Sometimes I ask the kids in shelter groups if they remember any dreams they've had lately. They seem to like discussing them, even if they are "scary" or "weird."
One night, a girl told me about her terrifying recent history. Her stepfather, who seemed nice when they first met him, became monstrous after he moved in. He was mean and controlling toward all of them but reserved his cruelest behavior for her mother. They could do nothing to stop his beatings and demands and he would not leave.
In this girl's dream, while her mother is being brutally beaten, a man breaks in the window, saves Mom, and takes her stepdad away. I asked if she liked the ending of her dream. She said "yes" with longing, then added her real father wasn't bad like her stepfather but he had left them and then disappeared three years before.
Neither man provided what this girl, her mother, and her siblings needed,although memories of her father made her wish for his return.
When she grows up, will she fall in love with someone like her biological father or someone like her stepfather?
For her to fall in love with someone better, someone strong and kind, and for her brothers to become good husbands and fathers, they will need mentors and adult models who are different. Who will stay with them and help them follow their passions and develop their strengths.
The best chance for a different life for kids from abusive homes is to feel competent and successful when they fall in love. If they do, girls are more likely to find someone strong and kind and boys will not have to hurt and control someone in order to feel powerful.
This is no small task. Where do we begin?