Survivors share stories of how Dallas' The Family Place changed their lives
One night in 2006, Kager Howard had dinner with a friend and made plans to see her again the next weekend. When the date rolled around, Howard found she couldn't reach her friend — because she had been killed by her ex-husband the night after she had dinner with Howard.
"Her death devastated me and caused me to shut down for several years, thinking I could have done more," says Howard. She also swore that she would never be a victim of domestic violence, but life had other plans.
She discovered The Family Place while seeking counseling for her 12-year-old daughter, who had witnessed Howard being abused. Soon she also began going to counseling and was a client at The Family Place's South Dallas Counseling Center for two years.
"The counselor was instrumental in helping me discover who I was and how to start loving myself," she says. "The group meetings were life-changing. Being able to talk to someone who understood, without judgment, created an atmosphere for self-growth, truth, and healing."
The Family Place is the largest family violence service provider in North Texas, empowering victims by providing safe housing, counseling, and skills that create independence while building community engagement and advocating for social change to stop family violence.
Over the past 40 years, they have counseled more than 215,000 clients; provided lifesaving shelter to more than 24,000 women, men, and children; and answered more than 600,000 calls for help. There are 178 shelter beds offered each night, including the state's only shelter for men and children. The Family Place has helped more than 18,800 batterers learn how to change their abusive behavior, and they reach approximately 6,000 students each year through youth education programs (all of the services are provided in both Spanish and English).
Hope Woodson also learned about The Family Place while seeking counseling help for her child. After Woodson left her abusive marriage, her son's behavior changed drastically, with his grades slipping and his behavior worsening at home and at school. Woodson called The Family Place after seeing a news story where its counselors assisted a young man having similar issues, and she and her children started attending one-on-one and group counseling sessions.
"We learned how to express ourselves without anger and how to channel feelings of sadness and uncertainty," she says. "Most importantly, we learned that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that we weren't alone. It wasn't easy at first, but sharing my truth with women that had gone through similar experiences gave me confidence, strength, and encouragement."
Josie Horn was also a child of an abusive relationship. She grew up in Dallas watching her father abuse her mother, and shortly after getting married herself, her husband began to abuse Josie both psychologically and spiritually.
Horn then lost her mother to an aneurysm and her sister to ovarian cancer, and her husband started doing drugs and their church began the process to vote him out as pastor.
"I didn't know which way to turn, and I honestly thought I was losing my mind," says Horn. "It was blow after blow after blow. I didn't have anyone to talk to, I didn't know where to go, and I definitely couldn't explain what I was feeling. Eventually, I was diagnosed with manic depression."
When an advocate from The Family Place spoke at her office in 2001, Josie realized she was in a crisis and began to relive the pain and turmoil from her childhood and abusive marriage. Her divorce was final by this point, but through counseling at The Family Place, she realized her life still had a purpose.
Today, Horn is a member of The Family Place's Ladies of Leadership after being The Family Place's Survivor of the Year in 2008. Woodson is also a member of Ladies of Leadership, as well as serving on The Family Place Partners Auxiliary Board for 2018, and her son is excelling in school and plays three sports. Another member of Ladies of Leadership, Howard says the group has been instrumental in helping her overcome the fear of speaking publicly against domestic violence.
"I no longer walk in shame or fear, but I choose to speak out in hope that my story can influence others to make the decision to get out before it's too late," Howard says. "I am forever grateful to The Family Place for inspiring my desire to help victims of domestic violence get out, stay out, and pay out. We do this by healing ourselves and others, and not becoming victims again."
Want to help The Family Place? Purchase a Partners Card, which offers 20 percent off at hundreds of Dallas-Fort Worth retailers and restaurants from October 26-November 4. The entire cost of the $70 card is donated to The Family Place. Last year alone, Partners Card raised over $1 million and provided more than 14,000 nights of shelter for victims of family violence.