Imagine
Living
A Life
Without
Fear

Since 1981, Human Options has impacted the lives of more than 500,000 people affected by relationship violence. 90% of survivors who completed our program have moved forward towards safety and healing. Reclaim a life free of fear for yourself or for someone you care about.

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ABOUT HUMAN OPTIONS

Human Options has impacted the lives of more than 500,000 people affected by relationship violence, and we’re just getting started.

Healing is at the heart of what we do. It takes courage, perseverance, and a strong support system. We are humbled to share these lived experiences as told by survivors to empower others on their journey. There is no one that knows this better than survivors – and that is why we share their empowering stories.

SURVIVOR STORY

57 year old Dawn was recently widowed and a retired teacher, with 2 sons and dealing with chronic health issues. She has her own apartment and her youngest adult son lives with her while attending college. She thought she could manage her health and begin to work through her grief from losing her husband, but Dawn was being verbally abused by one of her adult son’s.

Dawn’s oldest adult son Luke, lives out of state but has been blaming her for his father’s death and continues to threaten and harass her over the phone. Dawn blocked his calls, but before she did, he told her he would be coming into town “for a visit”. Dawn was extremely upset by this news because she feels her son has an undiagnosed mental illness and is worried about what he will do to her or her other son if he comes to her apartment. To add to her worries she was scared of losing her housing because if he came he would create problems for her and her neighbors.

In complete distress and fear, Dawn walked into the Human Options Business Office in crisis, in need to speak to someone immediately. Dawn was offered crisis counseling and safety planning. Once with Human Options, Dawn and her therapist developed a safety plan to keep her and her son safe. Dawn started to attend the Senior Empowerment Group, where started getting educated on the abuse and received support from other group members. Week after week, Dawn began to feel empowered and came to the conclusion that the abuse was not her fault nor did she deserve it. Dawn was thankful for the counseling and support she received from the group. Dawn thanked Human Options for all of the help she received and stated she felt more prepared and empowered after receiving services.

“I am no longer afraid of the power my son had over me, because he does not have it any more. I can finally move forward and begin the heal.” – Dawn, Wife, Mother, Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

Mia had been separated from her children for a year who were previously living at Orangewood Children’s Home, due to the extreme violence occurring in the home from their father. Mia knew that to get her children back she had to leave their father. Upon entering our emergency shelter, Mia had been working on reunifying with her four children, Mila, Derrick, Jayden, and Austin. When the kids finally arrived at our shelter, they were all dysregulated, had low self-esteem, and struggled to express their needs. There was also constant bickering and tension between the siblings. However, Mia has been able to provide stability and emotional support for her children throughout their stay at Human Options. Her kids have shown improvement in requesting for space, expressing their emotions, and self-regulating whenever they feel upset. Children’s Program have noticed they have become more confident in themselves and are able to persevere instead of giving up when an activity is too difficult. Additionally, they have constantly verbalized to staff how happy they are to be at Second Step and have learned to demonstrate compassion for one another by sharing toys, helping each other with tasks, and cheering up their siblings when they are feeling sad.

Furthermore, Mia’s school-aged children, Mila and Derrick, are both excelling in their academic studies. Mila was chosen as student of the month in her class and Derrick worked hard every day at school to make sure his project was ready in time to be put on display for Back-to-School night. When Mia’s family attended the event, Derrick proudly showed off his work and received positive feedback from both his teacher and peers.

“I never thought I would see my children smile again but now I have hope and know that we will be just fine.” – Mia, Survivor & Mother

SURVIVOR STORY

When Cindy married her husband at age 19, she would have never imagined what the next 50 years with her husband would be like. Her husband would call her names, threaten her with weapons, and demean her in front of friends and family. Growing up in a strong Catholic family, Cindy did not believe in divorce. Cindy married with the intent to be “a good wife and mother”, but did not understand it meant she had to endure her husband’s behavior and abuse….til’ death do they part?

Cindy is 69 years old, scared, alone, and living in darkness. She attempted to get help once 15 years ago when she called the police, but instead of getting the help and support she needed, her daughter refused to believe her and would not let her grandchildren come over to visit anymore. From that experience Cindy learned not to tell anyone what was really going on behind closed doors. But over time, neighbors kept calling and reporting her husband’s behavior to the police and Adult Protective Services.

Finally after numerous reports  and visits from socials workers , Cindy decided to attend a Senior Empowerment Group from our Safe Options for Seniors Program. Cindy figured it would be a good opportunity to leave the house for a few hours every week . She listened to a group of her peers explain the abuse they experienced and could relate. She slowly began opening up and sharing what she had been going through. She received feedback from group members telling her she did not need to live the way she was. After attending several sessions, Cindy finally admitted she did not want be in her abusive marriage anymore and was ready to get a divorce. She was supported by her peers in the group who gave her many words of encouragement and practical advice. Through support and the various services available to her Cindy was able to change her story. 

Cindy is 69 years old, strong, resilient, and finally moving forward with her divorce and has not looked back since making the decision to leave. She credits her decision to the education and support from the groups she attended at Human Options.

“Thank you to Human Options for helping me to heal and learn how to live again. ” – Cindy, Mother & Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

Thirty-six year old Ellie endured a traumatic three-year relationship with the father of her youngest child. Ellie experienced brutal physical and verbal abuse along with the destruction of her property from time to time. Ellie and her children were able to escape and ready to transition into the next step for safety. Ellie and her four children came to Second Step in hopes to create stability and safety for her and her children.

When Ellie started Second Step, she was on medical leave from her job as a case manager at a medical company. Her disability resulted from her relationship. Shortly after starting the Second Step program, Ellie had to testify against her aggressor, which increased her distress and anxiety. Through the services available to her through the Second Step program, Ellie began individual therapy to work on the trauma she had suffered from her ex-partner.

Ellie attended almost all the groups offered at Second Step. While she was gaining education on financial literacy, job readiness, tenant education rights, and therapeutic groups, her children were attending the therapeutic children’s program. All of her children learned how to express their emotions in a nonviolent manner. Ellie’s resilience to get the support she needed allowed her to stay focused on her goal of creating stability and safety from her ex-partner for her children. Ellie and her four children transitioned to Third Step and shortly after was offered an affordable housing opportunity through Families Forward.

“If it were not for the services, groups, and time provided by Human Options, I might have still been in that dark and dangerous relationship. Now my children have a chance towards a better well-being and life.” – Ellie, Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

Dear Human Options,
My name is Kim and I had great support from Human Option in 2006 due to domestic violence. I was really in need during that time. I remember I didn’t know how to use phone in the public phone booth, I could not drive, I did not know how to use a taxi, I was not comfortable in English…and most important I did not know my rights. Until I found Human Options.

With help from a friend, I was able to find an opening in Human Options even though was living in a different county. I still vividly remember the first day that I was escorted by the Policeman the the door at the emergency shelter.

I had gone through and completed all the programs. After that, about a year or so, I was able to stand by myself. Luckily I was able to continue my career as a computer engineer and now I could continue my career in San Francisco.

After I met the right person, I realized how the good marriage life should be and I realized how horrible monster I had lived with was. I was unaware about my rights, and how I had been mistreated by the monster. But I was able to get help and leave.

Thank you for all Human Option’s support in the past and in my most difficult times!

– Kim, Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

Thinking that dating after abuse was impossible, Miranda found love and hope once more. After five years of breaking free from her abusive partner, Miranda thought she and her children were finally free from all the trauma they endured and could start over. Until one night, her abusive partner showed up to Miranda’s new home, threatening to kill her and her new partner. Miranda’s way for safety was to obtain a Restraining Order.

Miranda called the South Orange County Family Resource Center seeking help from one of our Legal Advocates. In the past, Miranda had attempted to obtain a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (DVTRO) against her ex-partner, but because he was aware of the DVTRO, he would avoid service and Miranda was never able to serve him. Human Options’ Legal Advocacy team met with Miranda remotely and referred her to O’Melveney & Myers, a law firm that at times provide free legal assistance to Human Option’s clients. With O’Melveney’s attorney’s assistance, he was ultimately served and Miranda was able to get protection for her and her children.

Miranda was able to obtain a five-year DVRO against her ex-partner and full legal and physical custody of her children. Since Miranda was a victim of crime, she was educated on the U-Visa process, a form of immigration relief that was established for victims of crimes including domestic violence. One of the requirements to apply for the U-Visa is that the crime was reported to law enforcement and the victim cooperated with the investigation. Our Legal Advocate assisted Miranda to obtain a copy of her police report so she could attend an immigration clinic. At the clinic, she learned she qualified for the U-Visa, which she is now continuing to work towards, while she is back on the journey to healing with her children, and in a healthy relationship with her new partner.

“I didn’t think I would ever be able to move forward with my life. Human Options’ Legal Advocacy program saved my children and I from danger. I can confidently walk out my home and live my life with my new partner and safe children. ”

– Miranda, Mother & Survivor

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