It was a cold, wintry morning, and I was sitting on the end of my bed, surveying the carnage. Everything was quiet at last. The night before, the police had taken away my violent husband, who, in an alcoholic rage, had tried to end my life. Despite the drama and the tears, and the sight of seeing their father marched out of the house by a policeman and a soldier, I had decided that the children should all go to school that morning. They had to see that life would go on.

The police had taken away my violent husbandI had called the mortgage bank to find out if we had made last month's payment, and I discovered that if we did not pay a huge five-month debt I had known nothing about, we would be thrown out of the house. Me and eight children. My next call was to the High Street Bank, where I discovered the overdraft had reached its limits. I started to feel very desperate. And on my own.

At this point, I asked myself what I was supposed to do next. "If this was a Russian novel, I would either throw myself off the roof or under a train," I thought. And then I remembered my children. Eight children - all under the age of twelve. And I realised that I was all they had. Getting off the bed, I decided that too many people needed me not to allow myself the "luxury" of being Anna Karenina, and I went to have a shower to wash away the pain of the night before.

After that, I prayed for a blessing for the strength that I would need for the troubled times that lay ahead. Feeling the need for some divine inspiration, I took a holy work from the shelf and opened it at random. In front of me, on the page, I saw the famous saying quoted from the Torah that a "Man is a tree of the field." Without even realizing it, I had found my answer. Lost in thought, I looked out of the window for a brief second and suddenly saw it. There was a tree that had shed its leaves for the winter, its bare, brittle branches starkly pointing towards the grey, cloudy sky. There and then I decided that one day, like the tree, my leaves would grow back in the spring. They would be lush and green and beautiful, and my children would bask in their shade.

In the months that followed, my wounds slowly started to heal. At the very beginning, tears would flow from my eyes whenever anyone smiled at me or said words of encouragement. Eventually, these stopped as I started to learn that I really was a worthwhile person and that life existed beyond my own, terrible pain. I was finally freed from fifteen years of emotional and physical abuse. My cracked, brittle branches started to soften, as slowly the sap began to rise within them.

I was able to buy my children the things they neededI lost a lot of weight, started to put on makeup for the first time in fifteen years, and put aside some hard-earned money for a few new outfits. And I realized that I was not alone. As I took the path towards recovery, G‑d was there to guide me - with an unexpected job offer, and kind friends who really showed how much they were there for me - emotionally, and occasionally, financially.

Suddenly, I was able to buy my children the things they needed and give them the opportunities in life that should never have been denied them. School trips and new shoes could now be provided, whereas previously there was always a constant shortage of money for such necessary expenses. And all of this was done without any help from my ex-husband, who enjoys having deep conversations with my children and buying them expensive toys in return for their affection, but would not be seen dead paying the maintenance he owes or contributing towards a dental bill.

One year on from receiving my divorce, my children and I still bear the scars of what was - and still is - a very painful divorce. I still have my moments of sadness, and despite the fact that I am surrounded by my children, I still feel very lonely. This is not the place to describe the pain that a divorced woman feels, in a society where it is hard to feel complete if you are not married. But, my branches have not snapped off. And I can see the green buds starting to sprout.

I know that there are many women like me "out there." Some of them are divorced, while others are still stuck in marriages to abusive men. All I can say to any of you is - you might be "out there," but you are not alone. G‑d is with you, and He will guide you towards the path of recovery. And His sun will shine upon you, as you drink the waters of faith. And slowly, your leaves will grow.


Editor's Note:Below are some of the many organizations working to prevent abuse and help survivors of abuse to heal. This list was orginally compiled by Miriam Karp for a related article on abuse:

Jsafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting An Abuse Free Environment is an organization led by Rabbi Mark Dratch, which provides a certification program for communal institutions, publications and educational initiatives. Jsafe.org

Ohel Children's Home and Family Services of Brooklyn, NY, has therapy and treatment programs for both victims and perpetrators, sensitive to Jewish needs. (800)603-OHEL

The Awareness Center is a coalition of Jewish mental health practitioners dedicated to building awareness in the Jewish community. They also offer an extensive online collection of articles on issues affecting survivors of sexual abuse. Awarenesscenter.org

The SOVRI Helpline is an anonymous and confidential helpline staffed by trained volunteers who provide help, information, support, and referrals to survivors of sexual abuse. We don't have caller ID. Our volunteers are trained to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse. They also have training in listening and counseling skills, emergency department protocol, legal protocol, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse and incest, and recommending appropriate resources. Our volunteers are supervised by licensed social workers with extensive experience in dealing with these issues. SOVRI Helpline is under the auspices of Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

The helpline is open Monday-Thursday 9:30am-5:30pm and Friday 9:30am-1:30pm. The phone number is (212)844-1495.

Shalom Task Force Hotline provides information on rabbinic, legal and counseling services for victims of abuse in the Jewish community. (888)883-2323.

Faith Trust Institute is a clearinghouse for information on domestic violence and clergy abuse in the Jewish community. Faithtrustinstitute.org.

Association of Jewish Family and Children Services (AJFCA). (800)634-7346. ajfca@ajfca.org

National Center for Victims of Crime (800)FYI-CALL.

National Child Abuse Hotline (800)4-A-CHILD.

National Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault (800)656-HOPE.

National Organization for Victim Assistance (800)TRY-NOVA.

Find Jewish resources by state at jewishwomen.org/directory/state_res.htm

Sources for internet and general safety include kidsafe.com

Much additional information is readily available online, through family service agencies, and in the library.