Survivor Stories

April’s Story

Earlier this year, a young woman with a small child arrived at DC Superior Court looking for help. April and her daughter had been sleeping in her car for the last two nights afraid to go home. Her husband told her he would find her anywhere she went. Originally from South Carolina and isolated from anyone in DC other than her husband, she did not have anywhere else to turn.

When April got to the Court, she was directed to the Domestic Violence Intake Center where she was met by a SAFE Advocate. They discussed her situation and created a safety plan for her to ensure that her husband could not find her. The night she fled her home, her husband had punched and strangled her, and threatened to harm their daughter next. She decided that the safest thing to do was to obtain a Temporary Protection Order with temporary custody of the couple’s child, and to enter a safe housing program after that to provide some immediate safety and stability for herself and her child. She decided that she did not want to report the violence to the police.

April and her Advocate then drafted a petition for a temporary protection order and her Advocate explained the court process and told April what to expect during the hearing. April’s Advocate also took photographs of her injuries for the court file. April was nervous about talking to a judge, but her conversation with her Advocate gave her more confidence, and her order was granted. From the Courthouse, April was directed to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Program and received temporary safe housing until her next court date.

With her order in hand and the police escorting her, April was able to return to her apartment to get the remainder of her essential belongings and important papers. She returned to the Court fourteen days later for her Civil Protection Order hearing.  With the help of a SAFE Advocate, she was granted a one-year order and temporary custody of her daughter.   After three weeks in temporary housing, April was able to locate a shared housing with another woman in the program, and the two agreed to share an apartment. April and her daughter are currently receiving counseling, and April is looking for a job in retail, her previous occupation before her husband demanded she quit working. April has also gotten a free attorney for her divorce and custody case. While she has many more steps to take, April is well on her way to a life of safety and security for herself and her daughter.

Kiesha’s Story

SAFE received a call on our 24 hour response line from a police officer at the scene of a domestic violence call. After getting some basic information about the situation from the officer, the SAFE Advocate was connected with Kiesha who reported that her boyfriend frequently assaulted her, and that he had access to a gun. Tonight he punched her repeatedly and kicked her and she thought he might kill her. Her neighbor had called police, but her boyfriend had fled the scene before police arrived. She said she and her three children had no safe place to stay and her boyfriend could come back at any time after the police left.

After doing a risk assessment that indicated that Kiesha’s boyfriend had a high likelihood of seriously injuring or killing her, SAFE created a safety plan with her. Kiesha’s Advocate offered to send a car service to pick her up and take her to a hotel for the night until a safer housing situation could be obtained or her boyfriend was apprehended. Two volunteers met Kiesha and her children at the police station nearest her house to provide food vouchers and written information about the criminal and civil legal process. She then went to a local hotel for the night until the Court opened when she obtained a Temporary Protection Order. In fact, she had a protection order in the past, but she dropped it after he said he would kill her if she kept it in place. After obtaining her protection order, she and her children were placed in a local domestic violence shelter for sixty days.

Because Kiesha’s case was high risk, she was assigned to a specialized Advocate at SAFE who contacted various community and government partners to obtain faster and greater assistance for her. Through this process, Kiesha was able to move into permanent housing, transfer the children to a different school and daycare, and obtain additional legal assistance.

Meanwhile, a detective was assigned to the case and requested a warrant for her boyfriend’s arrest. Kiesha’s boyfriend has since been arrested.  While she is nervous about having to testify at her boyfriend’s trial in the coming months, she is moving on with her life successfully and safely.