Corks for a Cause: A closer look at the Shelter House
In March 2016, Leanne gathered the strength and courage to call for help.
She was scared for her life. Like many abusive relationships, what started as verbal abuse turned into shoving, then slapping, then active threats with weapons. As a mother of three, she knew if she didn’t leave, the situation could become dangerous for herself and her children (Preston, age 12; Morgan, 8; and Paige, 4). When her boyfriend started choking her and threatening her with guns and knives, she knew it had become a matter of life and death.
Leanne’s children were also starting to display the effects of the unsafe environment. Her son, Preston, began to mirror what he witnessed. He had grown to almost her size and would attempt to intimidate Leanne, backing her into a corner and threatening her.
Leanne was at a loss as to how to handle him. It is reported that one-third of children who experience or witness abuse in their home go on to abuse loved ones. It was paramount that Leanne seek professional help to save herself and her children.
After 10 years with her boyfriend, Leanne built up her courage to leave her abuser. After struggling to pay for housing, she made the decision to move into the Shelter House Emergency Shelter. With a mission to support victims of domestic and sexual violence, Shelter House provides a safe haven and support.
Located in Fort Walton Beach, the Shelter House offers a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, transitional housing, support groups, peer counseling, a kennel for families with pets, primary prevention and legal advocacy.
As a beneficiary of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF), Shelter House employs Youth Advocates and Play Therapists to help heal the brokenness caused by abuse in the home. They are committed to making sure the needs of the children are addressed and met.
Leanne began going to the Shelter House Outreach office for one-on-one counseling and attended the weekly support group, which taught her how to set boundaries, rebuild her self-esteem and nurture her children as well as take care of herself during the transition.
Preston began regular meetings with the Play Therapist, and in time began to feel more comfortable and open up and talk about how the violence affected him and his sisters. He soon learned that the violence and abuse was not his fault.
“I hated my mom’s boyfriend,” Preston exclaimed. “He used to corner my mom, hit her and lock her in a room. I would take my sisters into my room to get them away from it all.”
Over time, Preston’s transformation from an angry adolescent to a loving young boy became more and more evident. Preston attended a week-long, summer sleep-away camp, and while he was away, he called his mother and said “I miss you.” The walls were beginning to break down and their relationship was beginning to change.
For the rest of the summer, DCWAF funding allowed Preston to attend a local day camp. He was able to experience care-free youth activities and enjoy time for himself without having to worry about his family situation or his sisters.
Leanne and her children have since moved out of the emergency shelter and now live in a home of their own. They are finally safe and continue to heal as a family and are beginning to find peace, and most importantly, are finally safe.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact Shelter House at their 24-hour crisis hotline 850-863-4777, or visit them at shelterhousenwfl.org. To learn more about Destin Charity Wine Auction, visit www.dcwaf.org.
*Names Changed to Protect Identity