultimately, when her daughter was seven, Astou recalls a defining moment.
“That policeman took the time to learn and he took him to jail.” It was the beginning of the peace that pervades her home today. PADV connected Astou with public defense legal and divorce counseling, housing, education and childcare support while she found and fed her hope. Today, Astou is providing invaluable support for a family who struggles with the multi-generational demands of an aging and challenged parent and children and careers. She is also seeking certification as licensed practical nurse. She has recently visited her mother in Senegal after 12 long years of uncertainty.
Astou recalls, “My mother, she hold me, she touch me. She cannot believe it is me. That I am alive. She can rest now. PADV help us as a family. I can say happiness.”
Bcauz Marketing congratulates our client, Partnership Against Domestic Violence for its recent ranking as a TOP-RATED Nonprofit 2010. Learn more about why PADV is a top nonprofit — who says so and why?