Confronting Domestic Abuse: How Legal Aid Provided a Lifeline When I Needed It

I think it’s important for people to know that I was extremely fortunate. Many women don’t get the chance I got. One of the biggest hurdles to ending a situation like mine is getting legal help to end it.

Op-Ed (NATIONAL, Ohio)

Athena Gough
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
August 9, 2019
READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Tags: Domestic Violence

Organizations mentioned/involved: Community Legal Aid (Central Northeast Ohio)


DETAILS

I’m not out of the woods yet. As I’m writing this, I’m working with Community Legal Aid again to renew my protective order, as the five years are coming to an end. I wish these orders could be made permanent. Having to face him in court every five years just to protect myself is traumatizing and painful, and I dread it every time. While it’s only a piece of paper, it’s made me feel secure. At the very least, I know that if something happens to me, the police will know where to start looking. And it makes it known that I don’t want him to be able to come near me to hurt me again. It’s a deterrent, at least in some way. I hope that at least for the next five years, I can continue to live my life and put that chapter behind me.

I also don’t fully know yet the effects this has had on my daughters. It can take years to unravel the effects of abuse on everyone, so the trauma could still impact them in other ways throughout their lives, for which I feel horrible. I know my oldest daughter eventually showed signs toward the end of his time with us—the same “walking on eggshells” behavior that I was doing. If I hadn’t thought my daughters were being affected terribly up to that point, that showed me how much they were. My youngest daughter was really young when he was arrested, so it’s hard to understand how things affected her. She doesn’t remember him, which may be a blessing.

I think it’s important for people to know that I was extremely fortunate. Many women don’t get the chance I got. One of the biggest hurdles to ending a situation like mine is getting legal help to end it. That goes from getting intervention from law enforcement, to getting protection orders, to dissolving a marriage. Some women get out, and they have to run and hide. Some never get a protective order, file for divorce, or get help with the unique custody and visitation issues that arise. Without legal help, I know that my story would not have turned out as well as it did, and I believe that everyone deserves access to the same legal help I received.