Gabrielle had so much going for her: a strong mind, a caring heart, and a warm demeanor. But no amount of intelligence or sweetness could save her from the abuse that she suffered from the time she was a child.
Sexually assaulted by her father and emotionally and physically maltreated by both of her parents, she ran away at 16 to pursue an education. But as she sought to improve her life, she met men who promised her love and security, but instead beat her brutally and sapped her of her spirit.
At 17, Gabrielle became pregnant by one of her abusers. She delivered her son two months prematurely after the father of her baby raped her, inducing early labor. “When I came home from the hospital,” she says, “he raped me again. After, I lay there for hours. I didn’t do anything. I felt really bad. I felt like I should be dead.”
Finally, after years of hiding the truth of her life from friends, teachers, and others who might help her—“I was always told that if I had a problem, it was my fault and I had to solve it on my own”—Gabrielle mustered the strength to leave her abusers. It was the staff at Dream House—JFCS’ residential services program for women and children who have experienced domestic abuse—who gave her the strength. “They told me that I would be safe and that I didn’t deserve what had happened to me,” she says. “No one ever told me that before.”
In the year that Gabrielle and her son Micah, now 8, have been at Dream House, their lives have been transformed. She has returned to college, a lifelong dream, where she is earning excellent grades, and she is also working part-time. She is grateful for the one-on-one and group counseling she is receiving, as well as for Micah’s therapy at JFCS’ Parents Place, where he can talk about the anger and fear he has felt since infancy.
At Dream House, Gabrielle can also express herself as a Jew, the first time she has been able to do so. She held a Passover for all of her fellow residents, and Dream House staff helped her secure a menorah during Hanukkah.
“These are happy times for us,” says Gabrielle. “Without Dream House, I wouldn’t have been able to break away from the abuse. Dream House is not a shelter, and it isn’t only a home. It is a community.”
Sarah Mark, MFT, Case Manager of Dream House; 415-449-1243; SarahM@jfcs.org