135 Years, 135 Stories title image

I broke the cycle of abuse


I’ve had lots of challenges in my life. I am the survivor of incest and physical and emotional abuse. During my early life my mother was absent more than present. All of these experiences killed my spirit and at age 13, I was suicidal and at 14 I made my first attempt. As a result I was placed in a great foster home but eventually I made the choice to live with my mother in West Virginia. My life went from living in a five-bedroom home with my own bathroom to living in a one- bedroom roach infested apartment. I became sexually active when I was 15 with men who were 19-38 years old. At 16 I had to get out of my mother’s apartment so I got a job and left. Not surprisingly, at about the same time, I got pregnant and lost my job and had to move out and ended up in state custody in West Virginia.

But above all, I knew that I wanted raise my child because, frankly I wanted someone to love me unconditionally and I figured this was the only way. But I also knew that I was not ready to be a mom, and I knew that Crittenton taught parenting skills so I wanted to go there. I ended up staying at Crittenton Services in Wheeling, West Virginia from the time I was five months pregnant until my daughter was one-year old.

I learned life skills that I probably would have completely missed if I had been on my own. I learned to manage my anger and stress; how to be a good parent; and about sex education and life skills. I wanted to stop the cycle of abuse that ran so deep in my family for generations so I took it all in.

I think a lot about my time at Crittenton–it was the first place where I truly felt safe, supported and knew that someone believed in me. Four years after I left Crittenton, I called back because I was in crisis, and they got me through that rough period. They were still there for me.

I know that the difference between me and my brother who is going back to prison is that I got support. I know that the difference between me and the young woman down the street whose boyfriend is abusing their child is that I got help. I know that Crittenton instilled in me a belief that I could do whatever I wanted to do. This belief was probably always there deep inside me but without the care, safety and services I received there it could have died rather than bloomed.

Today, at 34 years of age I can look back and see how being there saved and changed my life and shaped my ability to be a good parent to my daughter. She is going to graduate from high school next year and is and accomplished dancer. She wants to become an actress and was just accepted into the most prestigious talent agency in Utah. I’m working hard to graduate from college magna cum laude. I’ve broken the generational cycle of abuse in my family; I am now connected to my parents I have a great job and a beautiful powerful daughter.

I have a great life and look forward now to giving back!

Charese's Story Photo