From Victim to Volunteer

Sheryl is a successful paralegal who volunteers her time at the Harriett Buhai Center. Her commitment to the Center was forged through a personal experience she had here. Years ago, Sheryl found herself in a tumultuous marriage that was destroying her. “I was mentally, physically, emotionally and financially challenged. I had been raped by my own husband. I was $70,000 in debt and my jaw had been broken—not once, but twice–and my life had been threatened.”  Trapped in an abusive marriage at a time when there was little help available for victims of domestic violence, she felt hopeless. “Even when I would call the police for help, I was told there was nothing they could do for me because we were married.” She believed she had nowhere to turn.

Then, Sheryl’s colleague told her about the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, and despite her immense feelings of uncertainty, she made contact. At the Center, Sheryl met a caring staff who assisted her in each stage of her divorce proceeding. “They were very organized. They instructed me on how to fill out the forms, how to file them with the Court and the process of having papers served.” Even though Sheryl was a legal secretary, she had very little experience with family law. “The Buhai Center was kind enough to explain the court procedure to me, so that I would be aware of the process, and how long it would take to finalize these proceedings.”

With the Center’s assistance, Sheryl successfully obtained a divorce from her abusive husband. For Sheryl, the staff at the Center did more than assist her with her divorce; they provided her with an emotional support system. “They let me know it wasn’t my fault.” Overwhelmed and inspired by the Center’s care and concern — not only for her, but also for everyone who walked through the Center’s doors — Sheryl decided to reenroll in school. “I vowed to go back to school to become a paralegal so that I would be able to assist someone in getting their life back, as the Harriett Buhai Center did for me.”

Sheryl successfully completed her paralegal degree and now volunteers her time with the Center in order to help other women in similar situations. She also recognized that the Center must remain a fixture in the Los Angeles community. “I truly hope that the Buhai Center will continue to get the funding they need to do for others what they did for me because the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law saved my life.”