Mom Walks Tall with Legal Aid Society
United Way recognizes the importance of bringing attention to the issue of domestic violence throughout the year. However, as we close October and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we want to highlight Trisha’s story of survival. We stand with mothers like Gina and Trisha, and the many women, men, and children across Tennessee who are safe from violence today because of the support of United Way partners.
For 20 years, Trisha* woke up to abuse. Her husband was insecure and emotionally abusive. “He would tell me that all of our money was his alone and that he was more intelligent and capable than I was,” Trisha says. He wanted her to believe she was inferior to him.
As a four-time cancer survivor, Trisha has spent recent years taking medication for pain. It was not long before the meds started disappearing. Trisha’s husband was taking her meds and eventually became dependent on her prescribed opioids. Because of her illness, Trisha had not worked in many years. So, leaving her husband in search of a new, safe home was financially risky. She didn’t have nearby family or any place to go. In Trisha’s mind, “the writhing pain of cancer was better than leaving and being homeless.”
Victims of domestic violence— also known as intimate partner violence— face complex challenges that limit their options and hinder a decision to seek safety. Over the years, Trisha remained in her marriage to provide her daughter with stability. Trisha recalls the day she decided enough was enough. When she confronted her husband for stealing her meds, he pinned her against the wall, bruising her spine and ribs. Thankfully, her daughter stepped in and stopped him. In that moment, Trisha was reminded that her daughter was no longer a child; Trisha could finally walk away from him.
Trisha sold everything and moved out of the house. “It wasn’t easy, but I was determined,” she says. “I reached out to the Legal Aid Society and asked them to help me end my nightmare.”
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands provides free civil defense and legal resources to low-income and vulnerable Tennesseans. For domestic violence victims, access to legal representation is critical. In many circumstances, the abuser controls income and other resources, which makes it hard for victims to live independently or hire legal representation.
For Trisha, Legal Aid Society was the light at the end of the tunnel. The agency paired Trisha with Amelia Luna, a Family Law attorney that helped her file for divorce and moveforward in the court process. “Amelia gave me an air of confidence. Immediately, I felt as though I had made the right decision.” The attorney helped Trisha successfully attain her portion of marital property. “I walked a little taller because I did not have to fight this battle alone.”
*Name changed to honor confidentiality.