Sandy grew up outside of Brandon, VT, in what she calls "an ideal childhood. Discipline was first, love was second, but we didn't know any better...We learned right from wrong and we learned consequences, and I never regretted that." Sandy and her brother reveled in the rural environment, making a kingdom out of the nearby dump and befriending the resident "dump rats."
"We would talk to the rats, we would feed the rats, occasionally one would bite us but we never told our parents....and then at twelve-and a half my mother died and my father decided he needed a mother for his children. He married a woman who was mentally and emotionally unstable."
Sandy's parental situation evolved from a structured, strict regiment to being rife with physical and sexual abuse.
"Things just collapsed. The strong structure my mother had given us was gone, and things just collapsed, which probably led me to be susceptible to the treatment that my husband gave me, because I couldn't hold onto the strength that my mother had."
Sandy came to Decker Towers after separating from her husband, who for years had emotionally abused her.
"That is slow, and insidious, and you don't realize it's happening until it's already too late." But for Sandy, it was not yet too late. She received support from Women Helping Battered Women (now Steps to End Domestic Violence), who helped her find housing through Burlington Housing Authority.
While there are many things that she'd like to see improved in the building, she has found things that keep her here at Decker Towers.
"I was feeling like I'd had enough and had put my name in for other housing and then they started the group of residents meeting once a month...I feel alive and invigorated by being able to be active, to be able to put forth thoughts that I've had all along."
Still, there are days when she wishes she could move back to the country.
"I wish I was back in the country except for transportation issues. I'm not naive, I know that if I were to move back to the country I would be extremely lonely because I don't have the ability to get in the car and go shopping...I survive in the city because things are closer. I can get in my wheelchair and go up to City Market."
Though not perfect, Sandy has been able to become an active part of the Decker community and help shape how new residents will be able to find their own new homes.