delivering solutions to end domestic and dating violence

“It’s a lesson I’m taking out into the world with me…”

Gabby L. chats with Mayor Menino

Gabby L. is one of the teen moms in our Teen Parenting Program (formerly known as the Adolescent Transitional Living Program or ATLP). Her life has been marked by abuse, neglect and violence, and it’s fair to say she never had opportunities to develop public speaking skills. That didn’t stop her from standing in front of approximately 130 people, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, officials from the Department of Children and Families and assorted professionals at our Community of Conscience Breakfast to share her story. The standing ovation she received was a well-deserved tribute to the perseverance she has displayed in working relentlessly to reclaim her life.

Good morning, everyone. I have to say it’s a little weird to be standing up here in front of all of you at this time of day. Usually I would be getting my son Daisean ready for the bus that takes him to day care. Daisean is 3 years old, and he has a mind of his own about what he wants to be doing … so the early morning is not always the most peaceful time of day at our house!

So when I say “our house”, I’m talking about the ATLP program at Casa Myrna, where Daisean and I have been living for the past 14 months. We came to Casa Myrna because we needed to get to a safe place. There was a lot of abuse and violence in my life, and it was coming from the very people who should have been caring about what happened to me.

I knew I could handle their abuse, but I didn’t think it was very good for Daisean to be seeing and hearing that every day. And the truth is it wasn’t very good for me either, but you just get through it any way you can. But after hearing over and over again that you don’t matter and that nobody cares what happens to you, you start to believe it.

Once you believe that you don’t matter, then nothing you do matters either. So by the time I came to Casa Myrna, I didn’t believe in myself very much at all. I was not sure why I was here, except it was a safe place for me and Daisean. It was kind of weird at first living in a big house with all these other girls and their kids. That took some getting used to. But believe it or not, the house was quiet most of the time. At least compared to where I had been before! That definitely felt good.

When I got to ATLP, I had quit school. The staff got me enrolled in classes to get my GED and they just kept pushing me to keep going. Plenty of times I just wanted to give up. So many times, I said to them “I don’t want to do this anymore, this is taking too long,” and every time they told me YOU CAN DO IT! And they were right. Three months ago, I got my GED.

Basically, they never let you give up at ATLP. They worked with me on being a good parent, too. Growing up, I did not learn how to be a good parent. And like anything else, if you never saw someone do it, chances are you won’t know how to do it yourself.

At ATLP, we have parenting groups and then the staff help us out with everyday issues we have with our kids. They teach us a lot, and believe me, there is a lot to learn about being a mom! Sometimes I wish Daisean had come with some instructions. But I know for sure that being at ATLP has made me stronger and more sure of myself, and helped bring Daisean and me closer together.

So what happens now? With Casa Myrna’s help, I’m looking for an apartment. [Gabby has since found housing with the help of our Housing Specialist]. It will be kind of scary being on my own with Daisean, but I know that Casa Myrna is right there if I need help, or just someone to talk to.

That’s what happens when people really believe in you and care about you. Casa Myrna showed me what that feels like, and it’s a lesson I’m taking out into the world with me. Thank you all for listening to my story, and for supporting the great work they do at Casa Myrna and at ATLP.


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