“I am proud of you.”

April 7, 2011

J is dark-haired and good-natured. She wears the sassiest pink sandals and makes a mean enchilada verde. She likes to tell me, with a giggle, when my [business casual office chic] outfits look “seksee,” but is just as quick to call me out on my bad hair days too.

“Did you get a haircut?!” she asked one day. “It looks really…um, weird. Really weird.”

She has somehow retained a naivete and spunk that come only from being young. But she also displays flashes of unfortunate maturity beyond her 19 years—products of a hard life.

“He’s all I’ve known since I was thirteen. My parents didn’t give a shit about me. But he did. I guess.”

She would proceed to detail how her boyfriend would stab her with forks and wring her neck until she turned blue. How he’d scream her worthlessness, her total dependency on him every morning before he left for work. He would call her on his lunch break just to remind her that no one would care or notice if he killed her. Then he’d bring home flowers in the evening and force her to have rough sex for his thoughtfulness.

J has a three-year-old son, a 14-month old daughter, and she’s five-months pregnant. CPS placed her children in foster care as a result of reported domestic violence in the home, and she endures a three-hour bus ride (each way) to make supervised visitation with her kids twice a week for an hour. She tells me she cries at night because she misses them so much. She had no idea when she would get them back. We figured as with most cases it would be at least a year.

Her abuser was supposedly in jail and then transferred to a detention center awaiting deportation. The judge told her the courts had been unsuccessful in locating him (WTF?!), therefore they could not serve the restraining order. The abuser was also filing for custody of the children and because they had to consider his petition, no determinations could be made for either party until they received his paperwork. But they couldn’t locate him.

J is undocumented and has no income, not a single dollar to her name. Because she doesn’t have papers, she cannot work, and because she doesn’t have custody of her children, she cannot apply for welfare. She does not qualify for any transitional residential programs because she cannot show proof of income, and she cannot rent a room because well, she doesn’t have income.

Our shelter is only a 28-day stay, and she was already on her second extension. She was stuck in a frustrating limbo of zero options, and I was at a loss of what else we could do for her.

After a routine preganancy check-up, J was told she had lost 12 pounds, likely due to all the stress. Her doctor ordered her to gain 20 pounds immediately.

We were all getting desperate.

Then J returned from her court appointment on Tuesday sobbing uncontrollably. Her eyes were bloodshot and she was a blubbering mess. Wary of what else could possibly go wrong with her case, I sat her down in the office.

“They did it. They gave it to me. They granted me a three-year restraining order, full custody of my kids, and no visitation rights for him. And they said I’ll probably get them back in three months.”

I was speechless. There is justice in the world after all. The abuser was located and will remain in jail until July after which he will be deported.

J continued with a smile through tear-stained cheeks, “The judge called me up to stand in front of him, and he told me, ‘You’re doing a great job. Keep doing everything you’ve been doing, because it is your hard work that has made all the difference. Your kids are going to be so blessed to be reunited with you, and we are going to make sure it happens as soon as possible. I am proud of you and everything you have overcome. Never forget that I am so proud of you.’ Then the judge started crying and I couldn’t take it anymore either and I haven’t stopped crying since.”

90% of the judges who have presided over our clients’ cases have consistently granted 50/50 custody or outrageously dangerous visitation schedules to abusers without so much a consideration of the abuse history or how the custodial arrangement will affect the client (or the children for that matter). This is not simply the manifestation of justice in the world, it is mercy and goodness and passionate answers to fervent prayers.

“No one has ever told me that they were proud of me. Why would they? Before this, I’m pretty sure no one was ever proud of me. [Lo], today changed my life.”

And this, well, this is LOVE.


3 Responses to ““I am proud of you.””

  1. Grace Says:

    wow. Thanks for sharing, Laurens. wow.

  2. tim Says:

    thanks much for sharing that

  3. Grace Says:

    thanks indeed.

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