Content Warning: This story includes depictions of domestic abuse and gender-based violence that may not be suitable for all audiences.
On the day “Maria” fled from her abusive husband, he had threatened to cut her up into a million pieces and throw her in the ocean. Since Maria was an undocumented immigrant, he told her, “you don’t have an I.D., you don’t have a social security number, no one knows you. You are a nobody. NOBODY would even care,” and she believed him.
After enduring many years of violence and fearing for her life, Maria fled with her 4 small children and ended up in a rural town where she had family. She couldn’t stay with her brother because her husband knew where he lived, so her brother found her safe housing near his apartment. A few days after her escape, she could see her husband parked across the street in a store parking lot spying on her brother’s house, waiting for her to come out. She knew he would kill her if he found her. So, for the next couple of days, she spent time locked in her home with her lights turned off, peeking through the curtains, and praying that he would leave and never find her. Eventually, he left. Maria and her children were finally safe, but they had much healing to do.
Following her escape, Maria found YWCA Walla Walla, where she was able to begin building a new future for herself and her family. It took years of hard work, but with YWCA’s support, Maria became eligible to apply for an immigration visa and was able to secure permanent residency for her and her children. She also received comprehensive support and services for the violence and trauma she experienced. Empowered by these victories, Maria became a community champion, helping other survivors who needed help connecting with YWCA Walla Walla’s domestic violence and sexual assault services.
After overcoming so much trauma and with the proper support, Maria was able to move from surviving to thriving. Sadly, in December 2020 she contracted COVID-19 and passed away days later. Her death has greatly affected the community, but thankfully her close relationship with YWCA Walla Walla means her family will always be taken care of. Although she tragically lost her battle with the virus, her story continues to be a testament to overcoming trauma and moving beyond resilience.
It’s stories like this that reinforce the importance of our annual Week Without Violence which aims to raise awareness and engage in action to end the broad spectrum of violence that women, girls, and people of color across the U.S. and around the world face every day. Stories of violence, survival, and resilience have become too common. Too often, narratives around domestic and gender-based violence focus on survivors’ individual endurance through multiple and overwhelming sources of adversity. However, stories like these also leave us with questions like, what’s next for Maria? How is she doing now? How can we help her thrive?
This year, our theme ‘Beyond Resilience: From Surviving to Thriving!’ highlights why the conversation around violence should shift from the focus on survivor’s endurance, and instead center their healing and renew our collective commitment to putting an end to all forms of violence – creating an environment where survivors can have the healthy, safe, and just futures they deserve.
As the largest network of domestic and sexual violence service providers in the country, we know that survivors – like all of us – are human, not superheroes. Despite their incredible stories of perseverance and resilience, survivors – like all of us– need time and space to heal and the necessary support and resources they need to foster thriving futures.
You can help more survivors like Maria move beyond resilience by joining us October 18-23, for Week Without Violence . We hope that you will engage with us during our Week of Action as we share materials and resources that support and empower survivors; hold important conversations with partner organizations, elected officials, community leaders, and other advocates; call on Congress to cosponsor and pass FVSPA and VAWA; and more with a common goal in mind – to help survivors move beyond resilience, from surviving to thriving, and to end gender-based and domestic violence.