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Stories of Strength

Emergency Shelter Success Story

Carmen had left once before, when she went home to Mexico for three months with her five-year-old daughter. She returned, however, due to problems with her mom, and because her daughter was begging her to go back to daddy’s.

The violence was getting worse. His drinking had become a problem, and now on top of the yelling and arguing, pushing and hitting had become commonplace. She didn’t even acknowledge the nightly rapes, thinking they were just part of her wifely duties. When she finally called the police, she felt completely afraid. She wasn’t in the U.S. legally and knew she was risking a lot by calling, but felt she had no other out. He spent three days in jail, and in that time, she made one other call that was the start of a chain of events that changed her life completely.

She called the CCS 24-hour hotline and spoke with a crisis counselor who let her know there were places she could go, support groups she could attend, and that she had rights. She never knew about shelters, nor that as an ‘illegal’ she had any rights in this country. She came to a support group at CCS, from where she called one of the county shelters, where she and her daughter went that day. They stayed for a few months, longer than is normally allowed, until she was able to enter the CCS transitional housing program where she and her daughter lived for a year.

In that year, she was able to get her green card, something her husband had always told her that she couldn’t do without him. She attended individual counseling, while her daughter attended group counseling. She gained tremendous self-confidence, after having always been told she was worth nothing, and was able to grieve and let go of the losses she had experienced. She filed for and was granted a divorce. She found a job that even in the months that her husband doesn’t pay; provides food, shelter, and little extras for she and her daughter.

After leaving the transitional housing, she and her daughter moved into their own place. Her daughter is excelling in school, having just completed second grade and Carmen continues to work and struggle and feel free for the first time since her marriage.

When asked if any particular words helped her along the process, she says that a counselor told her that after leaving, it would be difficult, but so is staying with someone who is hurting her and her daughter. She says it helped to realize it was and is hard being on her own, yet the rewards and happiness she experiences make the struggles seem quite minor.

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