For 25 years, Connie lived through a nightmare. Like too many North Texas women, she was trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband.

The first time her husband beat her, she had accidentally scorched the beans while making dinner. For years afterward, the slightest perceived offense – like vacuum marks going different directions on the carpet – caused him to viciously attack her. On more than one occasion, she was hospitalized and her jaw was wired shut.

“People ask how I could stay with him,” Connie says. “It’s a process of breaking a person down. I started thinking that he might be right, and maybe I was stupid. Maybe I was worthless.”

Connie’s husband isolated her from friends and family, and she was often trapped in a home without electricity, water, food, and transportation, all while trying to care for her son, Daniel.

Fortunately, Daniel was not abused by his father – but he wasn’t completely sheltered from the violence. At nine years old, he came to Connie and told her that he’d been working out. He said, “I know that someday I’m gonna have to defend myself, and I’m gonna be ready.”

The breaking point came when Connie’s husband pushed her, and Daniel stepped in front of her and said, “I will never let you touch her again.” This led to a violent altercation, ultimately ending with Connie’s husband holding a gun to her head.

Connie describes the feeling of defeat washing over her as the gun was pressed against her temple. “I just resigned myself that it was the end. I accepted it.” But Connie’s fate was far from sealed. Her son bravely jumped on his father’s back just as the first shot was fired. Thanks to Daniel’s courage, the bullet hit the wall. As the cops carried Connie’s husband away, he screamed at her, “I will kill you, I will end your life!”

Instead, Connie’s life began anew. The District Attorney trying her case sent Connie to The Family Place, an exceptional United Way Service Provider, where she started a year-long process of intense counseling and learning to live again.

After 25 years of being a prisoner in her own home, Connie didn’t even know how to shop at the grocery store. She couldn’t break the habit of bracing herself for the next beating or blowup. Connie couldn’t look people in the eye when talking, or rest without fear. The counselors at The Family Place provided Connie and Daniel with a respite from their ordeal, giving them food, shelter, and clothing. But they gave this new family something more. Hope.

Connie said that she had an awakening, where she realized that those 25 years of horror could be turned into something meaningful, if she could help other women in situations like hers.

The Family Place opened up opportunities for Connie to speak to other survivors of domestic violence, in addition to educating crowds of donors and advocates. Connie began understanding that: “If I believe in myself, there are no bars that can hold me.”

After a few months, Connie visited her former counselor to show off her confidence when speaking, a far cry from the woman who came to The Family Place with her chin down, staring at her shoes.

Today, Connie is writing a book about her experiences and owns her own business. She’s even healed from her first marriage and has gone on to love again.

“He treats me like a queen,” Connie gushed. “I feel great, I’m positive. There has not been one morning where my feet don’t hit the floor and I think to myself how great it is to be alive.”

As for Daniel? He grew up and married a woman who is also a former client of The Family Place, who can relate to being in an abusive household.

Connie’s husband once mockingly said that Connie and Daniel can have each other. Fortunately, they do have one another and are sharing a happy ending that neither thought they’d have.

Thanks to United Way and its partner, The Family Place, we are changing lives in North Texas.