VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The cost of surviving domestic violence can be physically and emotionally damaging.

The journey to escape and heal is often a lifelong process.

But surviving abuse is also financially taxing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the cost of intimate partner violence over a victim’s lifetime was over $103,000 for women and $23,000 for men.

A WAVY viewer tells us she had to move from place to place in hiding for years. Today, she is still in hiding. For her safety, we will not share her name or identify her. In this story, we call her “Rose” as a symbol of new beginnings.

Just three days before Christmas 2021, Rose got a phone call informing her of a garnishment on her bank account until a debt is repaid.

“I said this is unbelievable. They are wanting $3,000. I said well that has to be fraud,” she said.

Turns out, it was not a scam or fraud.

Harbor Inn Associates LLC., the owner of Harbor Inn Apartments in Virginia Beach, came after her for breaking her lease over a decade ago.

“I just started to establish my bank accounts again, started to save again, cleaned up my credit. I’m just starting to put myself back together,” she said.

After the call, she was instantly triggered with emotions from 2011. When Rose said she broke her lease to move herself and her child into a Samaritan House emergency shelter.

“I was so afraid during that time,” said Rose with tears in her eyes. “I’m not thinking about paperwork and making sure everything is closed out. The only thing I was thinking about was being safe and able to sleep at night.”

The Harbor Inn apartments property manager, back then, was aware of the violence. Rose had two protective orders against her abuser.

The apartment manager wrote an affidavit for the police. She even put herself in harm’s way to make sure her abuser was not allowed into her apartment. An action that may have saved Rose’s life.

In July 2013, two years after Rose went into a safe house, state leaders enacted Tenant Act 55.1-1236, early termination of rental agreements by victims of family or sexual abuse.

The law allows some victims of abuse to end their lease without punishment. The tenant must have a protective order and give a written letter to the landlord 30-days before the next rent payment.

Floyd Oliver, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, often works to help survivors of abuse.

“I’m not surprised that this happened before the statute passed,” said Oliver.

Court documents show that in 2016 a Virginia Beach judge authorized payment of the initial amount of $1,831, plus interest and legal fees totaling $3,113.

The ruling includes a garnishment of 25% of her wages, starting in 2021.

“Once a judgment is entered against you. It is on your record until it gets vacated or until it is dismissed,” explained Oliver.

10 On Your Side reached out to the company that owns the Harbor Inn Apartments, Meredith Management, for answers.

Company Vice President Page Lea would not comment, saying the case was handled legally.

Then Samaritan House Executive Director Robin Gauthier was made aware of the case by WAVY. Gauthier wrote a two-page letter to the company advocating for Rose.

“Harbor Inn had every legal right to assess their fees. My purpose in writing to you is not to ask Meredith Management to reverse any charges; we understand it is currently out of your hands and happened many years ago before the law was enacted. My only plea is that you assist in helping to pay those fees,” wrote Gauthier.

After reviewing the letter, it appears that the company leadership had a change of heart.

Virginia Beach attorney Tariq Louka, who represents the company, said it will stop the garnishment, offer a refund, and ask a judge to review the case to “vacate the judgment.”

Louka said the judgment is lawful, yet once the issues were raised by WAVY. Meridith Management decided to act in good faith, as the company strives to do the right thing.

“I’m just so happy that it has worked out in the best-case scenario with what we were hoping,” said Dani Miller-Holmes with Samaritan House. “A lot of times, the focus and the accountability has been put on the victim or survivor, but we need to always be shifting that accountability on the person who is causing harm. The person who is choosing to abuse.”

Rose said she is grateful the company will work with her, but she does not want anyone else to experience this.

“I do wish it didn’t happen but I’m pulling myself back up.”

Her message to landlords: “Please don’t do this to women that are trying to rebuild themselves, it is an emotional issue, and it is also a very serious financial issue. That it takes years to recover from.”