LaShondra was in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive relationship for years. Several times she left him, and then the relationship would start again and so would the abuse. LaShondra would even move to different apartments, but her abuser would always find her. When he did, he often would assault and rape her. Later she learned close friends and family would tell him where she was.
The abuse continued as her boyfriend stole money, and she couldn’t pay her bills. She was even jailed three times for driving without a license as it had been suspended because she couldn’t afford to pay for car insurance but needed to drive to get to work.
After an eviction, LaShondra asked her one son’s grandmother to care for her children, and she sought help at LSS CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence. CHOICES is just one of many human service programs provided by Lutheran Social Services. “The love and support there were amazing,” LaShondra said. She was at the shelter for three months before CHOICES helped her with rent for a new apartment and an alarm system.
However, her abuser found her again. “I was at the end of my rope,” LaShondra said. She was fearful and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. “I needed to get strong in my mind so I could leave him,” she said.
The cycle continued and LaShondra eventually returned to CHOICES to receive counseling, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy for PTSD. They helped her make a safety plan and provided more rental assistance so she could move into a safer apartment with a garage to help keep her car from being seen or damaged by her abuser. Then one day, he stopped finding her.
“I don’t know what happened,” said LaShondra. “He got a lot of money and girls, and he just stayed away. I didn’t tell anyone where I lived. Not even family.”
For LaShondra the terror ended when her abuser was murdered, a crime that remains unsolved. Now a year later, LaShondra is still working on her recovery. “I’m working on me,” she said. “It’s incredible how my life has changed. There is something greater for me.” As a former foster child, LaShonda is a member of the Columbus State Scholar Network that provides current and former foster youth with a network of support during their college journey. She has also become active in politics and has been accepted into training for people who are considering a run for office. “I made it. I thank God I’m no longer there.”