October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One in every four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. It is a very serious concern both in our community, and nationally. Locally, The Family Justice Center, a United Way Program Partner, is a “one stop shop” of services for victims and their children. Their services include advocacy, civil legal assistance, safety planning, counseling, shelter referrals, medical examinations, and access to criminal and civil courts – and all their services are free.

It takes many women being abused for years before they try to leave their spouse, and sometimes they’re too late. Carla,* a victim in her mid 20’s with three children, left her abuser because she was worried he was going to kill her. She was being mentally, verbally, and physically abused for years before she decided to flee the state. The acts of the abuser were so awful that they would be considered torture if they had not taken place in an intimate relationship.

When Carla left the state her abuser filed for custody of their children in Erie County, which the court decided had jurisdiction for the case. Neighborhood Legal Services, through the Family Justice Center, worked with Carla’s out-of-state attorney for months to be thoroughly prepared for a grueling multi-day trial in Erie County. At the trial the abuser tried to portray himself as the abused, but due to the hard work of NLS and Carla’s other attorney, she was granted custody of her 3 children, and was allowed to take them out of state.

Now that Carla is free from her abusive situation and safe from her abuser, she is rebuilding her life. She is working as a waitress and planning on furthering her education – things she was not allowed to do while she was in the abusive relationship.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse, help is available.  Carla’s story is just one of thousands of success stories of women who have been able to rebuild their lives.  Contact the Family Justice Center – they are here to help.

*Name changed for confidentiality.

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