"When am I going to find my happy ending?" this question is often repeated behind the safe, closed doors of the YWCA's Wise Option program.
There was one woman in particular, Mary, who had asked this question over and over again to her trusted counselor.
She had spent years in an abusive marriage, and turned to Wise Options many times throughout her struggle.
It is easy to suggest to someone in an abusive situation to "leave," but women like Mary will tell you that it is much more complex than that.
Mary met Tom, fell in love and the two of them were married. They had two beautiful children together, a girl and a boy.
They appeared to be like any other married couple, however Mary was living in a constant state of fear.
In 2002, Mary came to Wise Options seeking a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA).
Tom was physically abusing, stalking and threatening her. Mary had enough and wanted to leave, at that same time she decided to file for divorce.
Abuse is about control and abusers exhibit this through various behaviors including: hitting, slapping, choking, isolating, stalking, threats, put-downs, name-calling, unwanted touching, forcing sexual acts, stealing or destroying personal belongings, taking money, and more extreme acts of violence.
One night when Mary was bathing her son, everything changed.
Her son had bruises all over his body, when she asked him how he got the bruises he replied "Daddy."
Mary spoke with her daughter only to find that she too was the victim of Tom's abuse.
Immediately Mary called the police, Children and Youth and Wise Options. This time a PFA was filed not only for Mary, but for the children as well.
Tom had agreed to resign his parental rights, and Mary hoped that she would be able to move forward.
As time went by she met someone new and was convinced that he was "Mr. Right." Tom was never far behind though, he was continuing to harass, stalk and threaten Mary.
Meanwhile, Mary found out that she was wrong about "Mr. Right," he too was an abuser and eventually ended up in prison.
After all the pain and hurt that Mary went through, she reached out to Wise Options, ready for change.
She worked very closely with a Legal Advocate, and had court accompaniment throughout the legal process.
With counseling provided by Wise Options she was able to work through the devastating emotions that come with abuse.
Since 2002 Mary has come so far. She met someone very special and the two of them are now married with two children of their own.
Not only that, but in May 2011 Mary's new husband adopted her older children and is now legally their father.
Tom has been given very strict warnings that if he violates his Protection From Abuse Order he will end up in prison.
Mary has stated that she is so grateful for the services of the YWCA's Wise Options program, but it is through our work together that she was able to start a new beginning.
If it were not for Mary's strength and courage she would not be where she is today.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Nearly one in four women in America will experience domestic violence and more than 15 million children witness this abuse annually."
Without the funding and support of the Lycoming County United Way, the YWCA's Wise Options program would not be able to provide so many diverse services that meet the individual and collective needs of our community.
Supporting the LCUW is supporting the YWCA, domestic violence awareness, and emergency services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.