Survivor Story: How You Helped Isabelle Blossom

Because of your help, one woman, a new mother, was able to turn her entire life around.

Isabel’s entire body hurt. It was heavy, as if lifting her arm to comfort her sweet baby was just too much to bear. She could no longer tell if it was the pain from the abuse the night before, or the heaviness of depression that had set in after the baby was born.

She really couldn’t tell where one pain began and the other ended. All she knew was that this depression was pitch black, lonely, dizzying space of vertigo feelings, thoughts, and worries. She loved her baby, but most days she barely had the energy to survive. She wanted more, for both of them. Isabel had no energy and didn’t believe there was a way out.

Can you imagine how horrible this must be, not even feeling joy with her own precious baby? And with the heavy pain of severe postpartum depression and wearing the scars of physical abuse, wondering if you and your baby will survive the night? Every night Isabel wondered, “Will he kill me before the depression does?”

Every woman who survives abuse is unique.

With nowhere else to turn, Isabel arrived at WC&S with her three-month old daughter Maria and severe postpartum depression. It was no easy journey for her to arrive at the Shelter, but she was so happy she made that choice. Because of your generosity, Isabel had somewhere to go that would understand the challenges of not only the crippling depression but also the impacts of severe domestic abuse.

Your support provided for a traveling nurse to help Isabel work through her depression and aided her in attending the Children’s Program’s Mom and Me Group for new mothers. As Isabel began down the road to a better place, physically and mentally, joy returned and she was happy to be a mom.

Your support helped two lives become joy-filled instead of lived in fear

Isabel blossomed during her time as a resident as she began to heal from physical and emotional abuse. There was an overall positive change in her happiness and bonding with Maria. You had a direct hand in helping Isabel climb out of the dark place that was stealing her light. With baby Maria, she understood her life was worth living, and with your help, she was given the tools to build it free from abuse.

You helped Isabel. And because of you, other women like her who have their own unique journey from abuse have a place to go in their darkest hour.

Thank you for making the critical services available to help make a difference in the lives of more women just like Isabel.

Read more Stories of Hope

Do PFAs Work? Can the Legal System Help Women of Domestic Violence More?

Is there more the legal system can do to help women of Domestic Violence?

The recent tragic death of Alina Sheykhet at the hands of her ex-boyfriend has raised questions and concerns about PFAs. Alina had taken this step, with the support of her family, to obtain this legal order. Sadly, even this did not protect her from his rage. Alina, in the prime of her life, was killed at the hands of her abuser.

It leaves the mind and heart wondering why? Is there more the legal system can do to help women of Domestic Violence?

In an ordered world, a PFA SHOULD stop an abuser. But the mind and world of an abuser is anything but ordered.

• Unfortunately, research shows that for offenders who have a history of violence, a PFA may not be enough.
• Leaving is the most dangerous time—that’s when an abuser feels he’s losing all control. Controlling and dangerous behavior may actually escalate.
• Immediately after obtaining a PFA, reaching out to a DV shelter for help with safety planning can be life saving. Every situation is different, and the staff at the Shelter is skilled in knowing what resources are available for your unique circumstances.

What is a PFA?

PFAsAn order for Protection from Abuse (PFA) is court mandated protection from the abuser, even if criminal charges have not been filed. It is often the first step in the process of stopping abuse.

• In Allegheny County, 4000 PFAs are issued per year. Many more women need this protection, and do not file. This may be because they do not know how to file, do not have access to support, or have seen the horrific effects when PFAs are not honored and abuse escalates.
• It’s important to know: Calling your local domestic violence program will help you understand the PFA process and how to go about obtaining one.

If PFAs don’t always work then why would I file one?

A PFA is the first step in letting law enforcement AND your abuser know that you are seeking help. It is a clear statement that YOU are not tolerating the abusive behavior that has occurred.

And, it is important to remember, that most times they DO work.

• We WANT women to obtain PFAs–to be supported to be free from Domestic Violence.
• If police see that there is a PFA on the perpetrator, they will be more informed as to what’s going on (taken place in the past if you have to call them again and they can be better prepared when they arrive at the scene) AND it leaves a paper trail.

It is important that a woman file a PFA!!!

And there are extra steps the victim can take.

It’s not fair, but it’s safer to do so.

• Extra steps include calling a DV program and doing safety planning.
• Also, depending on the situation, temporary locating to where an abuser wouldn’t know how to find you can save your life.

It’s unfortunate that the responsibility still lies with the woman to protect herself and NOT on the abuser to comply with a court order. Your safety is key during this time.

What else could get in the way of a PFA being effective?

One of the biggest obstacles may be that judges at the time of issuing a PFA do not have access to previous acts of violence perpetrated by the abuser.

• Justice systems are technologically archaic. In most areas judges don’t always know what previous records the offender has at time of issuing a PFA order or establishing bond.

Other states or counties may not have information about the abuser’s prior charges and offenses.

And it is important to know, that victims themselves may not even know about previous abuse. Often the changes are subtle, leaving the woman to think she has done something wrong. How could this person who loved her now be so controlling, abusive, jealous?

It’s important for ANY woman to know that help is available, not just for filing a PFA but also for safety planning, as well as legal advocacy. No one needs to face this process alone.

Last year, Women’s Center and Shelter helped OVER 3,000 adults with legal advocacy.

If you or someone you know needs help, call (412) 687-8005.

For more information:
Legal Advocacy
Safety Planning

Calling All Caped Crusaders: WC&S has Joined the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge!

You reach in your purse to pay for something and don’t have your wallet. Embarrassing right? Now imagine you are a woman trying to escape Domestic Violence. You know you have to get out, you want to get out, and you are ready. In fact, you know if you don’t get out now there may just not be another chance. You’ve been secretly saving for just this moment. You reach in your purse and your wallet is gone, and you KNOW you put it in there.

How can this be, you wonder? Your heart falls, and you know. There just is no way out.

Sadly, financial abuse occurs in 99% of all domestic violence. Without money to escape the abusive relationship, a woman simply cannot leave. Or worse, even after breaking free, the survivor has to return right back to the abusive situation.

domestic violence purple purse pittsburghFinancial abuse is domestic abuse. While it’s invisible unlike the marks left by physical abuse, it’s still a trap. It’s a strong trap that prevents a victim from leaving just like being under the control of a lock and key. But there is a key to unlock Financial Abuse. And you can help; you can be the hero that unlocks that lock. You can join us in the Challenge here.

We at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh are excited to announce we’ve been chosen as one of 200 nonprofit organizations serving domestic violence survivors throughout the entire country to be a part of the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge! Since 2005, this competition has taken place every year with the goal of developing long-term security and safety through financial empowerment. This year, we’ve been selected to join this friendly fundraising competition to secure economic empowerment for domestic violence survivors in the Pittsburgh area. – Domestic violence affects one in four women in her life. – Every nine seconds a woman is abused. – 99% of all domestic violence cases include financial abuse, too.

On a greater scale, through this Purple Purse Pittsburgh Challenge, we’re ready to help the next woman flee financial abuse. She can find her inner hero again; until then, with your support, we can be her hero.

“I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”

~ Wonder Woman

The challenge begins October 2nd, but if you’d like to look around our Crowdrise Purple Purse Pittsburgh page now, please feel free to browse. From there, you can find out information about how you can be a hero by joining our team. And if you’re not the rah-rah-fundraising type but more of a silent caped crusader, that’s okay, too! You can visit the page, make a contribution, and then fly off to your next life-saving adventure.

Helping Women and Children of Domestic Violence

Margaret never thought it would happen to her. She had a good job, a nice home, wonderful children and supportive friends and family. But Margaret had something else, a secret.

As she looked outside at the holiday lights strung in her neighbor’s yard, it seemed so peaceful. Inside is where her secret reigned. No one, absolutely no one, knew what would come next. But she did.

Her husband is screaming in the kitchen – throwing plates across the room as they hit the wall and shatter. She knows she’ll become his next target, and the knot forms in her stomach. The kids are in the living room crying, and in this moment, she knows they cannot withstand this abuse anymore.

Later that night, when she is alone with her children, she tells them to quickly put on their shoes and coats and follow her to the car. There is only a small window before her husband returns from the store, and everything else must be left behind. The kids ask where they are going, but she remains steadfast at the wheel – determined to get to safety.

Because of the generosity of our donors, this family has a safe place to go…Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S). They arrive frightened and weary, worn down by the life threatening events of their lives. Greeted by WC&S Advocates with warm smiles and open arms, their lives begin to change in ways they can only dream.

Everything from legal support, medical care and counseling is offered free of charge. But perhaps most valuable is the moment of peace that begins as they lay down in their own room in our Emergency Shelter. One moment of peace that begins a whole new world.

As mom drifts off to sleep, knowing for the first time in what seems like forever, that she and her children are safe, she hears the words of her advocate ringing in her ears, “I promise, we are here. You are fully supported and won’t go through this alone.”

It is impossible to a put a price tag on the work that your donations allow us to provide here at Women’s Center & Shelter. Transitioning women and their children from a place of abuse and fear to safety and hope is a priceless gift. From basic necessities to vital resources, your support allows domestic violence survivors to move forward into a new life, free from abuse.

Your year-end donation makes all of this possible. Please…

Red Donate

For the love of dog

“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”
~~ George Eliot


Imagine this: Your closest companion is your dog.

Your dog loves you, she comforts you, and she never judges you. Whenever you need a laugh—she is there chasing her tail. Whenever you need a hug—she is there putting her paw on your lap. Whenever you need comfort—she is there licking away your tears. She is your closest companion in a world fraught with fear and anxiety because, although she is always kind, your partner isn’t. Instead, he is constantly putting you down, interrogating you, criticizing you, and intimidating you. The only one you can really count on is your dog.

Imagine this: You decide it is time to get out of this abusive situation.

But you can’t. You know him and you know what he is capable of doing. He has kicked your dog before. He has withheld her food. He has made her stay outside when it’s been too hot or too stormy. He’s threatened to just let her out the door. He has threatened to kill her. You couldn’t possibly leave him because you couldn’t abandon her. What’s more, you couldn’t bear to be without her—she is your closest companion and your biggest support. But you don’t know if you will be able to survive—emotionally or physically—if you stay.

But then, imagine this: You find out there is support for you and your dog.

You call the Women’s Center and Shelter’s 24-Hour Hotline (412-687-8005 x 1) and explain that you want to get out, but that you can’t leave without your dog. You learn that there are several options available to assist you in getting yourself and your dog to safety. You create a safety plan with a Hotline Advocate.

Now, imagine this: Your dog is one of your closest companions.

Your dog loves you, she comforts you, and she never judges you. She’s been there with you through thick and thin, and the wag of her tail tells you that she is as happy as you.

Did you know?

  • If you are in need of shelter due to intimate partner violence, Women’s Center and Shelter may be able to provide immediate, short-term shelter for your dog, cat, or other companion animal.
  • We partner with local animal shelters to find temporary or permanent placement for your pets.
  • Your pets can be protected by a Protection From Abuse Order—our Legal Advocacy Department can assist you in listing pets on the PFA. Call our Legal Advocacy Department Monday through Friday, 8am-4pm at 412-355-7400 x5.
  • Humane Officers can assist you in retrieving your pet from the place you fled.
  • Free and low-cost veterinary services are available through local animal shelters.
  • Our Hotline Advocates can assist you in creating a safety plan for you, your children, and your pets. Even if you determine you must stay in the abusive situation or leave your pet behind in order to safely flee, we can support you in your planning and decision-making. Call us anytime day or night at 412-687-8005 x1.

Imagine this: One day all women, children, and pets are free from abuse.

How does your pet support you? Have you ever considered leaving but been afraid to leave your pet behind? What is the best part about having a companion animal, to you?

Women’s Center & Shelter thanks Pittsburgh’s Animal Rescue League and Animal Friends for the varied and integral types of support they provide for our clients and their pets!

Learn more about safety planning for your pets. (Brochure adapted from the Humane Society)