For nearly two years, “Ana Santos” lived an anonymous life in a women’s shelter.
“When things happened, I was pregnant,” said Santos, whose name has been changed because she still fears that the father of her son could find her. “After four months, I had to go to a shelter for domestic violence victims. I had been out of work and I had no family here, only the father of my son.”
Santos came from Peru in 2004 filled with hopes of getting her master’s degree. But everything turned into a nightmare when her boyfriend started beating her.
“When I realize what happened to me, I can’t believe it,” Santos said, “because it is like a book, a movie that nobody would ever want to go through. It is very difficult, but you can do it.”
In Queens, there are organizations that help people who are victims of domestic violence like Safe Horizon and the Family Justice Center located at 126-02 82nd Avenue, behind the Criminal Court on Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.
Santos learned of these organizations through handouts she found in Elmhurst Hospital that said, “If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is free legal counseling,” and decided to find out more on the Internet. That’s how she went to Safe Horizon, and through them she saw some brochures from the Family Justice Center, so she went there.
“When I came, I realized that there was not only one service offered but there were many,” said Santos, who now has her own apartment, works, and is in the process of becoming a permanent resident. “From a social worker, self-reliance, legal and emotional services, to help with public assistance,” Santos said.
Both organizations offer confidential services in over 20 languages, but interpretation assistance is available for a total of 150 languages. The Family Justice Center also has security.
“They increased the possibilities that I had to survive, in my case I was alone, had no family, no job, no papers, no nothing,” Santos said.
Santos advised other domestic violence victims to seek help.
“It is very important to know that you have many people supporting you and telling you that you can make it alone,” Santos said. “Many women return to their spouse or their abuser because it is very difficult to be alone and survive all of this. Even now that all these things have happened to me, I think to myself ‘maybe I should have stayed with the father of my son.’ Can you imagine! But I don’t. It is very difficult.”
More on domestic violence: part 2 of our series.
Stories and links from part 1 of our series on domestic violence can be found here:
THE SILENT SHAME- AN INTRODUCTION TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE