With a deadly weapon in her face and her unborn child inside of her, Rachel knew she would have to escape if either of them were going to survive.

“It’s scary,” she said. “There’s not words that can really describe it. You worry every day about what kind of mood he’s going to be in. It’s really hard when he doesn’t want me out of his sight. On several occasions, he would put knives to my throat, choke me and threaten to kill me and the baby.”

Rachel is just one of the 105 women and children who have sought refuge at Richmond’s Hope’s Wings domestic violence shelter since it opened six months ago.

She first heard about Hope’s Wings while staying at a battered women’s shelter in Mt. Vernon, but at the time, the facility was not complete.

After staying at the Mt. Vernon shelter for about six weeks, she was lured back into what she called her “situation.”

“I was pregnant and wanted to give him another chance,” she said. “He said he wanted to be a daddy, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.”

She found out the hard way that her boyfriend had not really changed at all, and the fact that she was pregnant made matters worse, she said.

“We weren’t together very long before I got pregnant,” she said. “Once I got pregnant, that was his cue. He was like: ‘OK, now that she’s pregnant, I can treat her (poorly).’”

Rachel was not allowed to drive unless she was transporting him, and she was not allowed to wear clothes he considered sexy or seductive.

The couple finally found a place of their own to live, but it only lasted a month.

“It was a little studio apartment in a crack house,” she said.

She later found herself staying with some friends, but was still in the abusive relationship.

She was living with three women, which seemed like a safe situation based on her boyfriend’s jealous outrages.

Rachel described one particular day when she was dressed in men’s workout shorts and an oversized T-shirt.

“They weren’t high cut, not sexy, they didn’t cling to me,” she said.

Her boyfriend did not see it that way, however.

“He got mad and started asking ‘What are you doing dressed like that? Why don’t you put some clothes on?”

Rachel excused herself to her bedroom at the same time that one of her roommates’ sons arrived.

“I asked to borrow his cell phone,” she said. “I used an excuse. I was supposed to be in court in Bourbon County the next day for a traffic violation and I said that I needed to call and cancel it. But instead, I called the 1-800 number and told them I needed to get out of here. The cops showed up and got me.”

That was Rachel’s last day of being a victim of domestic abuse, and she now is the proud mother of Clarity, who was born in June.

Giving ‘Hope’ to battered women

About 44 percent of the population served by the shelter since its opening have been children, and most of those are under 12 years old, said Hope’s Wings director Robyn Moreland.

“A lot of our mothers are coming with children, and they’re coming with multiple children,” she said. “When we talk about domestic violence, we talk about the woman and her partner. But, you don’t talk much about how she mostly always has children with her.”

Most of the women have been Madison Countians, but there also has been representation from Fayette County, surrounding rural counties and northern Kentucky.

“Even the people who are coming here from other counties are willing to stay just because of the great amount of resources we have and the amount of opportunities we have here,” Moreland said.

The average length of stay is about 18 days, but some residents have been there more than four months.

“We had a woman who stayed less than 24 hours,” Moreland said.

This woman was the victim of a very serious physical assault and was sent to the University of Kentucky Regional Medical Center, where she was forced to undergo several facial surgeries.

She stopped to stay at Hope’s Wings on her way south to be with family members.

Hope’s Wings provides resources to help residents begin working, save money and apply for financial assistance.

“Sometimes, people think that if we could just get them a GED and an apartment ,everything will be OK, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it before you ever get to that place,” Moreland said. “Most of our women have no transportation. A lot of them don’t have a driver’s license. They’ve either not been allowed to drive for whatever reason, and there’s a process you have to go through to get a lot of those things back.”

Being a self-sufficient, non-profit agency takes a lot of work and a lot of resources, Moreland said.

“One of the things that we’ve noticed a lot is that our donations aren’t as much as they used to be,” she said. “We may be able to get a grant, but we have to show that we have funding support coming in from other resources.”

Moreland said she was especially grateful for the Richmond Police Department and the good job they do referring local battered women to the shelter.

The shelter is in constant need of paper towels, toilet tissue, laundry detergent, dish liquid and diapers in every size all the way up to “Pull-Ups,” Moreland said.

Walmart gift cards and gas station purchase cards always are a need.

To make a donation to Hope’s Wings domestic violence shelter, call 623-4095 or 1-877-HOPE-040.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.

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