A Shelter in the Storm

Words by Ashley Hurst

Rochelle* is a mom of two children, ten year old Devon*,  and a six year old Celeste*. Rochelle was married to her children’s father for over a decade, sustaining physical, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse throughout the entire relationship. Since 2014, Rochelle has experienced memory loss due to an incident when her then-husband strangled her to the point of losing consciousness. In 2016 Rochelle was referred to Shelter House by one of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation’s other benefiting charities the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, when both she and Devon were shot with a pellet by her husband. Rochelle explained that they were shot when Devon found the gun and her husband stated he was going to “teach the child a lesson” by shooting him with the pellet gun for getting into things that didn’t belong to him. Rochelle stepped in front of her child, shielding him from any further harm.

After the incident, Rochelle immediately reached out for help and through the referral to Shelter House was able to engage in services quickly. Rochelle filed for divorce, and gained an injunction for protection for both her and the children. Due to the threat of danger to her and the children during the early stages of the separation, Rochelle reached out to Shelter House for a safe place to stay. Rochelle and her children stayed at Shelter House’s emergency shelter for several weeks as the injunction was filed and served. During that time Shelter House’s Youth Advocates worked with the Devon and Celeste daily to help them process not only the abuse they experienced and witnessed in their home, but also the changes that were happening in their family. The Youth Advocates also worked with Rochelle and offered support, advocacy, and resources to assist with the family’s new living arrangements. Devon and Celeste were able to attend free play therapy sessions provided by Shelter House’s play therapist to help process their feelings and gain new coping skills. Rochelle was able to secure a safe new home for her and the children. Before leaving the shelter, the Youth Advocates developed a safety plan with each child so they know what to do if they ever feel unsafe again. 

The children are now excelling in their new school, and Rochelle has gained full-time employment while also attending college classes part time to further her new career.  The family attends weekly support groups at Shelter House to continue their healing process, and the children work with the Youth Advocates engaging in art therapy and hands-on activities that help them work through the domestic violence they witnessed in their former home.