Susan’s Story – Access to Justice

legal-memeLike many clients, Susan came to our Restraining Order Clinic because someone told her she “needed to get a restraining order.” Susan’s husband, also the father of her two children, had recently assaulted her. Susan fled to a domestic violence shelter with her children.  Susan felt scared, overwhelmed, and angry. But when Susan met with a CCS attorney, she also seemed conflicted.

Susan and the CCS attorney spent significant time together exploring Susan’s goals and trepidation about pursuing a Restraining Order. Susan was adamant that she wanted the physical abuse to end. However, she also saw her husband’s abuse in the context of his mental illness.  Susan desperately wanted her husband to get help, and she was reluctant to participate in the court’s adversarial system, fearing that its harshness would only undermine her husband’s ability to be successful in treatment.

Susan’s experience, prior to coming to the Clinic, was fraught with misinformation and bad advice. She was frustrated that “the system” wanted her to punish her husband while, through her eyes, there was no way to punish him without also punishing her children. Susan and her children moved to an emergency shelter because she was told that she didn’t have the right to stay in her home because her husband legally owned it. Susan was also misinformed when she was told that continuing to speak with her husband would jeopardize her chances of getting a restraining order.

The assault by her husband left Susan feeling she had no control over her body or her choices. As a victim seeking assistance, she felt she was being pushed through a system that didn’t consider who she was or what she wanted. Once in possession of accurate information about her rights and options, Susan and her CCS attorney formulated a plan that balanced Susan’s need for safety with her desire to help her husband get treatment.

Although it was a difficult decision, Susan untimely decided to pursue a Restraining Order. The Judge granted the Order, gave Susan and her children the right to stay in their home, ordered Susan’s husband to pay child support and the monthly mortgage payments, and ordered mental health treatment for her husband. To Susan’s great relief, she and her husband were able to maintain peaceful and productive negotiations throughout the court proceedings.

Susan’s story exemplifies that each survivor’s path must be of their own making.  At CCS, we empower survivors by giving them the choices that will lead towards their own desired destination.

 

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