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Kristin Murphy, KSL

Domestic violence survivor finds freedom through shelter's support

By Christina Giardinelli, KSL | Posted - Jul 14th, 2019 @ 4:38pm


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OGDEN — Nora Parks greets all of her customers at the YCC thrift store by name and with a smile.

"How else are you supposed to keep a business going?" she wondered with a laugh.

Since the YCC Family Crisis Center in Ogden helped Parks and her children find shelter, she said she has a newfound appreciation for life.

As a survivor of domestic violence, she said, "I appreciate every single moment that I wake up breathing."

The Ogden shelter is hoping to continue helping other families like Parks' rebuild their lives through the help of donors.

Zen Uriarte, the center's homeless housing manager, said once housing has been arranged for a family, "we depend on donations because we don't have enough funding to furnish their houses."

As she spoke Tuesday, two employees of Ashley Furniture Home Store, with the help of those working at the center, unloaded 170 twin beds into a storage unit at the shelter.

The donation was provided through the corporation's Hope to Dream program, which gives beds to children in need.

Shelter manager Madi Besselievre noted that donations such as this are a big relief to individuals and families who, like Parks, are fleeing domestic violence.

"That's 170 people who are not going to have to sleep on the floor when they get housing, so we're really happy about that," she said.

Uriarte noted that this year alone the shelter, which just celebrated it's 75th anniversary housed 39 adults and 50 children. The facility, she said, was also able to help 77 adults and 132 children find housing through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal program.

"Children are a vital part of a growing community," Todd Wanek, president and CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries, said in a news release about the donation.

"We believe by helping a child sleep well, they are poised to lead a healthier and more productive life," the release read.

Parks agreed, emphasizing that her children are a priority for her. "I don't want them to grow up in that kind of a life."

"I hope that they are happy and successful. That's what I want for my kids. That's really the most important thing for them," she said.

Parks said she started looking for a way out of an abusive relationship with her then-husband after her two children were born.

"Until I had my kids, I really didn't even care as much," she said, noting that her ex-husband had been abusive from the start of their five-year relationship.

"We were actively using (drugs), you know, things like that just keep you stuck," she said noting that she had tried to leave a number of times after her two children were born, but each time her ex-husband was able to find them and bring them back.

Jamie Nunley, victim advocate program coordinator for the shelter, said returning to an abuser is unfortunately common.

"Victims will return to their abuser several times, even like up to eight or nine times, before they're able to break that chain," she said. "It's hard and it's frustrating and it's saddening to see."

Because returning is so common, Besselievre noted, safety plans — one of the first steps the shelter takes with incoming clients — often include planning for going back to an abuser.

She said this plan can include how to "make sure that you never let yourself get trapped in a room, always stand by the door, always have a way to exit."

The shelter, she said, will advise clients to "have a bag packed (with) essential items and essential documents" and "if you need to leave quickly keep (the) bag in your car or a safe place."

For Parks, the safety the Ogden shelter was able to provide was key. She said she sought help before, but said what inhibited the process was "people not listening to what my (safety) needs were."

"I remember being at a different (shelter) and asking them to get my divorce, because if you don't have that he could show up at school and pick up my kids and they would have disappeared," she said.

The last straw for Parks came when her son was 4 and her daughter was 2. "My ex-husband locked myself and my children in a storage unit for almost five days," she said. While locked inside, they had no food or water, she said.

Parks and her children survived and found help through the shelter and its programs. However, Uriarte acknowledged the facility is not always able to meet the need for safe housing.

"(Victims) will call in, and sometimes we do have to turn them away," she said, noting that those people are told to "keep calling back, because we want to be able to help you. We just don't have a bed for you right now."

The 2018 national Domestic Violence Census noted that 439 adults and 409 children received domestic violence assistance through facilities in Utah. However, the census found that 106 requests for assistance went unmet.

Uriarte said clients who are turned away "can still utilize our services like coming to the domestic violence classes, life skills, parenting classes and we safety plan with them."

She noted that finding housing is one of the biggest obstacles domestic violence survivors face.

"Those who don't qualify for the programs that last a year have to find affordable housing," she said. "This is really hard to find, especially right now with the housing being in crisis."

Parks said she is grateful to have her own home and is enjoying the small things about her newfound independence that bring her joy.

"It's the best feeling knowing that I'm waking up safe every morning with my kids, you know, that we don't have to worry about what someone else wants us to do. We're just free from that," she said with a smile.

During her free time she enjoys painting and takes inspiration for her art from the people she meets.

"When you're feeling depressed, when you're feeling anxious, you can use (art) instead of other things to help yourself feel better."

One of her favorite pieces, she said, is an art project she completed with her children. "We have our handprints and our feet prints (on it) and that's on the wall, it says family on it."

Next year, Parks hopes to open her own food truck business where she said she will employ other parents who have survived trauma and addiction.

Parks said she hopes her story will inspire others to seek help. To any victims who learn about her experience, she said, "there are people that will help you to leave."

She noted that "if I know anyone that's continuing to go back (to an abusive situation), I just listen, you know, not do anything else. That's their choice." However, she said "if they ever needed anything I would help."

Domestic violence resources

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Christina Giardinelli

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