Two Victims, One Hope

Tonia wanted to protect her young son from his father’s deadly rages. They had been trapped in an escalating cycle of abuse, threats and erratic behavior. In the worst and most recent episode, Tonia’s son, just five years old, likely saved her life by seeking help.

Tonia sought legal assistance from the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law to shield her son and ensure his well-being through custody orders. She got that and so much more.

Recalling what happened in that last incident of violence, she said “My little one ran upstairs and pounded on the neighbor’s door. My son said, ‘You’ve got to help me–he’s going to kill her.’ [His father] beat me from one end of the house to the other, dragged me down the driveway. He tore up the house pretty bad. You couldn’t even see the floor. He broke mirrors, chopped up the furniture.”

After her partner went to prison for spousal abuse, there were a few years of reprieve. Tonia moved herself and her son to a new location with the hope that they would be safe and would not be found. But as the time for her former partner’s release approached, her anxiety increased. Lacking a father in her childhood, Tonia wanted her son to have a dad in his life, but she wanted them to be free from harm and away from the anger her son was starting to mimic.

“By the grace of God I went the Buhai Center.”

Although she already had a restraining order from the criminal court, Tonia learned that the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law could get one for her son, and another for herself. Both orders could be renewed, possibly forever. Most importantly, lawyers at the Center understood the urgency of Tonia’s plight and her great fear. They responded by supporting her legal request for sole custody, as well as her emotional need to know the court could help protect her son. Tonia’s legal paperwork was prepared, reviewed and edited, and an experienced volunteer lawyer was asked to represent her before the judge.

The lawyer stood side by side with Tonia as the judge reviewed the papers prepared by the Center, asked some questions, listened to her lawyer’s argument and then granted Tonia’s custody order, which allowed the father only supervised visitation through professional monitors when he is released from prison, and gave Tonia new restraining orders.

“At the Center, they took the time to ‘hope’ me. I call it ‘hope’ not ‘help’ because they gave me hope. They informed me of a lot of things I didn’t know I was able to get. I didn’t know where to go, and sometimes you just give up and you’re right back in that situation. I couldn’t have done it without them.”