How Karen Escaped Domestic Violence

 LL Sun.big file

Karen* remembers May 16, 2013 like it was yesterday. After fleeing from domestic violence (DV), Karen and her son found refuge at the transitional shelter of Asian Pacific Women’s Center (APWC) on that fateful day.  In Karen’s words, her husband had a disease and no matter what she did, she could not change him. “I decided to seek help for myself and for my son. I first found help at an emergency shelter where I lived for three months, and later at APWC’s shelter,” she said recalling the first moment she ever felt safe in her life.

Born and raised in South Korea, Karen faced both cultural and linguistic challenges when she first moved to the U.S. Before finally deciding to seek help, she contemplated the idea of reporting the abuse she was experiencing while figuring out how this would affect her son and the shame it would bring her family. In Asian & Pacific Islander (API) cultures, family matters including DV are not addressed because of the shame it may bring to the family. A study published in Violence Against Women found that immigrant API women are particularly vulnerable to DV and may feel trapped in abusive relationships because of social isolation, uncertainty about their immigration status and/or lack of financial resources.

During the time Karen was living at APWC’s shelter, she worked hard to live a “normal” life without abuse. She held a job and ensured that her son attended school on a regular basis. Karen and her son participated in individual counseling, group counseling, and other programs available, including tutoring and English as a Second Language. Her story embodies APWC’s efforts to help survivors find their personal strength, gain self-sufficiency, and lead violence-free lives. Through transitional shelters, APWC supports all DV survivors who enter their doors and continue to support those that graduate from their shelter.

Karen was fortunate to have found a home. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, DV is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. APWC helped Karen get through this chaotic time in her life. “They helped me start over and find the strength to live on my own” she said, while wiping away her tears.

Today, she lives independently in her own apartment, where her son can have his own room and where they are safe and stable. Even though she no longer resides at the APWC shelter, Karen continues to utilize APWC’s resources and services in achieving her goals. She tells the APWC staff that she is not sure what will happen in five or ten years from now, but she will continue to work as hard as she can and will always be thankful for where she is today and for the people at APWC.


*Name has been changed to protect the survivor’s privacy.

Samantha's Story

Upon meeting Samantha*, you can’t help but smile. Her bubbly personality has that exceptional ability to fill a room and everyone in it with joy. Samantha is a mom, a daughter, a nurse, a friend, and a survivor of domestic violence. She is also a recent graduate of Asian Pacific Women's Center’s transitional housing program.

Prior to coming to APWC, Samantha was in an abusive relationship with her daughter’s father for three long years, where she endured every type of abuse. He physically, emotionally and verbally abused her, belittled her and manipulated her. In 2012, with her and her daughter’s safety at risk, Samantha made the incredibly tough decision to take her daughter and leave. She went first to an emergency shelter and eventually to Asian Pacific Women's Center.

While with APWC Samantha actively participated in every service APWC had to offer including art therapy, individual counseling, women’s support group, and case management services. She improved her parenting skills, participated in vocational programs, and increased her self-esteem. As she became stronger, she built relationships with the other moms at the shelter and was always there to provide a word of encouragement, a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on.

Samantha is now working full-time as a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant), and she and her daughter have their own apartment in a great neighborhood. She continues to stay in touch with APWC staff and offer help to other survivors.


*Name has been changed to protect the survivor’s privacy.

A Survivor's Journey

Before I came to live at the shelter, I had a serious psychiatric problem. I couldn’t sleep at night and felt a lot of anxiety during the day. My mind sometimes imagined things, and I was afraid of men. Often times I cried alone and even contemplated suicide.

On September 15, 2004 I moved into the shelter. Upon arrival, Jennifer and Ivy warmly welcomed me. They explained to me the rules of the shelter, and how I should learn to live independently at the shelter. When I came to the United States, I depended totally on my husband. So at the shelter, I didn’t know how to do anything. APWC’s director Chun-Yen Chen, Jennifer and other staff were very warm to me and took care of me. They provided me with all the necessary household items. They were patient in helping me even with the smallest details. They showed me how to take the bus, where to shop for food at discount markets, located school where I can learn English, referred me for psychiatric treatment, and helped me apply for a social security card. In all, they did so many things for me. This is how I started to live at the shelter.

Now in every aspect, mentally, physically, living, and learning, I slowly begin to feel like a normal person. This is all due to the help I have received from the APWC staff. I am deeply grateful to them.

I appreciate the help that the family advocates and APWC have given me. At the shelter, I like the other residents that also live here. I like waking up every morning and looking at the sun and signing in when I go home at night. I like the free and secure life that I have here. I enjoy all the APWC activities, like talking to Jennifer, house meetings, art classes, birthday parties, and holiday meals. I love living at the shelter. I love APWC.

Written by a domestic violence survivor, translated from Chinese


Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Esther's Story

APWC Family Advocate Michelle Baek

By Michelle Baek, Former APWC Family Advocate

Esther* and her two-year-old son joined Asian Pacific Women’s Center (APWC) transitional housing program in March 2012. They escaped from an environment of chronic abuse and were referred to APWC by House of Ruth, the emergency shelter Esther and her son resided at after they left their home. Esther and her son had suffered years of physical, emotional and financial abuse from her husband. Each day was a battle for her life and her son’s life.

Esther had immigrated to the US in 2001. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree and was in the process of completing a CPA certification program when she became a victim in an abusive relationship where she lost everything: her dignity, safety, confidence and strength.  After two years, with the desire to free her son from a legacy of abuse, she overcame her fears and left her husband to seek help. Initially, they had difficulty adjusting to the new surroundings but actively participated in all of APWC’s programs, including therapeutic art, individual therapy, group support, and case management services.

While living at APWC transitional housing, she once again became enthusiastic about her future and decided to continue her career goals of becoming a CPA. With little income coming in, she applied for and received a scholarship that allowed her to pursue her education to become a CPA. Since she has come to APWC, she has actively been attending school full-time and continues to find strength to look past her violent past and struggles and move forward towards a better life. She has become one of our most self-sufficient survivors and is a model for other survivors facing the same arduous path.

Being a part of the Asian Pacific Women’s Center allowed Esther to start over. Though she must live with her past, her past does not define her future. She has proven to be determined and strong.  She gained the vigor to be self-sufficient and is creating a new life. APWC is proud to support and be witness to Esther’s past, present and future acts of courage, resilience, and achievement.

*The name has been changed to protect the survivor’s privacy.