Joan's Story

Stories of Hope: Joan’s Story

As Joan walked out of the courtroom, one word immediately came to her mind, “Relief.” It was difficult for her to express herself to her attorney because of a language barrier, but her smile and calm demeanor said it all. After years of abuse, Joan had gotten a final restraining order against her abuser and was able to feel secure knowing she and her children were safe from his violence.

Joan came to the United States to be with a man who promised to give her and her two children a better life. She lived with Julio for 3 years and was looking forward to being with him again after he settled in the U.S. from Central America. However, this new Julio was not the one she fell in love with years before. This Julio was controlling, jealous and verbally abusive. Not long after that, the abuse turned physical. Julio would often drink too much and assault Joan, often leaving her with black eyes and fat lips.

Joan hoped and prayed that Julio would change and held on to that hope for three years. He promised to go to couple’s therapy and wanted to be a better father for their son. One day, Julio had too much to drink and started cursing at Joan in front of his family. He raised his hand to her and punched her in the face twice. Stunned and scared, Joan ran to her apartment, suffering immense emotional and physical pain. She couldn’t take it and started to have a panic attack. Her sister drove her to the hospital. Joan had had enough.

Joan worked up the courage to file for a temporary restraining order against Julio. Without the resources to hire an attorney, Joan reached out to Center for Hope and Safety (CHS). At CHS, Joan found much more than just an attorney. Because CHS has a bilingual legal assistant Joan, was able to easily communicate with the staff and her attorney. In addition to obtaining legal advice on her restraining order, CHS was also able to advise Joan on her immigration case and answer all of her questions regarding her status in the United States. With CHS’s help, Joan developed a safety plan in order to ensure that she and her children were free from danger. During the holidays, Joan was able to cook her family a Thanksgiving meal and give several gifts to her children at Christmas, all provided to her by CHS, free of charge.

Unfortunately, Joan’s legal case was not as simple as she had hoped, but the attorneys at CHS were with her each step of the way. At her first court appearance, Julio, the defendant was not present and the judge moved the matter to another date. Joan was understandably confused and nervous. For the next few months, CHS regularly communicated with Joan and assured her that they would do everything in their power to obtain her final restraining order. Finally, after seven months of waiting, the defendant showed up to court and the trial began. After preparing with her attorneys for months, Joan was ready to tell the judge her story. Through a few tears, she told the court everything Julio had done to her.

When Julio was able to speak, Joan was terrified. He began to lie about her, and more tears came to her eyes. Desperate, she looked at her attorney, who smiled and told her, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.” Her attorney was able to successfully object to numerous pieces of inadmissible evidence Julio tried to present. When one of his witnesses tried to disparage Joan, another successful objection prevented a false conspiracy about her from being brought up to the judge.

After the judge heard all of the testimony, he decided that Joan was credible and Julio was not. He told Joan that he believed her story and that a final restraining order was necessary in order to protect her and her family. It was over, Joan had won. This time, she cried tears of relief and happiness as she walked out of the courthouse. She had one last thing to say as she walked away from her attorney. This time, the interpreter was not needed.

“Gracias” she said. “De nada,” her attorney replied.

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Center for Hope and Safety is committed to ensuring that safety and support is only a phone call away, 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, for the adults and children who seek refuge from domestic violence.  We need your support to make that happen. Please make a gift to our Time of Hope Challenge and help keep our doors open to those who need refuge from domestic violence during this difficult time and throughout the year. Thank you.