Pei’s Story: “I want to build a world where our daughters and sons will feel safe.”

Pei came to Sanctuary in 2010, seeking legal services after escaping abuse. With the support of the Legal Center, and the help of dedicated pro bono attorneys, Pei obtained a five-year order of protection, sole custody of her daughter, and assistance obtaining immigration status.

Today, Pei has transformed her life. She holds a Masters Degree, a dream job, and is a committed survivor-advocate with Sanctuary’s Mentors Program.

How did Pei do it? This is Pei’s story, in her own words:

I am originally from Taiwan. I am a domestic violence survivor, and a client of Sanctuary for Families. The Director of Sanctuary’s Legal Center, Dorchen Leidholdt, and her legal team have been some of my biggest supporters since 2010.

I had never imagined myself as a victim of domestic violence until I was severely abused, mentally, and physically, by my ex-boyfriend who is the father of my child. After my child was born, I realized that I had to leave the abusive relationship in order to keep my daughter safe.

I moved into a domestic violence shelter on the day my daughter turned 6 months old, because I was afraid for our lives.

Since 2010, the team at Sanctuary for Families has been there for us every step of the way. The legal team helped me obtain my five year Order of Protection, which also includes my child, as well as sole custody and a visa to stay legally in the country with my family.

I was able to return to my school and I received a Master’s Degree in 2011. Today I work professionally as a partner of a technology company and an educator, while raising my family.

I am now a Sanctuary for Families Mentor and advocate for domestic violence survivors, because I want to help other victims and survivors to receive the support that they need to rebuild their lives, and become their own hero(ine)s.

I understand that gender based violence, domestic violence, and violence against transgender and LGBTQ communities are serious crimes, that I can help educate to eradicate. I do this because I want to build a world where our daughters and sons will feel safe.

Sanctuary could not have provided these services to Pei without the support of long-time Sanctuary pro bono partner Weil, Gotschal & Manges. Pei worked with a pro bono team from Weil for over two years. Of her experience working with Weil, Pei explains:

It was a completely life changing event to work with the team that had respected me like a client of their own, and not a victim who has no choice.

For as long as my case took to resolve, the team from Weil became part of the life that I was in, and gave me the support that helped me feel safe in hard times. The feeling went on and stayed with me long after the court case was over.

I have such a deep gratitude and warm feelings when I think of the team, for it reminds me of how far some people had gone out of their way to help me and my daughter, and how precious this life is — to have such an experience.

Pei is today a member of Sanctuary’s Mentors Program, which was established in 1995 to provide past clients the opportunity to become powerful advocates for ending gender violence. Pei shares her experience of being a Mentor:

My fellow Mentors serve as volunteer advocates for victims of teen dating violence, victims of violence in NYCHA housing, and others. We participate in marches, walks and marathon to raise awareness about gender based violence, and accompany clients to their court appearances.

We educate ourselves by attending conferences, workshops and meetings on domestic violence, where we also learn new skills to help other victims. We speak about our experiences to large or small groups of audiences in health centers and community centers – recently we gave a talk at the organization Non Traditional Employment for Woman (NEW-NYC), where we met other inspiring heroines.

I am grateful to get to know and share my life with a group of amazing domestic violence survivors who so bravely go out and touch people’s hearts. I enjoy learning their stories and I admire how them. I hold the time that I spend with other Mentors dearly, and it gives me time to breathe and to sit down and simply share my experience and emotions without the feeling of being judged.

The Mentors Program has done a lot for my life after the abuse, and helped me rebuild my life, my personality, and my self-esteem with a supportive network. It gives me a way to give back after all the help I received from Sanctuary, and to help others who are on his or her journey of recovery from an abusive and terrifying past.

Pei, along with Julia, another survivor-advocate from the Mentors Program, will be riding 40 miles in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour as part of Sanctuary for Families’ Bike Tour team. You can contribute to Pei and Julia’s ride and fundraising campaign. Find out how.