Editor's note: Our Community United is a five-part series that will be published occasionally through the end of the year. The stories will highlight programs supported by United Way of the Black Hills.
He was charming, awesome, generous.
He drank copious amounts of whiskey daily, jealously insulted her, belittled her and pushed her down.
Contradictions bookend the six-year Rapid City relationship that exacted a heavy toll on Kira — her last name is withheld.
Fat! Deadbeat mom! Nobody wants you, he shouted.
She believed him.
Kira twice returned to him after sincere apologies, and twice she attempted suicide. Her wrists reveal deep scars. She took meth to numb herself and got caught, so she went to jail after her hospitalization for an intentional overdose of antidepressants.
Jail provided a chance to think and also talk to counselors who explained that abuse can be verbal, spiritual and emotional. Kira grew up in an abusive household. Wasn’t it normal?
When she left jail at the end of July, Kira also left him, cut off her cellphone and Facebook, and checked into Working Against Violence, Inc., a Rapid City shelter and support agency for victims of domestic abuse.
She spent the first week in an emotional cocoon.
“Now, it’s over,” said 35-year-old Kira, clutching moist tissues last week in a WAVI conference room.
WAVI is one of 55 nonprofit partners that benefit from annual community and corporate contributions to United Way of the Black Hills. This year the organization’s fundraising goals are $2.32 million for the Black Hills area and $1.95 million for Rapid City.
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Last year, support from 5,467 donors served 121,845 people, according to the organization’s annual report.
Kira’s prolonged exit from abuse was complicated. He had the job, apartment and money for gas. She had nothing, not her pride.
She left jail feeling so depressed.
“To go back would be easy,” she said, reflecting on her thoughts. Instead, she took what seemed the harder and lonelier path.
Often it takes a cluster of United Way agencies creating a web of support for someone to reach their better road. When a sewer line recently made the WAVI shelter uninhabitable for three weeks, other United Way partners organized food nights and provided other support for displaced staff and clients — a measure of true interagency cooperation.
Today, Kira believes she is growing stronger. “I’m strong but not fully on the road,” she said. “I have some humps to cross.”
She has cut off all contact with their shared friends and also with her drug friends.
Something clicked. “I don’t have to be treated like that,” she said. Her WAVI support group helped.
Kira has goals. She wants a full-time job, to be independent and off government assistance. She wants to have a place where her sons can each have their own bedroom.
Maybe she’ll go back to school, she said.
She wants the basics, she said, “A quiet life with my babies.”