Resilience Leads Her Down the Path to Healing
“Anna” was born in South Africa. She has two older siblings and a twin sister. “Anna” says being a twin often caused her to long for her own, separate identity. She was a young girl around the time that there were many integration efforts in South Africa. She participated in many outdoor leadership camps and community projects, to help create her own identity. Little did she know, the resilience that she was learning would carry her forward many times in her life.
“Anna” had to wait to continue her education because her parents didn’t have enough money for everyone to continue their studies at once. So, she worked for a period of time to save money. When she was finally able to attend school, she studied travel and tourism. Shortly after completion, she began working as a flight attendant on mostly international flights. She was very successful and was featured in training films for the airline.
“Anna” was very close to her father whom she describes a “very loving man”. When he passed away in 2003 she was in deep grief and resigned her position with the airline. She took a job as manager of a lodge. It was around this time that she met her future husband through an on-line dating site. Even though he was American, he impressed her with his knowledge of her culture and traditions. They made arrangements and met face to face. They continued to correspond. Sometime later he made a trip to South Africa for her brother’s wedding. With her brother’s permission, he proposed to her in front of the nearly 300 guests. She consented but felt real pressure to accept his proposal.
They each had been living abroad and returned to South Africa to marry. As dowry arrangements were being made, she discovered she was pregnant with the first of their 3 children. “Anna” petitioned for her future husband’s visa and he got job. She left the workforce to care for their home and prepare for their children.
One evening while she was pregnant and very tired, “Anna” prepared the meal ahead of time, cleaned the pots and put the meal in the fridge. When her husband came home, he was enraged that his meal wasn’t ready. It was the first time he was physically violent with her. It was also the first of many times she went home to her mother. Once there, she was told that marriage is hard work and that she needed to go home because “the neighbors are watching”. Appearances were very important to “Anna’s” mother. She was sent back to her spouse. While this was the first incident, it was not the last.
The beatings became more and more violent. “Anna’s” husband sexually assault her. He bruised and bloodied her on many occasions. After losing or quitting several jobs, he eventually returned to the U.S. Two of her three children went with him. The plan was that she and the youngest would follow shortly. The hope was that once he had family support he would be better to her and the children.
In 2017, “Anna” and her youngest child moved to the U.S., staying at her mother-in-law’s home. It was at this time that she learned her children had also been sexually abused by their father! When she tried to confront this, she was evicted from her mother-in-law’s home. She sought shelter, reported the incidents to the authorities and filed for an order for protection. As she was preparing to leave shelter, “Anna” contacted the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, who put her in touch with Life-Work Planning Center.
She says, “For the first time it felt ok to say I need help.” “Anna” came in for several one-on-one sessions. She took a career interest inventory, worked on her resume and learned about possible employment opportunities. “Anna” says, (the Self-Sufficiency Counselor) “listened to me and encouraged me. She helped me find resources.” She says, “It was really helpful to have a USB drive (given to her by LWPC) and a journal to help keep her organized.” “Anna” also received gas cards, which she used to buy needed non-food items for her and her children.
“Anna” is now working full-time Monday through Friday with time-off in the summer, a schedule that will allow her to be with her children as they all heal. She says, “I am a survivor; NOT a victim!” She is currently going through the divorce process and the children do not have to have contact with their father. While it is hard and she says she doesn’t have any free time for friends, she and her kids are currently safe and in therapy.
Anna says, “I will not die with life unlived!” This is not the end but the beginning of her story.
**Name has been changed to protect the identity of the subject of this story.**