Ten days before Melissa Latson was kidnapped and held hostage, she and her boyfriend had gotten into a fight at home, where she ended up passing out with a bruise on her face.

Like many times before, she left with her children to go to a friend’s place, but ended up back at her apartment. But the single mother was on a limited income and couldn’t leave the Southeast Washington home where she lived with her three children.

“I had stayed in my apartment knowing he knew where I was,” Latson said. “I suffered in my own home.”

Domestic violence victims often find themselves enduring abusive relationships because they, like Latson years ago, cannot escape. But a new grant in Prince George’s County, Md., expands housing assistance to those attempting to get away.

Before

Women seeking shelter or housing aid in Prince George’s had to have a protective order filed with the court before they could access funding.

Now

The $1.5 million grant is the first time money is available to those seeking refuge before they have filed a protective order.

The grant helps:

  • Victims get to a safe place and stabilize their lives as they navigate the criminal justice system, said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, whose office recently secured the funding from the state
  • Cover three to six months’ worth of housing expenditures with the option of being extended up to a year
  • Pay for therapy sessions or counseling for victims and their children, Alsobrooks said.

Latson’s story

Latson stayed with her abusive boyfriend for about 8 years until she finally left two days after Christmas 2005.

Latson happened to be on the phone with a police detective during the time her boyfriend kidnapped her. After a high-speed chase and hostage situation, Latson’s ex-boyfriend finally surrendered to police.

“I couldn’t believe this was my life,” Latson, now 47, said. “I thought I was going to die.”

“I think about what my life would be with that grant,” Latson said. “My kids would be in a safe space and all of this could have been avoided.”

Latson now runs a nonprofit called Motivating Elegant Ladies that works with girls ages 10 to 17 to teach them about healthy relationships and the importance of developing self-confidence.

Latson now runs a nonprofit called Motivating Elegant Ladies that works with girls ages 10 to 17 to teach them about healthy relationships and the importance of developing self-confidence.

She encourages women who think they need help to apply for the grant in hopes of avoiding similar painful experiences.

“Please pray for the courage and strength to leave,” Latson said. “It will not get any better. It is only going to get worse.”

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