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Turning Pain into Purpose: How a Survivor Became an Advocate

An Interview with Robert Farzad, Family Law Attorney and Human Options Board Member

This month, we sat down with Robert Farzad, Managing Partner of Farzad and Ochoa Family Law Attorneys and a current member of our board of directors. Robert’s passion for the work that Human Options is doing is fueled in part by his own history as a survivor of abuse in his childhood home. Today, Robert invests his time as an attorney to advocate for other survivors, and he has recently announced that he will match every donated dollar up to $5,000 this month to inspire more people to support survivors through Human Options. 

Why are you so passionate about Human Options? 

Because I am a survivor of abuse. I grew up in a home where there was quite a bit of abuse. As a child, I wasn’t aware that it was such a big issue. It was just my ugly reality. But when I became an adult and started pursuing a law degree, it haunted me. It was a subject I didn’t talk about with anyone. I didn’t even want to be in a room where it was discussed. Then, I woke up one day and realized that I had a life experience that is incredibly valuable to victims and their children. I wondered,”Why am I not using this to help others?” So I decided to make a concerted effort to help victims of domestic violence any way that I can. 

What did you experience as a child growing up in an abusive home? 

There’s a level of confusion and insecurity that leaves a child in constant fear when they grow up in an environment of abuse. The smallest spark can set off an explosion. To make things even more complex, it involves your parents, people that children are supposed to be able to rely upon to keep you safe. That’s incredibly paralyzing. My mother tried to protect us, but she did so at her own expense. As a child, you don’t have a larger worldview to understand that this isn’t acceptable behavior. It’s the only life you know. 

What would you say to a parent who is enduring abuse within their home and feels fearful of trying to break free?

It’s critical to protect your children from experiencing more abuse, so we need to get you and them out of that situation as quickly as possible. I know it might feel scary to think about leaving, but everything you want for you and your children is on the other side of fear. You may not be able to see past the fear of more abuse right now, but I’m here to tell you that there is hope and I am proof of that. I know from personal experience that it will get better. You simply need to get out and get safe. And that’s what Human Options is here to help you do. Keep in mind that you’re not just doing it for your children. You’re doing it for your grandchildren and great grandchildren. Break the cycle of violence now, so that it won’t be perpetuated into the next generation. 

What part do you play in helping survivors on their path to healing?
I am part of the legal support team that helps advise and represent survivors. We help them get restraining orders and give them a chance to live an independent, healthy life. Far too often within divorce proceedings, perpetrators will use intimidation tactics to manipulate their victim. I, along with many other attorneys working with Human Options, support survivors and make sure they are legally protected moving forward. If fear is a stormy sea, then we are the navigators, helping you and your family get to the other side. 

What is your motivation behind you and your wife Melissa providing a matching grant of up to $5,000 for the upcoming Giving Day?

We believe in what Human Options is doing. I don’t know of any organization that is working harder to protect families facing relationship violence. Human Options is so much more than a shelter. They support every aspect of a survivor’s recovery, from counseling to legal aid. This is our way of further supporting families that are enduring relationship violence in the home, families just like mine growing up. 

If you would like to find out more about doubling your financial gift to Human Options, please click here


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