Domestic violence survivor shares story about survival, escape

A local woman narrowly escaped her abuser and found a lifeline at the Underground Railroad in Saginaw.
Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - A local woman narrowly escaped her abuser and found a lifeline at the Underground Railroad in Saginaw.

Now she wants to share her story in hopes of helping other women know they are not alone, and that help is a phone call away.

TV5 concealed her identity and changed her name for her protection.

Every day was a living nightmare for “Mia.”

“He didn’t appear to be that person I saw when the mask came off. I really saw the real him. Very possessive, controlling. He didn’t want me to work. He was watching me while I was sleeping. I would get up in the middle of the night just to get away from him and sleep on the sofa, and he was right there in my face. I kept having a bad feeling something was going to happen,” she said.

That’s when Mia knew she had to get away before it was too late. So when she went for a drive with her abuser, she planned the perfect escape.

“I knew texting was safer for me and I knew he had to focus on the road. And I texted the state trooper’s 911 operator,” she said.

The troopers were on it and came to Mia’s rescue. Her nightmare was finally over.

“The troopers told me it was a blessing I got out alive,” she said.

Not only did Mia get out alive, she found her refuge and her safe haven at the Underground Railroad shelter in Saginaw. When she walked in the door, she felt a sense of calm and said she was finally at peace.

“This place is such a blessing. They had smiles on their faces. They didn’t make me feel different. The staff embraced me,” she said.

Amanda Johnson, the Underground Railroad program director, showered Mia with love and compassion to let her know she belongs, she matters, she is loved, and is so very special. Johnson and the staff helped Mia start to reclaim her life.

Johnson explained how they assist survivors on their road to recovery.

“The first few days is always that calm, you are finally able to relax and decompose. We start with what was the relationship like and work on goals and action steps,” Johnson said.

There is such a great need for the resources and services that the Underground Railroad provides. They have to turn away 200 people a month.

Underground Railroad CEO Christi Birchmeier said that even when they are filled to capacity, the safety and well-being of survivors is always their first priority.

“We try to fulfill it however and whatever ways we can. We work with other shelters, whether in our community or surrounding communities, to try to get the needs they want. We aren’t just leaving them out there,” Birchmeier said.

The Underground Railroad also provides prevention services, education, community engagement, and how to help a loved one who might be in a relationship crisis.

Shawn Schutt, community engagement and prevention manager for the Underground Railroad, explained how the most important thing to do is support your loved one.

“We can be there to support victims when they’re coming to us, talking to us. They at least know they have someone when they want to leave that relationship,” Schutt said.

Mia’s message to anyone going through any type of abuse or relationship crisis is don’t waste time.

“Don’t try to argue, beg, plead. Save your life, even if you have to leave with the clothes on your back. You can get material things back, but your life, you ain’t gonna get back,” she said.

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