Client Story: Finding the Strength to Start Again
Although Sara Ribeiro had worked with victims of domestic violence in her native Colombia, she did not recognize the signs of instability and potential for violence in her own marriage until she herself became a victim. Ms. Ribeiro’s husband, an American Citizen she married in 2007, was an alcoholic. His addiction and consequential abuse soon made her life unbearable, and she escaped to a battered more than shelter. Her immigration status left her vulnerable and threatened to send her back into the arms of her abuser. Low-income survivors often find themselves without access to critical legal guidance, left on their own to deal with restraining orders, custody and immigration issues, and a whole host of other legal matters.
Thankfully, Ms. Ribeiro’s caseworker at the shelter urged her to contact an NLSLA advocate who could help her navigate the complex family law matters that arise in the aftermath of abuse.
“I relied on NLSLA to help me re-build my life,” she said. “When I first met Ophelia, my advocate, I was immediately struck by her warmth and kindness—her ‘calor humano.’ She was my contact through everything and was so supportive. I felt I was respected and could rely on her.”
With the help of her NLSLA advocate, Ms. Ribeiro was able to obtain legal residency, file for divorce, qualify for food stamps, and obtain a work permit that would allow her to get a job and stand on her own two feet. She was also able to the required prerequisites to apply for a master’s degree in journalism.
“More people need to know about what NLSLA does because they really make a difference in people’s lives,” Ms. Ribeiro said. “They certainly made it possible for me to take up my place in the world and be useful to society again.”