Abused Mother Seeks Education, Independence For Her Two Children
This story is part of HuffPost Impact's 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.
When Lucia Duran was growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, she had to work. She had 10 brothers and sisters, and her childhood was spent taking care of them and the home. If she made a mistake, if something wasn't cleaned or cooked properly, her parents would become abusive. She didn't have much education and her future looked like one of labor and poverty.
So, when she was 16 years old, Lucia decided that the best way out of this situation would be to get married and leave her house. Unfortunately, this relationship didn't treat her much kinder. Her new husband abused her as well, and with no home to go back to, she left the country.
Lucia had brothers in the U.S. under political asylum, and in 1988 she received Temporary Protected Status and moved to Las Vegas. Her daughter, Fatima, was born in 1990. Things were looking up.
Leaving Las Vegas
Lucia worked as a housekeeper and rented a room from her brother in Las Vegas. Fatima went to school and, for a time, her father was still in the house. It wasn't long, however, before the abuse began anew. I asked Fatima Duran how much she remembered, and what that time was like.
"I have both positive and negative memories," she told me. "He was also Salvadorean but he met my mom in Vegas."
Both Fatima and Lucia told me that the time carried a lot of tension, but they were hesitant to go into details about the specific abuse.
In 1998, Lucia finally took Fatima away from her abusive father and moved to San Francisco.
Breaking Free and Seeking Help
Fatima told me that her mother placed a heavy emphasis on education, as she had to grow up without one.
"Growing up, school was always first" she said. "She would always tell me, 'The way for you to have a place and have self-worth is to be educated. I want you to have it, no matter how hard that may be.' It was kind of like this pressure that she put on me, but I was able to take up on my own, not only for her but also for myself. It was something that I wanted to do. I realized that in order to show my gratitude for everything that she's done -- I should work hard."
Fatima is now a student at the University of San Francisco, double majoring in Media and Latin American studies. Her mother, despite all of her work, however, is still in need of help.
A few years ago she met another man, and thought that things might be different this time around. He was supporting her, since she hurt her back and hasn't been able to continue working as a housekeeper. Three years ago, she got pregnant. That's when things began to unravel.
"The pregnancy was rough," Lucia said. "He threatened to kill me, to cut my head off. I was alone for most of the pregnancy." Her husband tried to stay when Lucia's son, Juan Pablo, was born, but his violent tendencies made her too afraid to stay in the relationship.
Now that Fatima was growing up and she had another newborn son, Lucia decided to finally seek help. At Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, she found people who understood and were able to help her take control of her life. Lucia's case manager there was vital to helping her make the decision to leave her husband. She's also spent considerable time in domestic violence support groups, and she's met others who share similar experiences.
"On November 14, 2008, I put in for a divorce," she said. "I stayed at home and changed the locks. I found a great deal of strength from joining these support groups. It made me feel like I'm not the only one going through these issues. I've made a lot of good friends."
Juan Pablo is now two years old, and mother and son still visit Homeless Prenatal for further support and for training for the future. They've had such a positive effect on Lucia, that she now wants to be a case manager herself, something that Homeless Prenatal encourages.
"After all the help I've received, I'd like to use that to help other people. Something to give back."
The Homeless Prenatal Program provides new mothers or pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care, counseling and psychological services.
While Homeless Prenatal Program has been a blessing to her and her family, her injury still prevents her from working consistently, and they need help. She lives off of $500 every month to pay rent and buy food. Luckily, she doesn't have to worry about paying Homeless Prenatal for the therapy she receives and the counseling for Juan Pablo, who witnessed domestic violence early in life.
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