Bojana grew up in Serbia, where she led a happy life with her parents and her siblings. When Bojana was in her early twenties, she met a man who was stationed in Serbia with the United States Army. They soon fell in love, and less than three months after meeting, he convinced her to move back to America with him. Bojana agreed, leaving her family and friends behind to start a new life in the United States.

A few months after Bojana moved to the U.S., her husband got discharged from the military. As a result, he started drinking heavily and frequently to cope with his emotions. Bojana began to dread when he came home from a night of drinking, as he would frequently yell at her and throw things. She felt terrified and did not know what to do.

Eventually, he asked Bojana to marry him. She felt obligated to say yes and was afraid of how he would react if she declined. After they got married, his drinking and abusive behavior only got worse.

A couple years later, they had a child together – a boy, whom they named Max*. After Bojana gave birth to Max, she lived in constant fear of her husband. He would not let her work or contact her family and friends in Serbia. When she asked him for money, he would call her terrible names and get physically violent.

Bojana was too terrified to leave. She had no family and no friends in the United States. She had no money. She did not know how to drive a car. Bojana felt her only options were to stay with her husband, to be homeless on the streets with her son, or to go back to Serbia.

One night, Bojana and her husband got into an argument. Max, who had turned three years old, watched as his dad choked his mom. Bojana saw her son’s face and knew she had to get out while they were both still alive.

The next morning, Bojana did an online search for women who were in an abusive relationship to see what help she could find. She found the Heartland Family Service 24-hour Crisis Line number and called it immediately. She got connected with a Heartland Family Service employee, who told her about the Safe Haven concealed emergency shelter, which protects women, men, and children escaping domestic violence.

The compassionate employee with Heartland Family Service helped Bojana create a safety plan to leave her husband that night and to bring her son to Safe Haven with her. Bojana had never felt more scared, but she knew she was making the right decision. She packed a small bag with clothes and toiletries for herself and her son and slipped out of the house quietly while her husband was sleeping.

When Bojana got to Safe Haven, she felt relieved. She knew she had a long road ahead of her, but she felt optimistic about her future for the first time in years. The caring team at Safe Haven provided emotional support to Bojana whenever she needed it. They helped her feel empowered and in control of her own life. Bojana learned coping skills and joined a domestic violence support group to help her work through her emotions.

A couple months later, Bojana had learned how to drive, she found a job, and she had saved up enough money to get a car of her own. She also found a safe, clean apartment where she could live happily with her son and away from her husband.

It has been one year since Bojana left Safe Haven. She received a promotion at her job and wants to go back to school. Most importantly, she and Max are still safe in their own home and are the happiest they have ever been.

*Indicates name has been changed to protect client privacy