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Today, MaryBeth McLeod has her own business making recycled handbags. She hires women who have gone through similar situations of escaping domestic violent relationships.  She helps them get free from domestic violence and get their own apartments. Making sure they have jobs and independence gives her more incentive to keep the business going. 

While MaryBeth is doing quite well today, it was not always that way.  She grew up in Quincy MA where she met her husband and abuser at a dance at the Mission Hill Church. According to McLeod, “Lots of people did not believe that he was hitting me.  He was found not guilty for attempted murder.”

To escape, she had to change her name and social security number and run. She says of the local social security office that helped her, “They let me go on with my life.  Today I’m safe but that’s what I had to do.  That takes courage.  Some women have to do that you know.  The social security office does have domestic violence cases.” 

McLeod says of the women she works with,”They are away from their abusers, independently living, paying market rent.  Judy, one of the girls that works with me, was with an abuser at first, now she’s not.  She goes to therapy, received a restraining order.  It’s good to see women want it more than life.  You have to start with your little broken self.  Then, one day, your depression is gone and you are okay.” 

When asked for advice on how to help other victims of abuse, she says, “Try to tell them they’re beautiful; they’re a rose that’s going to bloom, you have to water it and it will bloom. … Do it, you can do it alone, you can love yourself. [You] can make it along as I have, start as yourself and just build.  It took 30 seconds or less to put those scars on my face, and takes so long to take them off.”

The ROSE Fund helped MaryBeth by providing her with three free surgeries remove scar tissue around her eyes. She says of the Fund, “The ROSE Fund, you are taking away the scars on the outer side but it’s up to me to take the inner scars out. I really thank God for the ROSE Fund.  You guys are there to do the final touches on my face.  The ROSE Fund is fabulous; we need more programs like that. Thank God we have come a long way; thank God the ROSE Fund is here.”

On taking care of herself, McLeod says, “If I didn’t take care of myself I wouldn’t be in a position to help anybody.”” Truer words were never spoken.

 

I started my co-op/internship with The R.O.S.E. Fund this spring. As a part of my co-op, I visited schools for the ‘report card’ program, attended Jane Doe’s ‘ White Ribbon Day’ and other such events. I visited a local high school where a group called TADA (Teens Against Dating Violence) requested R.O.S.E recipients Ruth and Crusita to talk to the students about how they broke out their domestic violence relationships.

Ruth took to the stage first. At a glance Ruth comes across as a very attractive intelligent woman. It was hard for me to believe that someone as smart and strong as her had to go through something so painful. She did not deserve it. No one does. She was in an abusive relationship and had to struggle a lot to get out it, all at the tender age of 15! She spoke about how her abuser constantly convinced her that he was sorry for his previous actions and she believed him because she loved him and thought he would change. Although Ruth has no physical marks to remind her of the horror she lived, it changed her life. Today she works with an organization as an advocate to help other women overcome domestic violent relationships.

When she was done, she introduced Crusita and at once I could see everything Ruth spoke of, but unfortunately this time the physical signs of abuse were right in front of me. Crusita suffered severe disfigurement when her ex boyfriend threw battery acids at her. She had to flee her country to save her life!  She has had more than 20 surgeries thanks to the ROSE Fund and she could not thank the ROSE Fund enough. When she came up to talk she was determined to spread the awareness and was brave enough to take her jacket off to show us the scars she has to live with today. She was not shy, scared or embarrassed. She told us how it was necessary to break out of a violent relationship before it’s too late to do anything. There were many of us who were brought to tears. I have seen pictures of Crusita from before the abuse and it’s shocking to know someone can harm such a beautiful and lively young woman. Today Crusita spends her time spreading awareness about domestic violence when she is not with her new husband and two kids.

After the talk I got to speak personally to both Ruth and Crusita. They are both so friendly and so strong. Several students stayed back to talk a little more to both.  From hearing Ruth and Crusita’s stories, the students learned how to identify the signs of an abusive relationship and be cautious and aware of domestic violence.

Throughout my co-op internship here, I have learned so much and become so aware of the real world in which we live.  It is so important to spread awareness about domestic violence, and learn about the cycle of power and control.  I have heard of, read about and met individuals with incredible stories of their struggles to break out of abusive relationships and build new lives for themselves.

I got involved with the R.O.S.E. Fund during my spring semester because I wanted to supplement my classroom education with practical learning and experience, but also have a positive impact on my community. Since the beginning of my internship, I have learned so much, not only about domestic violence (DV) as a prevalent social issue in modern society, but also about the workings of non-profit and community based organizations.

Interning at the R.O.S.E. Fund has exposed me to heart-wrenching stories of individuals who personify the global struggle against domestic violence. While these accounts are very saddening, the strength and zeal of these brave women is truly inspiring. The story of a victim who recently worked with the R.O.S.E. Fund quite literally gave me goose bumps; I nearly felt as though I shared her anxiety as I learned about her controlling and abusive husband, who trapped her in a foreign country with no means of escape for herself and her children. They were subject to physical and mental abuse, as her husband would beat her and keep constant track of her doings and whereabouts.

When this woman finally escaped her abuser, she did something that I have found is common among women who have broken the DV cycle:  She created a life of her own, establishing a company and hotline that aids women abroad with domestic violence crises.   The R.O.S.E. Fund was able to aid her efforts by providing monetary assistance through the R.O.S.E. Award.  As a result, this woman has expanded her business and helped even more victims of domestic violence.

Many of the women that have been helped by R.O.S.E. Fund turn their lives around by creating businesses or organizations that return the acts of kindness and aid.  This progress is what makes our work so rewarding: By providing women with medical assistance and more, we allow them to regain their self-esteem and independence. Our various scholarships and awards help these women achieve their goals and develop careers.  For many, the R.O.S.E. Fund’s work is the first step in a mission to reduce and, eventually, eradicate violence and abuse.

If you are interested in contributing to this momentous cause, contact Kimberly Hirsch about our various internship positions at khirsch@rosefund.org.