They may be different ages, enjoy different foods and have different hobbies.
But the 26 women gathered at the Anaheim Family Justice Center for Thursday’s 2nd Survivor Academy kick-off have one thing in common: Domestic violence.
Wearing a black sweatshirt and black pants, “Estella” introduced herself as an Anaheim resident who enjoys carne asada.
What she didn’t share was the reason she was there.
“She had a gun pulled on her. Her husband pulled the trigger but because there was no bullet in the chamber it did not kill her,” said Elia Renteria, a center advocate.
Estella remained in hiding for two days until her family brought her to AFJC.
During the innovative 10-week academy – funded in part by a $2,500 donation from the Anaheim Rotary Club – the women work with counselors and other experts to build self-worth. They also learn other skills that empower them with tools to leave abusive relationships.
Many have multiple children. Some rocked infants during their introductions. A few still wore wedding rings. “A lot of them are still scared,” she said. “Many of them have never worked outside the home before, so they don’t realize what they are capable of, and they stay in the relationships.”
Wearing sunglasses to hide facial bruises, “Maria,” 21, arrived at AFJC about three weeks ago with her children, 3 and 1. All she had – literally – was the clothing on her back.
After beating her, her husband burned all her clothing.
“Unfortunately, the tragedy of violence in our community is a very real experience for too many women,” said Kerith Dilley, Executive Director of the AFJC Foundation. “However, with financial help from our community we can provide them opportunities to discover and recognize their innate talents and skills, so they can begin transforming their lives and the lives of their children.”