We Are Not Alone
Vivian Clecak, LCSW
Founding CEO, Human Options
“I was terrified to go to court. I did not think I could stop shaking if I saw him. When my counselor told me part of the shelter program was that I would have a lawyer for me, I could not believe it. He told me I would never be able to convince anyone of my problem because I was so stupid. And now I had a lawyer FOR ME. And I knew I was not alone anymore.”
The nature of domestic violence is isolation and intimidation. The victim tells no one. She feels shame and guilt. She has been told over and over again that women are responsible for the health of the relationship; she must be doing something wrong. The perpetrator tells her it is her fault; she is stupid, is incompetent, doesn’t know how to be a good wife or mother. And over time the voice of the most significant person in her life, the person who is supposed to love her and protect her, overwhelms her own voice. And she begins to feel the way he says she is. As women in the shelter say again and again, “he lives in my head.”
The first call to a domestic violence hotline takes enormous courage. We tell our clients that the call turns them from victim to survivor. Entering the shelter or our counseling center puts them on the road to victory.
Legal advocacy is a crucial part of the path to victory. When an attorney speaks for a woman in court, when she or he stands with that woman to face the perpetrator and his attorney, the pattern of isolation and intimidation is flipped. She is no longer alone. The issues of safety, child custody, visitation, and child support, which are overwhelming to a woman alone, become problems to be solved with the guidance and support of an expert who is her advocate.
Human Options’ partnership with UCI School of Law is a powerful model of social justice for a vulnerable population. We are proud to stand with you.