In the minute it takes to read this sentence, 24 Americans will become a victim of rape, physical violence, stalking or domestic abuse by an intimate partner. Not so long ago, I was one of them.
After enduring emotional abuse from a former partner, I clearly remember the night I decided enough was enough. I had been forbidden from using the car or leaving the house without his permission. I was told not to have contact with certain family members and friends, and was terrified of what would happen if I did.
I’d left my career to support him with his business, and in the process had become financially dependent. Worst of all, I was afraid for my three little girls, triplets who had been born premature only a few months before. Unsure of what to do, I turned to the partner that had been consistently in my corner – my nurse.
The program that linked me with her, Nurse-Family Partnership, may have saved my life.
California is on track for a state budget that provides an influx in funding to expand home visiting programs like Nurse-Family Partnership, meaning more mothers in similar situations will be linked with critical resources they need to succeed. Pregnancy can be a lonely time, especially for those unable to fall back on the support of friends and family. But programs like this ensure that the most vulnerable of us don’t have to go it alone.
I was four months pregnant when I’d been put in contact with the program, which gives low-income mothers a personal nurse to provide support throughout their first pregnancy and up until the child’s second birthday. In my case, I was introduced to Nurse Lakisha, who quickly became a close friend and ally.
Lakisha paid attention to the way my babies were developing, helping me to prepare my home for their birth and educating me about the milestones they would hit as they grew. She also worked with me on personal goals, including reigniting confidence that had been flatlined by my abusive relationship. Documenting instances of abuse that she knew I would need later, she encouraged me to do what was best – both for myself and for my children.
Lakisha stuck with me during my time at the shelter, continuing to check in as I eventually made the transition into a new home with my girls. She linked me with supplies like diapers, clothing and playpens. She conducted safety inspections and developmental assessments to make sure my girls were demonstrating age-appropriate skill sets. And she helped me realize my own goals, including pursuing my master’s degree – something I had never thought possible.
I get chills when I think about what this program did for me and my little girls, who are now enrolled in a Head Start program, thriving and lively. I am thankful that the governor has taken up the mantle of supporting families to lead healthy and empowered lives, and I am pleased that the legislature has committed to do the same by passing a state budget that expands funding for home visiting programs like Nurse-Family Partnership.
In light of sobering statistics about poverty, domestic abuse and their long-term impact on families, it’s reassuring to know that California is making investments where it counts.