Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines courage as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Courage has lifted many impacted by domestic violence to dig deep for strength to reach out, face fear and danger, and ask for help. For many, mustering the courage to call us is the hardest and scariest action they might take – and it may be years in the making. For those who do, we know they are safer, and their isolated journey comes to an end. Our passionate advocates offer concrete solutions and practical assistance, guiding our participants based on their individual needs and circumstances to navigate next steps in their courageous journey to find freedom from violence.
With thousands of people reaching out to Center for Domestic Peace (C4DP) each year, it is hard to summarize all the ways we support individuals. Perhaps one story can tell it best.
Natalia (not her real name) lived what seemed a typical middle-class life in Marin. However, behind the closed doors of her comfortable home, she endured a physically violent marriage. As the intensity and frequency of this violence escalated, she didn’t know where and how to get help. Her husband threatened to take custody of the children if she left and beat her if she tried.
Natalia was unaware of her options, including the fact that the police could escort the batterer out of the house and provide her with a protection order, rather than her risking loss of her children or her life.
The police were called on multiple occasions, but out of fear of retaliation Natalia declined help. Natalia decided to buy time to figure out how to safely leave with her children. Then one day, her husband was arrested, an Emergency Protective Order was issued, and she was referred to C4DP. With a courageous leap of faith, she took the step to find refuge in our emergency shelter.
“I was scared, petrified really, and shaking when I dialed your number; it took a lot of courage, but I risked it all because I could not let him continue to hurt me in front of my children.”
Once there, she and her children received emotional support, encouragement, and basic necessities. Day by day, she grew more eager to participate in support groups as her self-confidence and determination for a better life blossomed.
C4DP’s Legal Systems Advocacy Program assisted Natalia in obtaining a DVRO (Domestic Violence Restraining Order), accompanying her to meetings with the district attorney and court hearings, and providing guidance on her divorce, property settlement, child custody, and civil restraining orders. The legal process surrounding the dissolution of marriage is complex; without C4DP’s assistance, Natalia would have been unaware of her rights. With an advocate by her side, she navigated the process confidently and obtained full custody of her children.
With a DVRO in place, Natalia moved into C4DP’s transitional housing program with her children. With stable, affordable housing, she began rebuilding her life. Alongside personal counseling and support groups, she took advantage of C4DP’s career center hub. Additionally, she received help with budgeting, credit repair, childcare, and went back to school to complete her training as a nurse.
Natalie also joined C4DP’s In This Together therapy program for children who have witnessed domestic violence and their non-abusing parent. Together, the family healed their relationships. Eventually Natalie’s children no longer experienced outbursts at school. By the end of her 18-month stay, she secured affordable, permanent housing.
Today, Natalia and her children are thriving. She is only one profile of courage but represents the thousands we have helped over 42 years.
We recognize that leaving a violent relationship is a process over time whereby the victim and perpetrator often intersect with various agencies, schools, and law enforcement systems along the way. Natalia’s and others’ desire to find freedom from violence continues to propel C4DP to catalyze the community effort to end domestic violence by working collaboratively with other organizations, systems, and individuals. As a supporter of C4DP, we thank you for being a part of that village!