From Teen Bride to Aspiring Law School Graduate

From Teen Bride to Aspiring Law School Graduate

Saadia had a hard life growing up in a small village in Pakistan and witnessing the repeated abuse and torture of her mother at the hands of her father.

Things did not get any better for her as a young woman, when still in her teens, her father announced that he had arranged a marriage to a wealthy older man who could give her father a good dowry.

She did not want to marry this man, who she met for the very first time at their wedding, but “Of course, I had no choice.”

The abuse began on her wedding night, resulting in her ending up in the hospital.

“Sadly, this was just the beginning of my abuse,” she said.

Her only solace at the time was that as a teenager, her grandparents had provided her with the opportunity to go to school and earn a college degree and she treasured her education greatly.

When she asked her husband for permission to go to law school, he surprisingly agreed: “I believe this was more for him than myself. It gave him the popularity among our town of being a good husband who allowed his wife to pursue an education.”

As the years passed, she gave birth to a child and she graduated from law school. Also during this time, she discovered that as the spouse of a U.S. citizen, she had the right to obtain a green card and immediately began the process, without her husband’s knowledge.

With the documents in hand, Saadia, with in tow, boarded the plane to the U.S. worrying about where she would go and “who could help me once I got to the USA.”

“America is different,” were the kind words of an Embassy agent. “Somebody will help you.”

She found that to be true, and with financial assistance from her husband who had remained in Pakistan, she was seeing a bright future ahead. That is until she learned of his death and the support stopped coming.

With nowhere else to go, Saadia turned to distant relatives in Virginia to once again start a new life.

It was there she was introduced by relatives to a family friend who she was told was a good man she could trust. He immediately took an interest in her, and although she was hesitant to get into another relationship, she quickly fell in love with him and they married.

Sadly, shortly after the wedding, he began abusing her leaving her to question, “How could I let this happen again?”

But she was stronger this time!

“Because of my harsh past, I knew I was not going to expose myself and child to the horrors of yet another household of domestic violence,” she said.

As many victims of domestic violence must do, she made the difficult, but necessary, decision to leave him, even though that meant homelessness for her and her child – but it was better than living in pain and fear, or worse.

“For a long time, I was stripped away from everything except one thing, my education and my knowledge,” says Saadia, who after spending months living in a shelter for survivors of domestic violence is now a client of Safe Places, who is  helping her rebuild  her life for a third time, this time for good.

While in Safe Places she is taking the law school courses she needs in order to pass the bar exam and practice law in Virginia and has just one semester before going on the path towards realizing her dream:

“My dream is to one day be a strong independent parent who can solely provide for my child. I wish to look my child in the eyes one day and say, ‘I did it. I made it. We will no longer struggle.’”

As we at Safe Places have gotten to know this dedicated and determined young woman who has overcome much trauma in her life only to rise stronger than ever, we have no doubt her dream will soon come true. This would not be possible without the contributions from the supporters of Safe Places who helped provide her with what she needed most at a dark time in her life, a safe home where she can raise her child without worry and fear.

“I would not be where I am today without the help of the people and organizations such as Safe Places that believed in giving me and my child a chance.”

Saadia’s tuition is $5,448 and we can think of no greater gift than that of education and financial security for her and her child for the rest of their lives. Her tuition is due February 14th. What’s a better way to show your love on Valentine’s Day than to give a mother the gift of self-sufficiency?

Adopt a Family

Adopt a Family

This time of year, it is our job to maintain the illusion that Santa does not forget anyone here at Safe Places–and we need your help!

For the last several weeks we’ve have been working with families to help them fill out their wish lists. These lists are filled with the needs and wishes for themselves and their families. Out of the roughly one hundred individuals that we are currently serving, we have 17 who still need to be adopted this holiday season. You see, we make sure every child & mom receives a holiday gift. That they receive something that lets them know that someone out there cares and wants them to be happy.

So how can you be Santa this year? 11 kids and 6 moms still need to be adopted this holiday season. Adopting is easy and fun!

  • Email me your preferences: do you want to sponsor a family of 5 or of 2, a child or a mom; do you really want to shop for a girl because you had sons, or a toddler because your kids are grown?
  • Receive a wish list: After that, I’ll sort through our wish lists and send you one to use as inspiration or a step by step shopping list!
  • SHOP! If you are in Northern Virginia let me know when you are ready to have your gifts picked up. If you are shopping from afar feel free to order online and get items shipped directly to our office! All gifts are due unwrapped by Monday, December 17.

 

And, if you would rather us shop for you, you can give directly here. Can you please help us make sure that Santa visits everyone this year?

 

Do you really know what domestic violence is?

Do you really know what domestic violence is?

You know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but do you really know what domestic violence is?  No judgment here. Now is the perfect time to learn.
 
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behaviors, used by an individual to gain or maintain power and control over another person in the context of an intimate or dating relationship.
 
Domestic Violence is a problem.
 
Although domestic violence affects people of all income levels, people with lower annual income (below $25,000) are three times more likely to be a victim of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (over $50,000).  When you factor in that a family must earn an annual income of $69,240 to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Fairfax county–leaving an abuser, becoming a single parent household, while being low income may be a choice between homelessness and abuse.  That reality is not theoretical: Forty-nine percent of all persons in families were experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence during the point in time survey in 2016.
 
Domestic Violence is a housing problem.
 
Almost 1/3 of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner. On average, more than 3 women and 1 man are murdered by their intimate partners in the U.S. every day. In Fairfax County, domestic violence is the leading cause of homicide. Eighty-one percent of women who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short or long-term impacts, such as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and injury. Thirty-five percent of men report such impacts of their experiences.
 
Domestic Violence is a public health problem.
 
Domestic violence occurs between people of all ages, races, ethnicities, socio-economic, educational and religious backgrounds, in heterosexual and same-sex relationships, living together or separately, married or unmarried, with or without children. Domestic violence is typically not acute and not exclusively physical violence.  This type of relationship is about maintaining an imbalance of power through any means including physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions.
 
Domestic Violence is our problem.
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