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Survivor Story: Finding Myself and Giving Back

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A powerful survivor story written by Nikki Houston. She gave us permission to share her story of finding herself and deciding to give back after her experiences with abuse. 

Nikki and her son

Nikki and her son

I’m not exactly sure how to start or where to start – but here goes! I’m a domestic abuse survivor.

I left my ex-boyfriend two years ago after losing absolutely everything.  My ex had been stealing money from me, using drugs without my knowledge, and would take off for months leaving behind not only myself, but our newborn son. We lost our house, our car, and all of our belongings.

I was on the verge of losing my job. I would go to work after him ‘teaching me a lesson’ with bruises or a burns on my lip or some days I didn’t go in at all.  Sometimes it was because I had no one to watch my son and sometimes it was because I just couldn’t bear the thought of going into work and having to hide the fact that I was living in misery and feared for myself and my son.

I woke up on Saturday, October 6, 2013, on the tile floor of his mother’s house with my 8 1/2 month old son in my arms, and my ex was nowhere to be found. I looked outside and saw my car was there – and saw the keys next to me. This was the first time in months that my car was around and he wasn’t. Normally he would take my car even after I begged him not to and when he was around he would guard the keys so I was unable to leave. However, that morning it was as if God was saying now is your chance – you may never have this again.

I packed three Walmart bags full of what I could fit and went to my parents’ house, and finally told them everything. They took me and my son in without hesitation and assured me I could rebuild my life.

During an attempt to ‘visit’ our son, my ex became physically abusive while trying to abduct him from my arms and he injured our son. The moment my son was hurt a switch flipped and I knew I would never let my ex get that close to him again. For this particular incident, he was charged with felony injury to a child and domestic battery. I was awarded a five-year protection order and sole custody of our son – my son saved my life.

I struggled to rebuild my and my son’s life – learning how to function again. I was so terrified of my ex, and the thought that he might be outside, waiting. I kept the blinds at my parents closed all the time and stayed inside as much as possible then slowly, my family helped me to realize that I was safe, it was okay to have the blinds open. I was still living in fear even AFTER I left him.

After his arrest, a weight was lifted off my shoulders –I could breathe again. I stopped looking over my shoulder all the time and I didn’t feel like I had to be with my son every second of the day, I could actually start living my life. I could finally start getting myself back.

I am lucky to have found a new job that I love. I am an Enrollment Advisor at College of Western Idaho (CWI). My job is to go out to high schools, events, etc. and recruit potential students to attend CWI. I absolutely LOVE my job. I’ve seen the best of the best schools, and the not so best of the best schools. I’ve come across “at-risk students” and students who will be graduating college before they graduate high school.

It’s the “at-risk students” who have really tugged at my heart strings: I learn through talking to students, especially pregnant high school girls, that many feel college is not for them due to financial reasons. Others feel they do not have what it takes and a majority of the pregnant students will be single parents.

After seeing and hearing students confide in me, my heart was broken. Their struggles, their fears, I can see myself in them. I knew I needed to do something.

I’m not rich by any means, I make enough to have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and to make sure all the bills are paid, while maybe being able to tuck a little money away into savings. I went to my family with a proposal. I told them what I was witnessing with the single moms and asked them to match my $250 donation to the CWI Foundation to start a scholarship for single parents.

The scholarship is titled “LTH Don’t Give Up” Scholarship, after my son. It is intended to help those who need the extra help in achieving their goals, to help them better their lives. I’ve left this scholarship open for donations in order for it to grow – in hopes that someday it will be self-sustaining.

I am asking others to help grow this fund. Making a gift is easy. On the online giving form (found here) donors can select ‘Other’ under the Choose Fund options and then type “LTH Don’t Give up Scholarship.” I know what it’s like to have nothing, I know what it is like to struggle, I know what it’s like to want to do better and feel as though you’re limited. I know what it’s like to be these girls, to be a single parent – which is why this scholarship was created – to help single parents.

My goal is to inspire, encourage, and motivate students to pursue their dreams, to never give up no matter how impossible it may seem, and to make every day amazingly beautiful.

Update 1/7/16: Nikki’s story was featured on CWI’s website. Read that article here

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