These are stories from real survivors that we helped during the 2012-2013 school year.
Survivor A suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. The abuser would threaten Survivor A if she left, and Survivor A feared retaliation. In the midst of the violence, Survivor A’s son was diagnosed with a fatal illness, and the hardship caused Survivor A to lose her home, job, and belongings. Survivor A and her children fled to SafePlace. Survivor A was recently approved for housing, but an overdue utility bill kept Survivor A from moving in to a safe place away from the abuser. We were able to help her pay the utility bill.
Survivor B is undocumented and feared law enforcement. When neighbors called 911 to report a disturbance between Survivor B and her common law husband, he was arrested and remains incarcerated for family violence assault against Survivor B. Since the abuser has been in jail, she has not had enough money to pay the bills or buy shoes for her children. Survivor B has desperately been cleaning houses and cooking food for money. Since Survivor B does not have a social security card, she is seeking a work permit through American Gateways to obtain more viable work. Because Survivor B’s only financial support was her partner who is now in jail, we helped Survivor B afford shoes for her children and the fees associated with obtaining a work permit.
Survivor C has been in a custody battle with her former abuser for 3 years. Abuser was convicted of family violence assault against C during their relationship that ended 5 years ago. Abuser has attempted to maintain power and control over C by continually threatening to take their 4 year old child away from her permanently, and by neglecting to make child support payments. Abuser continues to emotionally and financially abuse Survivor C. She is unable to make the bills, and eviction and the possibility of losing custody of her son hangs over her head. An attorney advocated on her behalf and requested rental payment assistance from us.
Survivor D’s glasses were broken when her abuser assaulted her. Survivor E was hospitalized due to her husband assaulting her; he controls all the finances in the home, and she is unable to pay for medications the doctor prescribed for treatment. Crime Victims’ Compensation would normally cover such expenses, but it is a very lengthy process to obtain approval; Survivor D needed to drive safely and work adequately, and Survivor E was in need of emergency health care. Thus Survivor D came to us for a donation of glasses and Survivor E requested financial assistance to afford the medications.
A Personal Story:
“It is when my head makes contact with the wall that I freeze, though his fist is coming toward me again. I have not yet taken behavioral psychology and do not know that some animals flee when attacked. It would take me yet another year of planning, forgiving, calling, reaching for help, before I could leave. The Legal Aid Office told me there was a three-year wait, even for a divorce when you were getting hit. All the private attorneys wanted at least $10,000 for a retainer since he threatened to contest custody. The judge told me I needed to keep the family together. The priest told me to diversify the menu and stop cooking so much Italian food. Only the older, male marriage counselor told me that it was dangerous for me to stay. So, now I'm a single Mom, without child support and trying to go to night school and keep my job. But with minimum wage, I can't seem to pay both day care and the rent, so sometimes I think about going back, just to make sure my son has enough to eat. It hurts more to watch him eat macaroni with ketchup for the third night, than it ever did to get beaten.”
From the personal journal of Sarah M. Buel; adapted from Buel’s Fifty Obstacles to Leaving (28-OCT Colo. Law. 19). Buel was founder and co-director, UTSL Domestic Violence Clinic; co-founder and consultant, National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence; and a former domestic violence, child abuse, and juvenile prosecutor and advocate. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Extension School and Harvard Law School.