I’ve mentioned in a couple of my previous newsletters that I’m working on something important. This is the beginning of a long message I hope to convey.
I write this blog and tell this story from my heart and with deep conviction. The specifics of name and certain locations have been redacted for privacy purposes.
This story was told to me by Marie Majarais, who currently works for Pendleton Place. Pendleton Place is a non-profit organization serving abused, neglected, and abandoned children, young adults, and parents. Pendleton Place’s mission is to keep children safe and support families in crisis through prevention, assessment and intervention. They have a vision to create a community where children are safe, and families are strong and whole again.
Prior to her position at Pendleton Place, she worked for South Carolina Victim Assistance Network (SCVAN). This is a statewide agency that provides direct support to victims and those who serve victims. While Marie served here she was the director of Family Bridges and and advocate for the victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking victims.
Five or six years ago, while Marie was still at SCVAN, she met a girl, who I will refer to as Jane, at a homeless shelter in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Jane was an immigrant, who had an infant child and was pregnant. Jane became Marie’s case during her time at SCVAN.
Marie found out that before Jane moved to South Carolina, she had an extensive and horrific history. Jane was an adult survivor of incest and childhood sexual abuse from her father.
Jane did all the right things. She reported her situation to the authorities in her hometown which are located in the southwestern United States. According to Marie, this particular county was a notoriously racist and anti-immigrant part of the country. So, naturally, the authorities essentially ignored her pleas for help.
Jane’s parents ultimately kicked her out and sent her to live with her aunt in another state. She once again disclosed to the local authorities. The local DSS ran some forensics interviews and determined that her story was indeed true. They decided to take action and go after her father.
Unfortunately, the authorities in her former town would not allow them to investigate due to the fact that they had no jurisdiction.
Her father remained free of consequence and continued his life as if he never done any wrong.
Shortly after, Jane’s aunt shipped her off. She claimed that Jane was causing too much trouble in the family.
Jane then came to South Carolina to live with another aunt.
This aunt booted her to the curb when she discovered that Jane was pregnant.
This is where Marie comes in.
Marie was introduced to her at the homeless shelter. She helped Jane obtain a UVISA. A UVISA is “a nonimmigrant visa which is set aside for victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.”
One day, Jane called Marie with some disturbing news. Jane was worried about her sisters back home, and she was convinced that they were being abused as well. Apparently her aunt had called and said that her father was going around calling himself a widower. Jane was convinced that he had murdered her mother. On top of that, no one had seen her sisters at school and no one had seen her mom in years.
Marie, shocked, quickly called the county police to request that they do a well check.
Time passes. Marie has now joined Pendleton Place, and Jane is no longer one of her cases. But they had remained in contact.
Late last year, Jane excitedly called Marie: “they’ve arrested him!”
It turns out, the tip that Marie had left eventually led to an investigation. Authorities raided the home and found Jane’s sisters had been locked in the basement and were being sexually abused. Her mom was apparently so brainwashed from the abusing that she had started to take part in the abuse and molesting.
So, with all of this coming to light, an investigator flew to South Carolina to interview Jane.
As sad as this story is, one would think that it’s finally coming to an end. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Literally, within the same week, the father of Jane’s children comes back into the picture. He shows up, is high on drugs, and begins to abuses her. The police are called and he was arrested.
Jane, became fearful for her life once again, knowing that he would post bond and come after her. So she had to get her and her children out.
She’s homeless once again, and when she gets to her former homeless shelter in Rock Hill, the doors were closed. No capacity. So Jane heads to another shelter located here in Greenville.
Although Marie no longer works for SCVAN, she was determined to help. Marie was able to get her a job, and then she helped her children get into school.
“I essentially adopted a 24 year old and her two kids,” Marie said.
Jane’s needs were so incredibly extensive. When the shelter she was staying in found out that she was able to find a job, they had to send her away. To make it worse, rather than giving her options, they handed her another list of homeless shelters.
Marie didn’t want Jane’s job to become jeopardized. So she gathered her resources and connections, and she helped her get into a hotel. She was finally able to find her a small home to rent. Through few members of the community, Marie organized her rides to and from work. She also helped collect furniture and gather the appliances needed.
The resources needed to help individuals and families such as this are overwhelming. Marie thankfully was able to garner some support from a few generous hearts here in Greenville.
“If people only knew the resources that came out of pocket for this family. We have provided so much and the public just doesn’t understand how dire the need is. They want to give during crisis. Don’t get me wrong, crisis is horrible, but crisis ends.”
When poly-victimization (the experience of multiple victimizations of different kinds, such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, and exposure to family violence) there can be serious long term effects. The rebuilding of the mind, body, and soul can be incredibly difficult.
What if Marie wasn’t there to catch her while she was falling? The abused, more often than not, have no choice but to go back to their abusers. No choice other than to go back to their bad situation. They aren’t prepared for success outside of crisis.
What are we doing to sustain Jane and others who are in situations just like hers? The need is there, and we can’t ignore it. South Carolina has been number one in domestic violence for many years.
“I don’t know that Greenville should be boasting about being the best at everything just yet. There are pockets of the community that don’t get to enjoy #yeahthatgreenville. They can’t access services, can’t pull themselves out of poverty, and can’t break the cycle of victimization.”
Systemized and sustainable support that works outside of crisis is a dire need in this community and all across the country. This is a discussion which needs to happen in our community. Our community needs to come together in support. The business owners, non-profits, and government will need to work together in order to end to these atrocities.
Putting a bandaid on a cancer isn’t going to work. The path to finding a cure is going to start with purposeful collaboration and understanding.
Interested in joining the conversation? Take some time to fill out this survey. Marie or I will reach out to you.