By: Gabrielle Friedman
This post originally appeared at Apna Ghar here.
As a legal advocate with Apna Ghar, I share information with immigrant survivors of gender-based violence about their rights so that they can seek remedies and protections. I refer them to pro-bono and legal aid attorneys and I provide emotional support at court dates. In some cases, I provide interpretation and translation for French-speaking clients from Africa so that they can communicate with their attorneys or voice their stories in an affidavit.
When I’m not at Apna Ghar, I live in an intentional Jewish community. I travel from our bayit to Apna Ghar-from our home to our home. I came to Apna Ghar through AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. Through this placement, I have found new strength in my spirituality. I say the words of the Hashkiveinu, “Spread over us the shelter of your peace,” and I feel supported in my hope for the protection of all people.
The survivors who are my clients belong to different ethnicities, religions, and cultures, and they speak many different languages. Although their journeys are diverse, each woman has found a home at Apna Ghar. While their voices and stories are unique, their choice to confide in me is shared. In this way, my clients teach me about their experience, and I learn enough to provide them with accurate information and appropriate referrals. I respect their choices and support them in their goals.
At Apna Ghar, I witness courage, generosity, resourcefulness, resilience, and determination. I speak with women who are brave enough to share what felt private, to refuse to be victims, and to voice their needs. These women trust me to be their advocate although I do not speak their language, may never have lived in their country, or met someone from their culture. I see women determined to claim their rights, protect themselves and their children, and find ways to heal from trauma. I see women who are resilient in the face of adversity, and who draw upon internal strengths, community, friends, family, and education as resources that allow them to thrive. Despite experiencing abuse that alienated them from society and undermined their sense of self, the women I know here are achieving belonging and independence. These women are determined to live happy and healthy lives.
The partnership between Apna Ghar and AVODAH has grounded me. From the women who are my clients, I have learned that we can create a home when we build caring and safe relationships-which require taking good care of ourselves. There is no more that I could have asked for this year beyond feeling at home in an imperfect world.
Gabrielle Friedman is from Newton, MA and attended Middlebury College. As an AVODAH Chicago Corps member, she works as a legal advocate at Apna Ghar, which provides culturally-appropriate, multilingual services, including emergency shelter, to survivors of domestic abuse with a primary focus on the South Asian and other immigrant communities.