“This will be the start of me going forward with my life.”

These are the thoughts Tanya* had when she first met with the lawyer from the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law on the campus of her community college. With the Center’s free legal help, she felt that this would be the sustenance she and her children needed to finally end the violence in their world. It would be the start of their new, safer and better lives. She was right.

Dreams Destroyed

Young and in love with a man she met in high school, Tanya was thrilled to be pregnant with their first child. When she planned to visit her out of state mother, his terror started. To stop her from going, he threatened to “rip their baby out of her and strangle her with the umbilical cord.” Then, he told her he loved her. She believed him and did not go. Later, a second child was conceived.
But his punishing control did not stop. He punched holes in the walls to scare her. After each outburst, he apologized and swore he would change. Then, one night, in a rage, he pulled her shoulder out of its socket. Trying to escape, she fled to friends. Without family, money and nowhere permanent with a roof over her head to go, she returned.

Final Escape

Despite his assurances that she was the love of his life, he could not control his anger. Tanya fled again with her children. But, she was not safe. He stalked her and found out where she lived. He ripped the door off its hinges as she and the children cowered in fear. Surveying the busted door, the police advised her to get a restraining order. She did, on her own.


But when the children’s father went to court to get custody of their children, she knew she needed more assistance. Searching for legal help, she made an appointment at the Harriett Buhai Center’s monthly office at her school. Nurtured by the Center’s hands-on aid in the form of pleadings preparation, detailed instructions and guidance, and persuasive legal arguments, Tanya was empowered to represent herself successfully at trial. She obtained a permanent restraining order and sole legal and physical custody of their children.

Moving Forward

Today, Tanya works at a nonprofit agency and hopes to transfer to a four-year college to become a teacher. She is grateful to the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law for giving her the support and tools she needed to go forward with her life. “The Center instilled the belief in me that I could do what I had to do.”


*Client’s name and photo have been changed to protect her privacy.