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Mallorie met her first boyfriend when she was just a teenager. When they started spending all of their time together, she discovered he was not who he claimed to be.

Her first red flag came when she realized her boyfriend had lied about his age. When Mallorie confronted him about it, he hid the truth from her with another lie so she wouldn’t leave him.

“I was young and didn’t know any better,” Mallorie remembers. “That should have been my first clue to leave.”

But Mallorie stayed, and soon after, she was pregnant with their first child – a daughter, whom she later named Avery.* That was also when his abuse toward her first began. The first time he hit her, Mallorie left. She didn’t speak to him for a few days, but he coaxed her into coming back and the abuse worsened. Like so many cases of domestic violence, the abuse started out as verbal, but quickly turned physical.

On one occasion, he held Mallorie down and pulled her arm out of her its socket and refused to take her to the hospital. When he abused her on several other instances, Mallorie called the police, who found her severely beaten upon their arrival.

Mallorie’s fear of her boyfriend gave her extreme anxiety and severe panic attacks.

“The way he treated me would trigger the panic attacks, and then he would videotape me having them,” Mallorie says. “He would tell me I was crazy and that he was going to use the evidence to let Child Protective Services take the kids away.”

Her turning point came six months after their second child, a sweet little boy named Noah*, was born. One night, Mallorie’s boyfriend called her a cruel name and Avery, now seven years old, pinched him on the cheek and said, “Don’t call Mommy a name.”

“He just swatted Avery to the ground like she was a fly,” Mallorie recalls. “Then, he flung Noah onto the bed. That’s when I’d had enough.”

Mallorie’s family made some phone calls to help her and her children get to safety, which led her to the Heartland Family Service Safe Haven emergency shelter. The caring and supportive staff at Safe Haven gave Mallorie an exit strategy to help her begin the steps to leave behind a decade of abuse.

She spent three months at Safe Haven with Avery and Noah while she recovered from the effects of her now ex-boyfriend’s long-term abuse.

“His abuse was all I knew,” Mallorie remembers. “Part of why I stayed for so long is because he made me believe no one else would want me. But now I have hope.”

“I liked the staff at Safe Haven because they were very relatable,” Mallorie says. “I never felt judged walking in there. They never treated me like I was failure. They just helped me move forward.”

Today, Mallorie, Avery, and Noah have their own home. Mallorie is working full-time and finishing up her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.