by James Rada, Jr. | photography by Kelly Heck
Juliet Sharrow was just 21 years old when she overdosed on prescription drugs. It was an attempt to kill herself — to end her life and end the pain. She had endured years of mental and emotional abuse at home. She was living a life that she believed could get no worse, and she just wanted it to end.
What she didn’t know was that her life would get a lot worse, but she had the strength to make it better. She had the fortitude and love to turn it into something beautiful that would leave hundreds of women thankful that Juliet’s suicide attempt failed.
To see her now, it’s hard to imagine Juliet was ever so low. She is a bubbly, happy mother of three with a supportive husband. When you get her talking about Love LIVES, the organization that she started, she gets excited and starts to speak quickly as if she has so much to say about it that she’s afraid that she won’t be able to get it all out.
“This is my passion,” Juliet said. “This is what I’m here to do. I want to help these women.”
Love LIVES is an organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse. It might be helping a woman find affordable daycare for her children, learn how to budget, or simply fill her car’s tank with gas.
“We are bridging the gap between what’s out there and what our clients need,” said Juliet.
She understands that there are gaps in services that agencies can’t provide because she once had to fill them for herself. She knows how insignificant and worthless a victim of domestic violence can feel because she was once a victim. Juliet understands the hurdles and barriers that victims face as they try to make new lives for themselves free of their abuser because she has had to do it.
Juliet now stands on the other side of those insurmountable walls that abuse victims see, and she knows they can be climbed. She has scaled them and wants to use her experiences to show others how to climb them as well.
“I feel the need to give back to women who are where I was,” Juliet said.
Where She Was
Juliet grew up with an abusive stepfather and a mother who wouldn’t stand up for her daughter. This led Juliet to make bad decisions, including trying to end her life. She was saved only after her stomach was pumped.
It was a short time after that when she thought she had met the man of her dreams. He paid attention to her, seemed successful, and he loved her.
“Everything he told me about himself was a lie,” Juliet said. “He just seemed so perfect and wonderful.”
He was neither, which Juliet discovered when he hit her. The worst part was that he made her feel like she deserved the abuse.
Juliet left her abuser after a while, but she returned when he seemed contrite. She felt if she just behaved well and didn’t do anything to set him off, things would be fine. It never worked out that way, though, and it was always her fault when she got hit or suffered broken bones.
Then she got pregnant and had a child. Her reason for staying was now that she wanted her son, her abuser and herself to be a family. In all, Juliet left her abuser seven times before she didn’t go back.
What gave her the courage to leave for good was not the threats on her life, the pain of broken bones, or the passing out from being choked. It was when her abuser threatened to kill her son.
“I didn’t love myself enough to leave,” Juliet said. “Some days I prayed that he would just kill me, and it would be over, but my son was a different story.”
Steeling her nerve, Juliet took her son and left her home. They went to the YWCA Safe Home, which put her up for three nights.
“Every night, I thought I should go back because it sucked,” Juliet said.
She soon found herself living in her car with her 1½-year-old child and working three jobs. Welfare services wouldn’t help her because she was working three part-time jobs, even though most of her income went to pay for daycare for her son.
Her parents were no help either.
“I went to them, but they wouldn’t take me in,” Juliet said. “They said, ‘You made your bed, lie in it.’”
So Juliet struggled to get ahead, just a little bit. She prayed every night that she wouldn’t weaken and return to her abuser. She earned raises, got better jobs, and accessed programs to help her. Slowly, her life got better.
Then she met Bryan Sharrow, who was the man she had been looking for all her life. He truly loved her.
Around Christmastime one year, Juliet had reached a point where she could look back on her life with a bit of objectivity. She realized that she had made it through her ordeal and was living a blessed life.
She asked the people at Safe Home how she could help their clients. She was told that many of the women leaving Safe Home needed furniture, which is something Safe Home couldn’t help with because of grant restrictions.
Realizing that such a need was year-round and not just at Christmas, Juliet and Bryan continued collecting and delivering furniture. When they received monetary donations, it all went to help a woman in need. Eventually, as financial donations increased, Juliet realized that she needed to form a nonprofit organization.
Juliet was the administrative assistant for Kelley Latta Ministries and knew how expensive it was to become a nonprofit. Kelley offered to bring Juliet’s organization into her ministry to save Juliet money and have an outreach program through the ministry.
“I always knew that KLM would be more than a teaching ministry. … The teaching provides a foundation of truth to live from; Love LIVES offers a platform to live what I teach. Juliet has partnered with me from the beginning, helping me tremendously with the administrative side of ministry. When the time came to establish our outreach, God stirred my heart toward helping broken families,” Latta said.
And so, Love LIVES was formed. (LIVES stands for Living in Victory — Empowering Survivors.)
Last year, Love LIVES had 683 client contacts over all of York County, most of Adams County, and even into Carroll County, Md. Some clients may only need someone to talk to and reassure them. Others need more. Love LIVES offers mentoring, connection to agencies, classes in life skills like budgeting, financial help, and furniture.
Cindy Keeney, director of Adams County Victim Witness Assistance, said, “Juliet’s work fills a large gap in services. Her mentoring and time spent with domestic violence victims is exceptional and so needed. These victims have been told they aren’t good enough, they aren’t worthy, they don’t deserve to be treated well, and in time they believe that. Rebuilding their self-esteem and their self-love is so important and can be a long journey. Juliet stays with them every step of the way.”
Data shows that one in four people in the community have or will experience domestic violence — emotional, physical, or mental.
“I want to help them see that they don’t have to go back to their abuser,” Juliet said.
Octavia Lacks moved to the area with her son in 2016 after leaving her abuser. She wanted a new start, but it was hard. She was referred to Love LIVES by Safe Home. Juliet helped her with counseling, car payments, groceries and furniture.
“She did everything,” Octavia said. “She helped me get started with life with my son.”
Both Lacks and Juliet point out that Juliet doesn’t just give a handout. The client is expected to do certain things to receive help. For instance, Octavia had to go to the local food banks for food before Love LIVES stepped in to make up the difference. This teaches the client to do what she can for herself and learn independence.
Octavia said without Love LIVES, “I certainly wouldn’t have a stable life for me and my 2-year-old.”
Juliet estimates it takes about two years for someone who has been abused to get past “survival mode.” Love LIVES can be with the client every step of the way if needed. Even if a client just needs to talk.
Leslie Dietz with Safe Home said, “For someone who is out of options, Love LIVES will create avenues of hope and almost endless possibilities. Juliet encourages self-reliance, so when she has a client who is struggling, her focus is on getting her on her feet and being independent; Juliet will open doors, but the client must step through.”