Sojourner Center is proud to be celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. And we’re marking the occasion by sharing some of the stories of the individuals we’ve helped, volunteers who have supported our mission and staff who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help victims of domestic violence.
Throughout the next few months, we’ll be introducing you to some of the remarkable people that have been part of the past four decades, all leading up to our 16th Annual Hope Event on October 29.
Cindi Stevick was a young, single mother when her high school boyfriend Ernest returned from being incarcerated and earned her trust by proclaiming his love and loyalty to her. He pointed out the disloyalty of the men who had been in her life previously — the father of her son, her father, and her step-father.
It wasn’t long before he started abusing her son, Justin. Cindi’s parents urged her to leave him, but he convinced her to stay, and soon she was pregnant with his child. Just before she gave birth to her daughter Jami, they moved to an Arizona trailer park, where Ernest insisted Cindi be a stay-at-home mother, cutting off her access to a car or phone. When she did have the opportunity to make calls, they were at a payphone with Ernest listening, and dictating the length of the call. The abuse began to increase in frequency, against Cindi and her son.
The abuse eventually led Cindi to Sojourner Center for the first time in 1982. She stayed for a week, and found a bit of strength in knowing other women were facing the same challenges.
“When I arrived at Sojourner Center it felt like such a heavy burden had been lifted,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t the only one who was afraid and I was finally able to find somewhere to keep my daughter away from harm.”
Following her first stay, Cindi went back to her abuser, not knowing where else to go. However, she kept the strength she’d gained from the experience, and the women she’d met. After having her third child, she, her abuser, and the children were forced to live in the car after losing their apartment when Cindi was no longer able to work.
After another violent episode, Cindi went to Sojourner Center for the second time in 1983.
“When I returned to the center, it was like coming home,” she said. “This time, I was not the least bit afraid and I knew once I walked through that front door, it would all be okay. My kids and I stayed there for another week, and I gathered more knowledge and more strength that would ultimately help me leave Ernest.”
After her second stay she did return to Ernest a few more times, but the support and feeling of empowerment she gained from her time at Sojourner Center helped her to leave him for good in 1984.
“Sojourner Center helped me find comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone, and they taught me how to think differently about my situation — and that I wasn’t just stupid for going back,” she said. “I realized that wasn’t how I wanted to live anymore, or how I wanted my kids to grow up, and when I let go of that part of my life so many good things happened. There is life after abuse.”
Now, Cindi has been happily married for 21 years and has nine grandchildren. She has worked at the Mayo Clinic for 14 years and has been involved with Sojourner Center as a volunteer for more than ten years.