Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Story of Privilege

One of the main goals of this year's Team Heal Trauma group is to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of domestic violence and the ways in which organizations like Witness Justice can help. One of the hardest and most critical steps to recovery, especially for women who are victims of domestic violence, is to physically remove oneself from the situation. Due to costs for rent, utilities, food, and other expenses, women who don't work for a living have an incredibly hard time escaping cases of domestic violence. That is why Privilege's story is so inspiring:

Privilege was not only a victim of domestic violence, but human trafficking as well. Her husband brought her to the US and physically enslaved her, beat her, and sexually abused her. She suffered at the hands of her husband for 9 years before escaping. However, with no job or work Visa, Privilege was having a tough time keeping her and her children afloat. Her application for a "U Visa," for survivors of domestic violence and sexual exploitation, was layered in red tape. She then reached out to Change.org.

The website that creates petitions for social change published her story in March, which resulted in a reader suggesting an attorney that helped Privilege navigate the Visa application process. This week Privilege was the proud recipient of a U Visa, enabling her to find work and support her children and establish the building blocks to recovery and economic stability.

Privilege's story has a happy ending, but the tale is none too distant from many women who find their lives endangered by a heavily bureaucratic road to personal freedom. As hard as it is to free oneself from the abuse, the challenges of restructuring one's life in the face of legal, economic and social roadblocks can be tough to bare.

Organizations like Witness Justice and the Tahirih Justice Center are filling the gaps for women like Privilege, who may cross one bridge but find another one waiting for them on the other side. And as if it's not enough to fight for a Visa, the scars from years of domestic violence and trauma take time and effort to heal.

If you or anyone you know is having difficulty dealing with issues of domestic violence or human trafficking, either emotionally or with the legal and financial barriers that often obstruct progress, please contact one of these or other organizations that specialize in assisting survivors of trauma.

Or, if you'd like to join the fight against domestic violence, run with Team Heal Trauma to raise awareness and funds to support direct services for these survivors. You may register to join the team for this year's Marine Corps Marathon - Sunday, October 25th, 2009.

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