"My story is long and complicated, I can tell you that I dated my ex-husband for 5 years but what I didn’t know was that to him marriage meant ownership.

Soon after the wedding he turned controlling and abusive.  I didn’t want that kind of life for myself or my child, so I made the decision to leave while I was pregnant just 10 months into our marriage.

I am here to tell you that domestic violence doesn’t end when you leave the abuser, especially if you have children.  For me, leaving was just the beginning.

I couldn’t afford a lawyer, so Greater Boston Legal Services helped me win a divorce and full physical custody.  When my ex hired a lawyer to challenge the permanent restraining order, GBLS referred me to a pro bono attorney from Foley Hoag. He represented me, and the restraining order stayed in place. (I think he’s here today. Thank you Tom)

For years after the divorce, my ex-husband stalked and harassed me. He paid people to follow me and I was forced to move several times. When I finally found a place where I felt safe, he placed a GPS on my car so he could track every move I made. By then I was in MetroWest Legal Services’ service area and they’ve been at my side in and out of court more times than I can count since 2008.

The low point for me came in 2010, one week before we were schedule to go to trial about the physical and legal custody of our 5 year old daughter, my ex took her and drove her across country without my knowledge or my consent. My legal aid attorney and I were in court every day for a week fighting to get her back.  I was terrified I would never see her again.  It was only under threat from the court and the police that he brought her back. This led to kidnapping charges.

After the kidnapping, again with MetroWest’s help, I was granted full legal custody, and my ex-husband allowed only strictly supervised visitation. He refused to cooperate and did his best to undermine the order. Eventually, he left the country.

When I told my supervisor why I needed time off to speak here today, I told her “I have to do this, because without the help my legal aid attorneys provided, I couldn’t have done it.  Without them, who knows what would have happened?”

The help I received from GBLS, MetroWest Legal Services and Foley Hoag allowed me to rebuild my life, keep my job, and build a safe and stable home for my children.

I’m very grateful."