Casa Cornelia Law Center provides free legal services to indigent victims of human and civil rights violations from all over the world, including asylum seekers fleeing torture or persecution, children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. In 2012, Women Give San Diego provided funding to Casa Cornelia’s Domestic Violence Program. The following is a success story that exemplifies the empowering impact that Women Give San Diego’s funding has had on the lives of Casa Cornelia’s Domestic Violence clients.
Elena was born in Mexico. She has always been a hard worker and a career-minded woman. After completing two bachelor’s degrees, she then worked at a Special Education School for children who are blind and visually impaired, and would start her second job as a taxi driver at 3pm. She did all of this while raising two young sons, and while enduring what turned out to be an extremely abusive marriage. She knew that becoming economically independent was extremely important to her, and she wrote in her legal declaration, “Back then, my main objective was to complete my career, and that I could become independent at all levels.”
The exact details of Elena’s abuse at the hands of her husband Juan are horrific. She endured rape, threats from his family members, verbal abuse and being trapped in her own home. Once, Juan beat her so badly that she was incapacitated for a week. Elena fled to the United States to live with her mother. Juan continued to threaten her and eventually he followed her into the U.S. He wouldn’t let her talk to others, followed her, and even picked out what clothes she would wear. Through this, the physical and sexual abuse continued, along with the threats.
Finally, Elena left him and filed a restraining order which Juan violated, following her and taking pictures. One day, when she went to pick up her oldest son, her abuser and two friends in masks with guns attempted to kidnap her oldest son and rob her place of work. Her son escaped, police were called and police reports were filed. All three men were sent to jail, and Elena cooperated in every step of the investigation that she could.
Elena learned about Casa Cornelia and became a client within the Domestic Violence Program. Through Casa Cornelia, she received her work authorization and her U Visa. It’s impossible to overstate the freedom and security that these small documents brought to Elena and her two boys. Elena is now the proud owner of her own small business, a carpet cleaning business. Casa Cornelia, in turn, is a proud client of Elena’s. Elena, who always understood the importance of economic empowerment to break the cycle of abuse, has transformed into the strong, independent woman we know her to be today. She is quick to volunteer for an interview on behalf of Casa Cornelia, even though memories of the abuse are still painful for her to talk about. Her oldest son now wants to be a cop to save other children from experiencing the trauma that he did during the attempted kidnapping. Her youngest boy is 13 years old, and the three of them live happily together in North County.
This success story is a wonderful example of the power of a donor’s circle like Women Give San Diego. We pool our resources and provide grants to support existing programs that create a path to hope for women like Elena. Way to go, Elena!