Tracey K. Alexander* was pregnant with her third child when she knew her life needed to change. Her ex-husband of three years had just kicked in the door to her home, taking it off the hinges and leaving the door broken.
“I had to find some teenagers to help me move heavy objects in front of the door to keep my children safe,” Alexander said.
Alexander went to Breaking Free, a support group for domestic violence survivors, for a few months. It was the support group that encouraged her to begin journaling. So, she journaled about everything. She talked about what she wanted in life, her goals and aspirations, what it would take for her to be happy.
Outside of the Breaking Free support group, Alexander confided in her grandmother about her husband’s actions. He’d follow her everywhere — even the beauty shop. He’d knock on every office door of her work place when he couldn’t reach her. On her days off, he’d call in sick so he could watch over her.
“I would say, ‘He’s so jealous mama,’ and she’d say, ‘That just means he really loves you,’” Alexander said. “I’d look at other couples and they appeared to have healthy relationships. They were happy and traveling, compared to my situation, that just didn’t feel right.”
She continued going to Breaking Free meetings, getting closer to a solution with each visit. After five months with the support group, she gave birth to a baby girl. At her first support group after giving birth she decided she wanted to get out.
“I was consumed with thoughts of leaving, but I was afraid because my credit was bad and I didn’t have anywhere to go,” she said.
That’s when Breaking Free suggested she try and get an apartment with Coburn Place.
Less than a month after her daughter was born, a friend helped her move into Coburn Place. Alexander stuffed all her belongings and her three children into one car.
“I had to brainwash myself to try something different,” she recalled. “I knew what I was going through was bad, but I didn’t know what this new journey would be like. I was fearful of the unknown.”
When Alexander walked into her apartment, a weight was lifted off her shoulders. The room was clean, her children had bunk beds, so they could sleep comfortably, and she had her own room. The facility was gated and there were bars on the windows for residents’ safety.
“That first night at Coburn Place, I realized it was the safest I had ever felt,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Beyond giving Alexander and her family a safe place to stay, Coburn Place provided individual and family therapy, craft hour where residents could learn how to sew and make floral arrangements. There were professionals on site to teach residents proper parenting skills and how to manage money for when they moved out and even a robust children’s program, which Alexander especially liked. Her oldest son participated in college visits and went to Kings Island. The facility even brought in an African-American doctor to discuss any health and sex questions teenage boys had.
After a year in Coburn Place, Alexander was able to move into her own housing with her children. Breaking Free helped her secure a car and she began pursuing an associate degree in paralegal studies at Ivy Tech Community College. Coburn Place staff continued to support her in her transition out of its housing. Alexander is still in touch with staff members who impacted her life to this day.
It’s been almost two decades since Alexander first stepped foot into Coburn Place, and she says she’s happier than ever and excited for what else is in store for her. She continued her education and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Indianapolis. She watched her oldest son become a father. She’s even found love again and is engaged. In her free time, she’s studying for the LSAT and serves as a mentor to young women who have also been affected by domestic violence. She says she never imagined this could be her life.
“Staying at Coburn Place was an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “Growing up, I only heard of white people going to college, my mother had this mentality that only white people succeeded. I remember looking around and thinking, ‘Nah, that’s not what I see.’ I just knew if I could bust out of that way of thinking and travel my own path, focus on myself, that everything would come into place. I thank God for Coburn Place.”
*The name was changed to protect the survivor’s safety.
Brittany King is a freelance writer.
lifestyle indoors portrait of young sad and depressed black african American woman sitting at home floor feeling desperate and worried suffering painMarcos Calvo