If you know me, you know my passion is for helping people. I’m particularly called to help people who have gone through the tragedy of domestic violence – helping them find independence through immigration status. Every day, I’m inspired by our clients’ resilience, their faith in the future, and their trust in us.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, but survivors should be celebrated as often as possible – not just for four weeks a year. Today, I’d like to talk about a few of these amazing people (anonymously, of course), so you can likewise be inspired! But, instead of focusing on their history and what happened to them, I want to talk about the things they’ve done since these dark moments. Survivors are so much more than what they endured – they are parents, co-workers and our neighbors.

Elaine came to the U.S. over 20 years ago as an international student. She has a teenage American daughter and despite Elaine’s husband trying to poison the relationship between them, they are closer than ever. Elaine is a nurse and she’s been able to support her rural south Georgian community through this horrible pandemic.

Tomas developed a significant addiction issue when he started to self-medicate with alcohol because of his ex-wife. He didn’t think domestic violence could happen to men and he was ashamed by not being “man enough” to handle his problems. I am so happy to see him sober, teaching ESL and playing in a mariachi band.

Giulio is an older gentleman who struggled to find love. He married someone much younger and after she wiped out his bank account (among other things), he was left to start again at over 65. Giulio became a U.S. citizen, opened a restaurant, remarried and is now petitioning for his new wife to become a permanent resident. Whenever I see him, he looks at least ten years younger than when I first met him – he radiates happiness.

Yolanda was one of my first VAWA clients. She was in shock when her relationship turned violent – she had a MBA, came from a loving family and couldn’t believe what had happened to her. Today, I love watching her social media posts with her new husband – traveling the world (when safe), playing with their dogs, and smiling from ear to ear.

Elaine, Tomas, Giulio, and Yolanda are amazing people. There were moments when each of them were done with life, thinking that they weren’t worthy of love or safety. With help from friends, counselors, family, and faith, they took life one day at a time and began to heal. What seemed impossible at one point – being happy more often than being sad – is now a reality. They didn’t need me to find this happiness, but I am so honored that they let me be part of their immigration journey, taking this stress off of them so they could focus on rebuilding their lives.

If you are in an unsafe relationship, please contact the Domestic Violence Hotline online or by calling 1-800-787-SAFE (3224).