Trading one love for another

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. While many hopeless romantics may regard the holiday with anxious anticipation, for others this day of love symbolizes yet another obligation to purchase a greeting card or trite gift. Still others regard this day of affection with trepidation, wondering if their heart throb will come through or if, instead, their heart will be trampled upon.

Through sharing Shenell’s story, we offer a different sort of gift for Valentine’s Day.

With her infectious laugh, Shenell immediately strikes those she meets as confident. The young mother is quick to smile or offer a kind word. She is also unafraid to share her story of survival.

A Central Florida native, Shenell moved to Georgia in order to complete a Business Management degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. After receiving her four year degree, Shenell began what she believed to be her happily ever after: she met a strapping young man and fell in love.

Shenell and her husband were married in 2005, having celebrated the birth of their son four years earlier. The happy couple was soon expecting a second child, this time a bouncing baby girl. During this pregnancy, Shenell bravely confides, the serious beatings began.

“At first it was just a smack here or a pop there, but after I got pregnant it got worse,” she shares. Over the next several years, Shenell endured numerous beatings. Forbidden from speaking with friends or family, she eventually lost her job because of the many times her severe bumps and bruises prevented her from appearing in public.

After two hospitalizations at the hands of her husband, Shenell decided to take her children to visit her Florida-based family to celebrate the birth of a niece. Naturally, her abuser was furious with this decision.

“He said, ‘If you leave this house, I’m going to kill you’,” Shenell remembers. “When I got back home, he jumped on me so bad that I spent four months in the hospital.” Even during her recovery, the terrified young woman could not summon the courage to plan an escape. She comforted herself with the thought that no matter how much her husband hated and hurt her, he loved the children.

Driven by a love for her children, even when she did not care for her own well-being, Shennell was able to summon the courage to flee only after her husband threatened to harm them. She recounts the day she returned from the hospital after her four-month recovery. When trying to take the children to buy groceries, Shenell was confronted by her abuser, “If you get in that car, I’m going to shoot it up with you and the kids in it.”

That same afternoon, Shenell placed the children and some belongings in her car and made an escape to Central Florida. That’s when she found the Coalition’s Women’s Residential and Counseling Center (WRCC). Today, she is making strides in her recovery from abuse.

Wondering what this story has to do with Valentine’s Day? For Shenell, this symbolic day is a reminder that she has traded a destructive love for a fulfilling one.

“Even though I may not have loved myself at the time, I loved my kids enough to know that I had to leave,” she explains. “Now I am learning to love myself… I’m learning how to love myself without having to have somebody else love me. “

With the support of her doting children and loving family, Shenell is making a fresh start with this new love. She is optimistic about what the future holds and has big plans, including gaining a Master’s Degree for herself and a stable home for her family. In order to accomplish her dreams, this survivor plans to keep only positive, healthy loves in her life. And for now, those loves do not need to include a Prince Charming.

“My kids love me, my parents love me and I know God loves me,” she smiles. “I just have to keep learning how to love myself.”