Misty Miller, 33, of Perry knows she needs to keep working toward a new life. She knows she never wants to return to the down-trodden abused person she was more than a year ago.
"It’s kind of embarrassing to talk about, but I think its an important story to tell," she said. "There are a lot of women out there in abusive situations."
Miller knows the assistance she found through the Crises Intervention and Advocacy Center (CIAC) based in Adel helped make her new journey and ability to stop the cycle of domestic abuse possible.
"I was with my daughter’s father off and on for seven years," Miller said. "It was a very abusive relationship. He was very manipulative and knew how to make me feel like nothing. I eventually had to move away from him to get the help I needed."
But the abuse didn’t start there, it had only continued. "I was in another relationship prior to that one that was just as bad. One night, he didn’t like something I said and he hit me, knocked me down and into a glass table. My head was cut and my friends wanted to take me to the hospital. He didn’t want them to take me, but they did anyway, and I had to get stitches."
Looking back, she believes she continued the cycle of abuse she saw at home when she was a child.
"Now, I am in the best relationship. He respects me and is very good to me," she said.
She’s also living on her own with her children in transitional housing provided by CIAC. The housing provides a safe and supportive environment for families, primarily mothers with children, to get back on their feet.
They are expected to attend school, be searching for a job or working while living at the four-plex, where they can reside for up to two years.
The only time someone doesn’t pay rent is if they are enrolled in some type of schooling fulltime, said Peggy Coleman, transitional housing coordinator for CIAC.
She often visits the families who are living at the fourplex to see how they are doing.
"When Misty first came here, she was very depressed," Coleman said. "I believe she has recently turned the corner."
Misty smiled, and agreed, but added she knows there will still be struggles ahead. She is happy to once again have a vehicle, her own place to live and a job. She is working in in-home care and enjoys the job and the people she helps.
Peggy raised her hands high and wide as Misty talked, and once she was finished, Peggy said, "Soon she will be ready to fly away."
Misty is just one of many women who have been victimized by domestic abuse. Perry and the surrounding rural area has the highest rate of domestic abuse reports of any other community CIAC serves in Dallas County. That’s partly because Perry has one of the largest population centers. While Waukee is in Dallas County and parts of West Des Moines, the majority of reports still come from Perry.
CIAC Director Johna Sullivan, and Police Chief Dan Brickner, began working together to form a dometic abuse response protocol in about 1968. CIAC was already in place, but the protocol’s they came up with includes calling in an advocate for a domestic abuse victim or case.
"We don’t go to the scene when there is a call to the police for domestic abuse," Coleman said. "We’ll meet them at the police station or some other safe place, take them to a safe location and help them with the services they need."
On the day Peggy was interviewed, she had crisis line duty. That means when a domestic abuse call comes in on the CIAC crisis line, the call comes to her no matter what time of day. That might be a call from a police officer at 4 a.m., or from an individual who needs help.
"There are nights when I don’t’ get any calls at all and other nights when the phone doesn’t stop ringing," she said.
Currently, there is a waiting list for the transitional housing in Perry where Miller is now living. "I wish there was more transitional housing available, there certainly is a need," Coleman said. Ideally, the people who live in the housing would be turning over in six months, but the reality is, it usually takes longer than that for families to get back on their feet.