- Gisela's Story
Gisela Fernandez is a domestic violence survivor. Prior to seeking help with Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Gisela found herself in an abusive relationship, not knowing what her options were. Being undocumented, Gisela felt disempowered and scared, ultimately making it more difficult for her to leave her situation. Her fear of being deported and having to separate from her son and family, kept her in an abusive relationship. She was encouraged to seek domestic violence counseling the day she filed a report against the abuser. Among a list of organizations, Gisela specifically chose Mujeres Latinas en Acción because she knew the services would be culturally sensitive. During her time with Mujeres, Gisela benefited from court advocacy as well as group and individual counseling. From the moment she scheduled her first appointment, Gisela describes the help she received as incomparable.
“I have always said, since receiving help from Mujeres, that you need someone to guide you and you need to keep an open mind so that you can break the cycle—to be able to say ‘I was there, but I no longer want to be there.’”
Being a part of the Domestic Violence program, Gisela felt well informed and acquired confidence and knowledge about healthy relationships, the cycle of violence, and economic independence. Her domestic violence court advocate, Lidia, guided her through the process of obtaining a restraining order, and informed her about divorce proceedings and obtaining a path towards citizenship.
Through counseling, Gisela learned about different resources clients could access alongside the ones Mujeres has to offer. But to Gisela, one of the most important skills that she learned was how to handle and deescalate stressful situations, specifically regarding her son. Through counseling she learned that her son’s relationship with his father is independent from hers, and in order to break the cycle of violence, she could not expose her son to any kind of emotional violence.
“I want thank the organization and everyone at Mujeres, but I want to give a special thank you to Lidia. Every time I find myself in situations where I do not know what to do, I call Lidia and she provides me with help and different options.”
Since receiving help, Gisela continues to be engaged with Mujeres by participating in community events offered by the agency. To her, being a part of the events is much more than just attending. To Gisela, participating means bringing awareness to her community and letting others know that there is a place to get help and heal. She believes nobody should be ashamed of speaking out against violence and hopes to encourage others to seek out support.
Gisela recalls life before Mujeres—a life filled with violence, anger, and anxiety. Now, she finds herself in a completely different place, both physically and emotionally. Mujeres has provided her with the tools to move forward and to be the best mother she can be. Ultimately, Mujeres has empowered her and in turn, Gisela hopes that her story can help empower others.
“I would tell friends or family to go to Mujeres because they will help you. Not only in providing resources and information, but also in helping you leave the violence behind and being at peace with yourself.”