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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.
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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

Emma was a hardworking mother. While taking care of her family, she was suffering in silence, enduring physical, emotional, and verbal abuse by her husband. He was controlling what she was doing, where she was going, and would get upset whenever she returned home from work late, escalating to a point where she was held at gunpoint by him. She was scared to lose her life and leave her children without a mother. Isolated from her family and friends, Emma felt helpless and alone. She noticed her eldest daughter was beginning to understand what domestic violence was. Keeping her newborn and children safe was her priority. She was determined to seek help and leave the abusive relationship. Her desire to start a new life away from abuse is what led her to Human Options.  

Emma reached out to our Hotline and entered our emergency shelter. At first, she was afraid of going into a shelter but knew she had made the right decision. She was very impressed with the facility and was not expecting our shelter to look like a normal and safe place. She felt relief once she got to shelter with her children. Emma was eager to learn and participate in the services available to her. Because she felt supported and safe, Emma was continuously working hard to meet her goals.

Emma is currently in our Family Healing program working alongside her case manager to create a plan to establish a new life in California. She feels safe and now hopeful for her and her children.  

SURVIVOR STORY

Aubrey had her own catering business, priding herself in being a strong and hardworking woman. Throughout her career, Aubrey endured years of emotional, psychological, physical, and financial abuse from her husband Michael. He kept her isolated and destroyed her mental health by keeping her under constant stress and anxiety. As she volunteered at their children’s school, she had learned about domestic violence and supportive services. She slowly started to participate in a support group and develop a safety plan while Michael was at work.  

One night, Aubrey was getting ready to leave for a catering event when Michael changed his mind about watching their kids. She tried to reason with him, but he just kept yelling at her to shut up. Michael became enraged and threatened Aubrey with his closed fist against her face. Michael’s violence was increasing so she started to actively work on her safety plan. With a safety plan she was able to flee the abuse, Aubrey was forced to make a decision between focusing on her and her children’s safety and wellbeing or  keeping her business afloat. A business she worked so hard to establish to support herself and her two little boys.

Aubrey was connected to Human Options through her case manager, who helped her call the hotline. Upon entering the shelter, it was clear how much emotional and psychological abuse she had endured. Every time Aubrey would talk about the abuse or Michael, she would get emotional and cry. When she met with her legal advocate, she was hesitant about filing for a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (DVTRO).  After participating in our shelter, Personal Empowerment Program and counseling, she decided to file for a DVTRO. Aubrey attended a Family Law Clinic to review her declaration. The volunteer attorney reviewed her declaration and provided feedback. From there our Legal Advocacy team helped her file a DVTRO. She obtained the DVTRO and secured a move out order. Aubrey was still extremely nervous about court, especially after not having seen Michael for a long time. Through HO’s Pro Bono Volunteer Program, our Legal Advocacy team successfully linked Aubrey to a family law attorney.

After entering Second Step, she was able to return home. After several months of uncertainty about her housing situation, Aubrey was able to go back home with her children. She continues to receive Legal Advocacy services and her Legal Advocate will be providing court accompaniment for her next Restraining Order hearing. She shared, “my children need me to be strong and I have to show them I can do this”.  

SURVIVOR STORY

Prior to participating in Human Options services, Bailey was working in the educational field, living with her partner Oliver and was expecting her first child. During her pregnancy, she noticed Oliver’s unusual behavior. He gradually began to abuse her physically and verbally. After her first daughter was born, the physical and verbal abuse intensified as he began to financially abuse her. He falsified her credit card information which alerted Bailey to act, choosing what is best for her and her daughter’s future. She reached out for help in hopes of obtaining a restraining order but was unsuccessful. Distressed and feeling trapped, she stayed in the relationship and tried to make it work. After two years, she became pregnant again and shortly after began to receive eviction notices. Bailey discovered that for the past few months, Oliver had been withholding funds for himself from her bank account, funds that she had set aside to pay rent. With escalating threats and the risk of being homeless, she took a leap of faith and began to look into a restraining order once again.

After recognizing she needed to find a way to get out while working through the restraining order process, she connected with Human Options and found assistance right away. She was linked to a Case Manager, who then assisted her to find housing. After having been qualified and accepted, she was able to move into her new apartment. Bailey feels she now has the freedom to fight for herself and her kids. She can provide a safe space for her children to grow and learn in a healthier environment free of fear.

SURVIVOR STORY

Aurora was a stay-at-home mom taking care of her four children and struggling to find stable housing. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she worked to support her family but quit her job after she had her youngest son. She always tried to make the relationship with her abusive partner work because she wanted her children to have both parents in their lives. Unfortunately, Aurora was forced to move to keep her family safe. Before arriving to Human Options, they had stayed at another emergency shelter. Aurora did not have a restraining order against her abusive partner and would allow him to visit the children in a safe place. One night, he followed her and tried forcing his way inside through the window and broke the screen. She was terrified that he would hurt her and force them to return home. Aurora informed the manager, and the police were called. They were safely transferred and entered our shelter.

Upon her arrival, Aurora was connected to case management, therapy, and legal advocacy services. She had obtained a Temporary Restraining Order and needed assistance preparing for her upcoming hearing. Her legal advocate Amelia helped her prepare for her Domestic Violence Restraining Order hearing, supplied education on immigration relief, provided transportation and accompanied her to court. With this support, she was able to obtain a three-year restraining order after the hearing with full legal and physical custody of her children. Aurora was filled with mixed emotions but understood that obtaining this order was going to keep her and her children safe. Her abusive partner remains in jail and has criminal charges pending. Since entering our shelter, Aurora is grateful for the support she’s received. Currently, she is working with her legal advocate to connect with an immigration clinic to learn more about the U-Visa and if she qualifies. She continues to work with her case manager and therapist, attending groups weekly as part of her healing journey.

SURVIVOR STORY

Taylor recently immigrated from Japan to the US in search of a better life with more opportunities. In pursuit of her dreams, Taylor wasted no time. She dedicated herself to achieving independence, actively participating in language learning classes and acquiring general educational credits. She was doing well until she entered a relationship that was abusive. She slowly lost her independence, resigned from her jobs, and discontinued her education due to the direct impact of the abuse she experienced. Her isolation deepened when she became pregnant and couldn’t see a way out of her relationship. With no family and loved ones around during her son’s early years, she continued to endure instances of abuse. Taylor made the courageous decision to leave, but the long-lasting effects of the abuse lingered. She was experiencing anxiety and depression and decided to seek help.

Taylor reached out to Human Options directly, called the Hotline and was connected to our services. She accessed both legal and counseling services though our Newport-Mesa Family Resource Center. Once she began counseling, there were noticeable differences in her demeanor. Taylor began expressing her opinions and emotions more freely, started implementing self-care into her daily routine, reducing her anxiety and depressive symptoms, and allowed her to invest more care into her appearance. Once her sessions concluded, it was apparent that her journey towards reclaiming herself was unmistakable, and the joy she radiated by the end of treatment was genuinely heartwarming. She has regained her independence, creating her own next steps and plans to continue to practice self-care and push herself to do things she once loved and wanted to pursue.  

SURVIVOR STORY

When Grace was 15 years old she fell in love with 25 year old Matt. Things were great the first few years. They got married and had their first child when Grace was 18. Shortly after their oldest daughter was born Grace and Matt started having arguments about his drinking. She would tell him if he did not stop drinking so much, she was going to leave him with their daughter. After one of their arguments Matt got up abruptly and grabbed Grace by the throat, lifted her off the floor and dropped her down. She went to bed confused and scared that night that something was very wrong and that the relationship she thought was “normal” was not what she thought. The next day Matt acted as if nothing happened, leaving Grace feeling trapped and fearful of being physically harmed again. When she told him she wanted space he refused and said it would not happen again as long as she stopped questioning and telling him what to do. When Grace worked, Matt would not financially provide for Grace or their children. He would tell her that if she wanted financial support from him, she had to quit her job, which she eventually did. This cycle repeated itself. 

Things changed for Grace. She was now a mother of three children, hiding in the shadows of her husbands abuse. She did as he said and when she did not, she saw the repercussions, through emotional and psychological abuse. He had taken her power and control away from her. Grace needed some reprieve and started working again. This was a recipe for more abuse and turmoil. People would tell her she should feel lucky her husband did not want her to work, but Grace felt she was under a microscope with no freedom. Matt would not allow her to shower alone, he had to be in the bathroom with her or in the shower. Grace had to facetime him minutes before clocking in because he wanted to see her clock in and make sure she was at work. He demanded she call him during her lunch, breaks, after work and was expected to be home at the same time and if not, he accused her of infidelity. When she did not do what he wanted the arguments would escalate at home. He would throw things across the room or involve the children in their arguments. She was terrified of him and what he would do to their children. Grace started to notice the fear in her children’s faces when he would come home and into the room.  

This continued for several months until one day during one of the daily arguments, her 10 year old daughter called the police because she was scared and couldn’t handle the constant degrading and yelling at her mother. When the officers arrived to her home, Grace met Human Options DV Advocate, and was given shelter information, offered therapy, personal empowerment classes, and legal advocacy. Grace wasn’t ready yet to utilize services and spent the night at a motel with her children. Matt did not stop calling her that night, with 422 missed calls from him. Grace did not know what to do, she felt even more lost and hopeless. Matt knew exactly what to say to Grace, apologizing, assuring her he would change and so Grace and her children ended up back with Matt.

Grace maintained contact with DV Advocate but was being surveilled by Matt. Although she wanted help, Grace feared Matt would find out she was in contact with Human Options. With all the tracking, phone calls and texts, Grace had to be creative about how to get help. She signed her children up for art classes at the local Family Resource Center, where she was able to work with one of Human Options’ Legal Advocates during their art classes to obtain a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (DVRO) along with a move out order. This led to Matt being arrested since he refused to comply with the orders.

Grace is still nervous about filing documents in court, but expressed that she is now more hopeful after being granted the DVRO. She did not think she had enough evidence and was terrified of taking the necessary steps to leave because her husband controlled everything. She would say “Sometimes I felt like a single fish in a tiny fishbowl” because he always wanted to know her every move.

Her next step is to file for divorce and attend a family law clinic with the Legal Advocacy team to learn more about her rights and protections. She also plans to start counseling for her and children to work through the trauma all they endured the last several years. Grace is empowered now to call law enforcement for assistance, and feels confident using her DVRO. 

“I knew services existed, but my husband would not hit me so I thought I was ineligible. No one believed the abuse I was going through was actual abuse. I felt crazy. It is still unreal that a judge believed me and said what I went through was domestic violence.” – Mother & Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

Quinn, mother of three, was a supervision aide at an elementary school and worked evenings at a laundry mat. She enjoyed working at the school and found her work impactful in children’s lives giving her a sense of giving back to her community. Quinn put her children first juggling two jobs to meet her children’s needs and to keep up with bills. When Quinn met David she began to get isolated from her family and was told by him to give up a job in order to spend more time together. Quinn began to see red flags and wanted to leave David, but he would say he would change and would shower her with gifts and affection. After a short period, David would revert back to his behavior and would threaten Quinn saying he would harm her and her children. Quinn was stuck in a cycle that just kept repeating with David, but would stay hoping things would get better. Quinn knew this wasn’t the life her children deserved and needed to protect her family.  Quinn found the strength to get out when her friend shared about Human Options and gave her the hotline number. 

Quinn and her children were accepted to Human Options’ transitional housing program. In the beginning Quinn was having a hard time not having a job, adjusting and transitioning to the program because she would constantly think about how she got to where she was, thinking about her time before meeting David when things were safe and stable. Quinn would breakdown crying and panicking while her children were in school, feeling lost and alone. Quinn expressed feeling overwhelmed in knowing her housing situation was only temporary and did not know if she could get back on her feet ever again. Working with the Human Options team, Quinn focused on taking one step at a time determined to get into a more secure, safe and stable situation. She developed a plan to focus on her mental health and wellbeing and get herself back on track. Quinn was starting to heal from the trauma and knew employment was her goal to start making an income. She was provided with a Job Fair flyer happening in the community one weekend. Quinn took the initiative to attend the job fair and was hired on the spot for Parks and Recreation through the city working with children. Since starting her position with the city, Quinn has been in a brighter mood and smiling more. She enjoys working with the children at her job and has a healthy work environment. With this job Quinn has been able to get back on her feet, taking one step forward at a time.

Quinn shared wanting to increase her income in order to apply for apartments near her work. Despite what happened in her life Quinn continued to keep going and pushing. She was able to increase her income and feels so empowered she was able to accomplish this by not giving up and utilizing the resources and support around her. Quinn is actively showing her children that through determination, being resourceful and not giving up, anything can be possible. She continues to work through her trauma and working towards a more permanent living situation.

“Thank you for sharing this opportunity to find a job. I have gone from earning $15/hr to $20/hr.” – Mother & Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

27 year old Charlie was an independent, strong willed person before meeting her partner. She was a California native who loved growing up in Southern California. She was secure in and loved her job as a business associate, and had many hobbies like working out and going to the beach. She cared for herself for as long as she could remember. Even though she was not as close as she wanted to be with her family, she always made it a point to keep in contact and maintain some sort of relationship with them as an adult. After meeting her partner, she was convinced to move out of state to Texas for her partner’s job. That’s when things started to change for Charlie. Charlie got married just 6 months into the relationship and moving in with her partner and had two children shortly after getting married. Her identity changed. For starters her partner didn’t allow her to work and wanted her to be a “stay at home housewife and mother.” Her partner made all the money in the household, but Charlie did not see nor enjoy any of that income both for her and her children. For years, Charlie quietly endured both emotional and physical abuse so that her children wouldn’t know. She would get yelled at and berated on a daily basis and when she tried to stand up for herself she would get badly beaten. Because of the financial abuse, she ended up going into debt, and has since been in heightened state of survival to protect herself and her two children under the age of three.  

Knowing that she had no access to support in Texas, one day Charlie built the courage to get in the car with her two children and drive from Texas to California. She wanted to be back in an environment she knew and felt safe in. Unfortunately, her family was not supportive and wanted her to work things out. She even tried with her younger sister, but due to her own struggles, help was nowhere to be found. Charlie went into an emergency shelter in Long Beach but needed something more long term. She was living out of her car with her children for some time until she learned about Human Options’ transitional housing program. Being a strong willed person, Charlie connected with a case manager and advocated for her and her children to be accepted into one of the units.

Since moving to our transitional housing program, Charlie has always been on top of her goals and shows how determined she is to better her life for her and her children. Charlie knows that the journey to healing and full independence will take time but she is committed to everything that’s been offered to her. Since moving into her unit with her children, she has been actively looking for jobs in hopes to start building an income. Although she does not have a reliable source of income yet , she has been working with our partners at Sparkpoint to increase her credit to get herself back on track.

Charlie wants to be better off than when she left her life in Texas and go back to what things were like before getting into the abusive relationship. She has been gradually working to remove the many barriers she’s experienced from the being in a dangerous relationship, to her financial troubles, to rebuilding her support network. Although she is in temporary housing, Charlie and her children are safe, happy, and on the road to a more stable life. Her end goal is finding a good job, her children in daycare, and all of them living in permanent housing.

When Charlie was asked about a quote that speaks to her and her experience, she shared, “Life is like a book, and this is just a chapter. Not every chapter is good. But the end can still be great.” Charlie and her children are now able to go to the beach, live a violence free life and are finally on the journey of healing.

SURVIVOR STORY

Casey was a budding entrepreneur running her own business. By age 26, she was married to her partner who she met through a mutual friend. Casey felt like she was on the path to success both professionally and personally. Everything was great and she was happy until the honeymoon phase was over with her spouse. That’s when the abuse started. Casey experienced emotional, physical, sexual, and digital abuse on an ongoing basis. Because of this continued and prolonged abuse from her partner, Casey developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with her mental health on the decline. It got so bad for her that she ended up seeking a Temporary Restraining Order. Although she had a protective order, Casey felt she always had to look over her shoulder. After her estranged spouse broke into her apartment three times she knew she needed to go into a shelter. Casey felt unsafe in her own home and knew she needed to get somewhere safe so she could begin to heal. She learned about Human Options through a Google search and was accepted into the emergency shelter.

Initially, Casey had a rough time adjusting to shelter life after being so independent. She would often feel lonely, and go to the Hotline office to talk with the advocates. Fortunately, she was able to find a healthy outlet to focus her energy on – jewelry-making. Over time, Casey began to feel more at ease at the shelter, because she was finally in a safe place and could start the healing process through counseling. Casey was able to make a safety plan for when she leaves the shelter and how to live violence free on her own.   

Casey’s next steps are to live with her mom, in a supportive, safe environment. She plans to continue attending outside therapy, and finalize her divorce in the coming months.  

“I am so grateful to be here. I haven’t felt safe in a long time.” – Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

When Joelle’s three children first came to shelter, they were extremely upset at the idea of moving schools until things were safe and free from violence. When they started attending their new school, all three children had multiple absences and had a hard time transitioning, especially her oldest son, Josh. Over time Josh’s other siblings started to enjoy their new schools and started making new friends. However, many times, Joelle had to pick up Josh from school because he was not feeling well emotionally and did not want to sit in class. Josh had a hard time focusing in school and staying present. He struggled to make friends and was extremely disconnected from his classmates and teachers. He held his head down and wouldn’t really speak to anyone. Due to the multiple absences and early pick-ups, the school proposed virtual learning for Josh.

Joelle knew that Josh needed support and time to get adjusted to all the changes he recently experienced, from fleeing a violent situation with his mom and siblings, to going to a shelter, and now attending a new school and leaving his friends behind. Joelle proposed the idea to Josh of staying at shelter and completing his schooling via virtual learning due the struggles that he was experiencing in school. Josh knew that virtual learning was not for him and would make him feel even more alone than he already was. Having shared that with his mother, Josh was resilient and knew he had to change his behaviors and outlook with his new school otherwise he would feel worse and more alone with virtual learning. He said to his mother, “Give me one more week. I will try to do better.” Trusting her son and knowing his strength and resilience, Joelle agreed to one more week back in school before considering the virtual learning option.

After one week, Josh started to build connections with the other kids in his classes and his teachers immediately noticed he was more attentive and engaged during class. Through our Children’s Program and other levels of support Josh started feeling better about going to his new school and happy about some of the new friends he started to make. His mood had drastically improved from when he first came to shelter and Joelle found that she no longer needed to pick him up from school early because he was not feeling well. Josh even started connecting and playing with the other children at the shelter and started to find his smile once again.

“I’ve made some new friends and like me teachers. I feel happy and like going to my new school.”

– Josh, Child, Survivor

SURVIVOR STORY

Adrienne was living with her newly wedded husband prior to coming to Human Options. She thought married life was going to fun and happy. They had just gotten married a few months prior when her husband began being verbally and physically abusive. Adrienne and her husband lived with her husband’s cousin who was battling addiction with drugs. Adrienne mentioned she did not know if her husband was using as well but had suspicions he was especially when he was abusing her. Her husband would go through the cycle of being abusive and then loving towards her right after. After experiencing the cycle of violence repeatedly, Adrienne could not continue living the cycle any longer and decided she needed to leave; so, she fled from the county she was living in and found safety through Human Option’s emergency shelter.  

While at shelter, Adrienne was very active and involved with the support and healing provided to her. She was very open to the services offered from legal to case management to therapeutic groups. She took a part in whatever she could. Adrienne worked with her legal advocate to file a restraining order and attended legal workshops to expand her knowledge about her rights.

Adrienne transformed from being very timid, to more vocal and outspoken. From the beginning she had a great drive for change, but throughout her time at shelter, she began the healing process and began to change and become more confident. She seemed more upbeat and happier as she accomplished her goals one at a time. When something did not work out the way she planned, she found a different option and went on to accomplish that. She truly showed her commitment to the program and herself to make change and maintain her safety. Adrienne was able to get into another program during her time at shelter and she was very excited for the opportunity. The amount of growth and healing Adrienne experienced was tremendous and was able to see for herself all that she was able to achieve. Adrienne’s story truly shows how much change can happen in such a short amount of time with the right support and access to care.

SURVIVOR STORY

Lauren, a mother of four children, entered Human Options’ emergency shelter after making the brave decision to leave her husband after facing years of abuse. In her attempt to flee their violent home, Lauren’s four children were taken by CPS due to witnessing the severity of the domestic violence incident inflected on Lauren from her abuser.

Lauren quickly got to work while she was at the emergency shelter to provide everything she needed to secure a safe future for her children. During her marriage, Lauren experienced financial abuse in which her husband made her responsible for all their expenses, including accumulating thousands of dollars in past due rent. Working closely with her case managers and housing navigator, Lauren was able to get her finances in order and identify a plan to pay off her rental arrears with the assistance of the Acceleration Fund; removing barriers preventing Lauren from securing permanent housing. All her hard work paid off as she was able to secure a 3-bedroom condominium through an Emergency Housing Voucher.

Experiencing foster care, teenage pregnancy and domestic violence all before Lauren was 24 years old, she was determined to break the cycle of abuse for her children. During her time in the emergency shelter, Lauren was able to enroll in therapy and participate in Personal Empowerment classes. For the first time in her life, Lauren expressed that she was able to learn about what healthy relationships are and pass that onto her children.

Through Human Options support, Lauren and her children were able to move into their new home just in time for the holidays. She is now empowered to continue therapy for herself and her children on their journey of healing and looks forward to reconnecting with her community to build a support system.

SURVIVOR STORY
Veronica had suffered years of abuse at the hands of her son’s father when she was 15 years old. The abuse continued from verbal to emotional and Veronica had no control over her life and body. She became pregnant at the age of 16 and gave birth to her son Gavin. Veronica knew this would be no life to build for Gavin.

During a violent incident, Veronica’s partner grabbed her by the chest and pushed her onto the wall. He shouted at Veronica to leave his home and that she better not be there when he got back. Veronica knew that those threats were not empty words. In the past he had threatened to kill her and “dispose of her body” where nobody would ever find her. Scared and unsure of what he would do to her she packed her things and left the home with her son. Veronica walked to the police station to report the abuse, but the officers were unable to help. Unsure of where to go with her son she walked to a park where a woman told her about the CHEC Family Resource Center.

Veronica entered the CHEC Family Resource Center where she found safety for her and her son for the first time in a long time. She got help from a family support advocate who helped her in receiving a couple of nights at a motel until she could get into an emergency shelter. Through the collaborative work that Human Options provides through the Family Resource Centers, Veronica was connected with our Legal Advocacy Supervisor who was able to support in getting Veronica and Gavin to our emergency shelter.

 At the shelter, Veronica participated in the Personal Empowerment Program (PEP), counseling, case management, and legal advocacy. Through legal advocacy Veronica learned about her rights and felt empowered to file a police report against her Gavin’s father. Veronica also filed a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (DVTRO) and obtained a one-year order against Gavin’s father. Through the DVTRO Veronica obtained full legal and physical custody of Gavin. Veronica attended an immigration clinic where she learned about her rights and her son’s.

Over the last several months Veronica has overcome her fear of the outside world. She started to use public transportation, something she was afraid of when she entered the shelter.

Veronica’s next steps are to find employment to provide a better life for her and Gavin. She is continuing with our services and support in hopes to find permanent housing for her and her son in the near future.

“I have to do this, I can’t be afraid all the time, I can do this. – Veronica, Mother, Survivor
SURVIVOR STORY

Coral endured a brutally abusive marriage of over 25 years. Her only memories of the marriage were years of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. Coral was broken. She had extremely low self-esteem and wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. 

Her only escape to safety was during an incident when a neighbor called the police after Coral was badly beaten up. The police arrested her partner and gave Coral an Emergency Protective Order and DV resources in her community. She was connected with Minnie Street and Corbin Family Resource Centers to get help. She was quickly able to enroll in our Legal Advocacy services having limited to no knowledge about her rights or the resources available to her two children. She admitted that she felt non-existent and had no knowledge of how to help herself or her children. 

In the beginning the Coral was adamant that she did not want a divorce or a restraining order because she was concerned her children would hate her. The advocate provided her with education on safety planning, housing rights, custody, divorce, and restraining order. After working with the Legal Advocate for a month she decided she wanted a divorce. 

Coral is now in the process of finalizing her divorce. Although it was a difficult decision to make, Coral knew it was necessary step to reclaim her power and made a powerful decision and requested a DVRO on her own. After working with the Legal Advocate and learning about her rights, Coral’s self-esteem started to improved. She started to make eye contact with the Legal Advocate.  She even declined needing court accompaniment when she wanted to file a DVRO  and told the advocate that she felt “strong enough to do what I know I have to do”. Coral may have a long road to go but she knows she is not alone, and she recognizes that she has the tools to be successful. 

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

SURVIVOR STORY

It took Mike more than two years after the fact to realize what he thought was love, was in fact abuse. When Mike met Kyle, he thought he had found his soulmate and would live out his dream of being in a loving relationship. Very quickly, Mike became extremely isolated from his friends and began limiting his social and extracurricular activities to be with Kyle.  Already not feeling safe and unsure of where to go,  Mike tried reaching out to a few friends, but every time he tried, he was not believed or his friends told him that he was a man too and to just “hit him back.”

Mike was referred to our Personal Empowerment Program (PEP) to learn about domestic violence to better learn about the cycle that he kept repeating time and time again. Mike was nervous to join the group because he was not sure how other members in the group would treat him. After the first session, Mike shared about how listening to others in the group talk about their experiences helped him to recognize many of the same warning or red flags that he had missed when he first start dating Kyle. He mentioned that the PEP group made him feel safe, more knowledgeable about his experience and most important felt heard for the first time in a long time. With the education and tools gained from the group, Mike is hopeful to break the cycle for himself in seeking healthy relationships, now has various resources for help, and working to heal and expand his support system again.

“We need more awareness about intimate abuse so people know that violence is a choice and it doesn’t discriminate based on our gender.” – Mike, Survivor 

SURVIVOR STORY

After enduring more than six years of physical, verbal, financial and emotional domestic violence, Charlotte took the first step in her healing journey by entering Human Option’s Emergency Shelter with her two children, Sara and Evan, who were only one and three years old. The last physical aggression by her partner happened in front of her children and that gave her the strength to call law enforcement. Sara, at only 3 years old, told the officer with tears in her eyes that “daddy was being very mean to mommy, broke her phone, yelled too loud and needed to go away”. High levels of stress, anxiety and worry led Charlotte to seek comprehensive care and learn about resources available to her and her children.  When Charlotte came into the emergency shelter, she found herself unemployed, working hard to maintain sobriety, unable to control anxiety attacks and unaware of the effects of domestic violence.  She often felt like an unfit mother due to the many needs of her children. In the 30 days that Charlotte and her family were at the emergency shelter, she worked with staff to safety plan and mapped out the steps she needed to live free from violence. Charlotte faced her fears and requested a restraining order, began attending empowerment and parenting classes, worked with the children’s program to improve her parenting skills, and applied to financial resources.  Although the process was tough and included multiple setbacks, she never gave up and asked to be considered for Human Option’s transitional program, Second Step. She expressed she needed more time to continue her journey and was confident the support she was receiving at Human Options was having a life-changing impact on her family. In only two months of being at Second Step, Charlotte was able to secure a restraining order, job and child care. Those achievements empowered Charlotte to have confidence in her ability to protect, care and provide for her children. Her body language changed drastically along with her kid’s behavior. While at Second Step, Charlotte also maintained her sobriety and fulfilled her biggest goal to secure permanent housing. Before leaving Second Step, Charlotte addressed her peers and shared her story so that they too felt empowered. She left by sharing that the negative thoughts and verbal abuse she suffered for many years were slowly transforming into a phrase that her case manager often shared and now lives by: “my past does not define my future” and feels like there isn’t anything she can’t overcome. Charlotte, Sara and Evan have moved into a safe home where they will build strong family bonds and continue their healing journey.  

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Empowering survivors and helping end the cycle of relationship violence in Orange County is what we do every day with the unwavering support of our community.

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Adopt-A-Family 2023

Help us adopt 75 Families this Holiday Season! We invite you to join us in helping make the holidays brighter for the families we serve! This year you can give the healing […]

9th Annual Love Shouldn’t Hurt Teen Conference

Early College High School 2990 Mesa Verde Dr E, Costa Mesa, CA, United States

For more details on the conference and our campaign, click here. To register for the conference, click here!

Sisterhood

 Join us for our Sisterhood event! Sisterhood is an opportunity for the community to come together to complete a service project in support of the families Human Options serves. View […]

40 Hour Domestic Violence Advocate Training (DVAT)

Looking to work with domestic violence survivors or just expand your knowledge? Sign up for Human Options' 40-hour state mandated workshop! Offered biannually in the Spring and Fall, this domestic violence series […]

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