They Helped Me Break Free: HBCFL Volunteers and Staff Lawyers Team Up with Client to Stop Cycle of Violence

For 16 years Georgia* was trapped in a prison created by her husband. “I thought abuse was a normal way of life.” Raised in a violent home, Georgia married a man who victimized her and their children. He isolated Georgia from all outside activities and her circle of friends. “He controlled everything that I did—how I wore my hair, when I left the house—I completely lost my identity.”

Georgia eventually found the courage to leave her husband. At first, she tried to handle her divorce on her own, but her husband continued to intimidate her. “My husband screamed at me when we went to court. It was so bad that a court officer made him leave.” Depressed and feeling all alone, Georgia came to the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law and “they helped me break free.”

At the Center, she met with staff attorneys and volunteers who were patient and informative–no question was silly or went unanswered. Case managing attorney, Meredith Alexander, ensured that Georgia was provided with all the information she needed to get housing, employment and counseling during a very dark time. Wanting to prevent a repeat of Georgia’s traumatic court experience, the Center partnered Georgia with pro bono attorney, Rehema Rhodes Williams**, to represent her.

While at court, Georgia’s husband yelled at her and Rehema. “It made me very uncomfortable, so I walked away, but Rehema kept her composure.” Rehema never backed down and was able to reach an agreement with Georgia’s husband, including payments for higher spousal and child support. “Thanks to the Center and Rehema, I did not have to go to trial.” Another Center pro bono attorney, Louise Nixon, helped Georgia secure her community property share of her husband’s retirement pension so she will have some financial support later in life. “Three years of hard work is finally paying off. I received my divorce decree the other day. With the Harriett Buhai Center’s help, I was able to leave my abuser and stop the cycle of domestic violence in my life.”


*Name has been changed to protect Center client.

**We are pleased to announce that Rehema has recently joined the Harriett Buhai Center as a Staff Attorney and the Pro Bono Panel Manager.