In Her Own Words

These days, Marguerite* radiates the confidence of someone who has taken charge of her life. What a difference from the desperate woman who sought help from the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law to keep herself and her children safe from her abusive husband. Here is Marguerite’s story, in her own words:

“When I got married with Jorge* he’d hit me. When he found out I was pregnant he stopped for a while but when I was seven months, he kicked me. I was sent to the hospital. I told him that I was going to tell the doctor. He begged me not to because they’d send him to jail. I didn’t tell. When I was pregnant with our second child he tried to strangle me with a pillow. That’s how it went.

“When the boys were 5 and 6 years old, Jorge just left. I found an apartment and supported us alone. A year later he bought a house and convinced me to come back—and I did because I always felt responsible. But it was exactly the same. He told me I was worthless and that he wanted me to leave. He hit me again. I decided that this was going to be the last time and called the police. I had no idea what was going on after that—I got (criminal protective) papers in the mail.

“I went to court and told the (criminal) judge, ‘I have two sons with this man and he does not want to help me. I want him to.’ The judge said that this was not the court to ask for that and I had to ask for a divorce. I filed and I thought that was all I had to do. Jorge tried to harm me by keeping our kids from me but he really ended up hurting our sons.

“When I came to the Center I wanted custody of my kids. I always fought for their custody but it simply cannot be done quickly—it’s step by step. Although the Center lawyers didn’t always give me the answers I wanted to hear, they always told me what would work. With all the advice and help I had from the Center, I was able to go to court and do it on my own. I learned how to navigate the court system and present myself in court. I feel brave and empowered.”

Marguerite returned recently to the Center to thank staff members who helped her master the legal system on her own and fight for custody of her children.  The years of abuse in their home took its toll on Marguerite and her children, but together they are growing, healing and re-building their relationships, one step at a time.



*Names have been changed to protect our client’s privacy.