Aliza* had been good friends with Steve since high school, and they began dating soon after college. Once a couple, Steve quickly became controlling and emotionally abusive. He would “punish” her whenever she did something he disapprove dof. When Steve was frustrated about being unable to hold down a job, he blamed Aliza. Over time, the abuse escalated and became physical. On several occasions, Steve strangled and hit Aliza on the head. Steve often took Aliza’s phone away from her, as a way of isolating her from friends and family. As frequently happens in the cycle of abuse, Steve would then try to hug and console her after these violent arguments. Aliza was extremely confused by the mixed signals and was too embarrassed to reach out for help.
The abuse worsened when they found out Aliza was pregnant, an escalation typical in abusive relationships.1 Fearing for her and her unborn child’s life, Aliza decided to leave the relationship and filed for a protective order2 against Steve. Then, a victim advocate connected Aliza to JCADA.
At JCADA, Aliza began to receive counseling to help her cope with and overcome the anxiety and panic attacks she had as a result of the abuse. Being an expectant mother, Aliza wanted to protect her developing baby from suffering any more negative impacts of the abuse. Abuse during pregnancy has been shown to affect the amount of cortisol, or stress hormone, present in the fetus, which can have long-term consequences for the child.3 Aliza’s clinician worked with her to learn techniques to manage stress and anxiety.
Our Legal Access Program helped connect Aliza to an attorney who worked with her to understand her rights and to strategize ways to protect herself from Steve, while also navigating how her child can have a safe relationship with him. Once the baby is born, Aliza’s attorney will return to court to modify the protective order to ensure both Aliza and her newborn’s safety. Despite Steve’s currently tenuous employment situation, Aliza is also contemplating seeking child support as she continues to plan for her future.
Thanks to JCADA, Aliza and other clients receive both the emotional and legal support they need to obtain safer living environments and a future free of abuse.
Interested in joining JCADA’s Attorney Network to assist clients like Aliza? Contact Spencer Cantrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of client.
1 Martin, S.L., Acara, J., & Pollock, M.D. (2012, December). Domestic Violence During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Retrieved Aug. 9, 2016, from: http://www.vawnet.org.
2 Domestic Violence Protective Orders. Women’s Law.org. Retrieved Aug. 9, 2016, from http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=10022&state_code=MD.
3 Michigan State University. (2014, December 16). Domestic abuse may affect children in womb. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 9, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141216100628.htm.