Lately, Ember Brotherton’s oldest daughter has been telling her the same thing almost every night as she puts her to bed: “Oh mom, you’re the best mom in the whole wide world.” It may seem like a small thing, but to Ember, it means everything.
“Sometimes I feel so shy and embarrassed. I’ll say, ‘OK honey, I’m just a good mom.’ But I feel so honored that I’ve done a good enough job she believes that,” Ember says. “And that feels really good to me, that she would be that proud of me.”
Ember has so much to be proud of, even if she hasn’t always let herself believe it. For years, she protected her daughters while bearing her ex-husband’s violence, even when she believed she might be killed. And when she learned he was abusing her children as well, she immediately got them away from him and set out on her own to an unfamiliar city – taking literally nothing but the clothes on her back – not even socks, just the rain boots she’d thrown on in a rush.
A new beginning – but not alone
Starting from almost nothing, she built her family a new life – secure, happy, and bright – while working to heal the deep trauma they’d all lived through.
While Ember did all of this, she’ll tell you she was able to because of the year she and her daughters spent living at Solid Ground’s Broadview Emergency and Transitional Shelter, a place of healing where hundreds of parents and their children begin to build new lives while recovering from the dual traumas of homelessness and domestic violence (DV).
Forty years after its founding in 1983, Broadview is the only Seattle shelter that survivors with children escaping abusive relationships can contact directly for help and safe housing.
“It’s an organization that gives humanity back to the people that it helps,” Ember says. “That’s the thing about Solid Ground. They helped bring that back to me, the knowledge that you’re worthy of having your basic needs met: food, shelter, and a place where you’re safe.”
“I can carry all these things because I love them so much. It’s love that gets me up in the morning.” ~Ember Brotherton, former Broadview mom & survivor
Ember walked out of her house in 2018 not knowing she’d never return. But leaving was even scarier than losing every single thing she owned. As for many DV survivors, Ember’s husband demanded complete control over every aspect of her life. Her name wasn’t on their house, her car, or even her daughters’ birth certificates. It had been years since she’d had access to a bank account.
While she managed to get her daughters away from their abuser, when she arrived in Seattle, Ember says she had no idea what to do next – and was in no shape to figure it out.
“It’s a strange thing when people are put into a very traumatic situation,” she says. “Their ability to make decisions or think clearly is gone. You don’t have access to that part of your brain. And maybe you were a very calm and rational person beforehand, but when you haven’t slept for days and you’re in absolute fear, your ability to problem solve is gone.”
At Broadview, Ember suddenly had people beside her to help solve any problem, in a fully furnished, secure apartment. She slowly began to feel safe for the first time in years.
Broadview staff, like Stacey M., signed her up for SNAP nutrition benefits so she could feed her children, and helped her apply for a driver’s license, social security cards, and all the other vital documents she’d left behind.
Broadview made sure her daughters could start school right away even though they didn’t have the documents they’d normally need.
Broadview’s parenting coach helped Ember understand what the trauma of abuse had done to her daughters and how she could support their healing. She attended Broadview’s financial education classes, learning for the first time how to manage a bank account and even write a check. And perhaps most importantly, she attended meetings with other Broadview parents who were also carefully stitching together new lives, one hard-fought thread after another.
Ember says, “When you hear other mothers’ stories, you realize, ‘Oh, this isn’t happening to me because I did something wrong. This is an epidemic. This is happening to other women and mothers.’ It lessens the burden of shame.”
The power of love
In the five years since Ember left behind the only life she knew, she found a new home for her family, went back to school, and earned a medical assistant certificate.
Stacey continues to support her even though she’s left Broadview, literally sitting beside her in court as she went through a traumatic divorce. To this day, she still has to fight off her husband’s attempts to regain custody of her daughters.
But Ember will do whatever it takes to keep fighting for them, as she has from the start.
“I can carry all these things because I love them so much,” she says. “It’s love that gets me up in the morning. When I feel awful and when it hurts too much, I just remember that beautiful face when my oldest daughter was born, seeing those eyes, and wanting to help make a beautiful life for this person coming into the world.”
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