Three and a half years ago, at 3 o’clock in the morning, I sat at a worn table in a domestic violence shelter. I was preparing for the most important battle of my life: custody of my daughters. My daughters slept, upstairs in one of the shelter’s tiny bedrooms as I tried to figure out how to prepare my affidavit for court. I was sorely unprepared for the task before me.
It seems in life there comes a moment that defines the very essence of who we are meant to be. Often, those moments do not seem special or life-affirming until months or even years later. However, while preparing that affidavit for court, the fact that I was a high school dropout with a GED did not even cross my mind. The pain and fear that came with the severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse I had suffered throughout my ten-year marriage did not deter my focus. In those early morning hours, it became evident that I had found my place in this world. Writing that affidavit was akin to breathing; it came naturally and flowed with a depth of insight and instinctual knowledge I had never realized I possessed. In that moment, I found my purpose and my future: to become an attorney.
It took ten months and four court proceedings to retain custody of my daughters and for my ex-husband to plead no contest to domestic assault. During this time I worked tirelessly on these cases. I learned how to build a case, research case law, develop a case theory, and by the last hearing I was representing myself. I was successful in every hearing. Additionally, I experienced first-hand the limitations and hardships survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their children face within the legal system. The impact of this situation on my life has not faded over time. On the contrary, it has created a deep passion for the law. Because of the personal understanding I gained through these difficult experiences, I believe that acquiring a law degree is not only the best way I can truly protect my own children, but will enable me to help other survivors protect theirs as well.
I have been successful because I have not allowed anything to avert my focus. I have achieved every goal I have set in the last three and a half years, and will achieve every goal I have set for my future. I have gone to school year-round, raised my children without support, achieved academic excellence, and have loved every moment along the way. Not only will I be the first woman in my family to graduate from college: I will graduate with honors.
The love I have for my children has ignited within me a passion for the law that is undeniable. This internal fire will not be extinguished. I will advocate on behalf of victims and in doing so I hope to empower them to choose a life free of domestic and sexual violence. Three and a half years ago, the law was my strength and protection. Now it is my future.