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Paula Lucas, a previous R.O.S.E. Award Recipient, recently spoke in Boston to share the story of her journey to success and happiness. Now, we would like to share her story with our friends and family.
Paula Lucas attended school in California. Shortly thereafter, she fell in love with and married a Pakistani refugee who was working as a photographic journalist. After a few years, the couple moved to the United Arab Emirates, when Paula’s husband gained United States citizenship. Together, they had three sons and founded their own advertising agency.
To the objective eye, Paula and her husband seemed to be living the dream: They were very successful, traveled in private planes, owned a beautiful home and enjoyed expensive meals out. However, in reality, Paula had little, if any control over her life and home.
In the United Arab Emirates, men have long been the highest-respected citizens and direct the household. Paula’s rights were in the hands of her husband: She did not have access to her own passport or those of her children, nor did she ever experience what American women would consider “common freedom.” Almost inevitably, Paula’s husband became abusive, not only toward her, but also their oldest son and Indonesian housekeeper.
Paula’s husband traveled a great amount for work. At one point, he was detained in Germany after being robbed of his passport and money, granting Paula an opportunity to escape. After she found all the passports that had been missing, she woke her children very late one night under the guise that they were going camping. With one suitcase and three children in tow, she boarded a plane for New York, followed by another bound for Oregon, where he sister lived.
Paula arrived in Oregon in 1999, after which she experienced many years filled with battles over divorce processes, child support and stalking. Eventually, the divorce was finalized and Paula won custody of her three children, but was not granted child support.
In December of 1999, Paula launched the Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center, along with an accompanying Web site and hotline: http://www.866uswomen.org. She founded the organization with the mission to provide a resource for domestic violence victims living abroad to find advice, services and general assistance. Until 2003, Paula operated the company out of her living room.
That year, Paula received the R.O,S.E. Fund’s esteemed R.O.S.E. Award after she was nominated by her sister. Prior to the occasion, she had not applied for any awards or grants, nor did she engage in a great deal of public speaking. However, the R.O.S.E. Award not only allowed her to move the Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center into an established office, but also helped the organization earn significantly more recognition.
Since then, the Crisis Center has grown exponentially, thanks largely in part to the award, word-of-mouth marketing and the help of an investor from Switzerland. Today, the organization has a staff of five and the right to provide legal and counseling services, as well as a 24/7 hotline. Additionally, the Crisis Center has formed a partnership with Virgin Atlantic Airlines to provide free flights to women with family and household emergencies similar to Paula’s.
Paula has attributed her company’s success to the R.O.S.E. Fund, crediting it as “the help I needed.” She recently launched a worldwide awareness campaign on behalf of the hotline, for which she has been traveling globally and meeting with organizations, embassies and others who can inform the world of the services provided by the Crisis Center.
Happy Labor Day Weekend from The R.O.S.E. Fund (Regaining One’s Self Esteem)
I wanted to wish all of you a happy and safe Labor Day weekend and provide you with a brief update on how your continued support of The R.O.S.E. Fund continues to profoundly improve the lives of women survivors of domestic violence. Since our last email, earlier this summer, a number of R.O.S.E. recipients have returned to the labor force and a few others are about to launch new careers as recent graduates of colleges, nursing programs and law schools.
The thread that runs through all of the R.O.S.E. programs is helping women to regain their self-esteem. Some of these women have returned to the labor force based on the new skills they developed on a R.O.S.E. scholarship. Others had already earned their degrees and had good careers but hadn’t been working because of the mental and physical effects of an abusive relationship. They didn’t have the courage or the confidence to get a job, or even an interview, because of unsightly facial scars, disfigurements and/or missing and cracked teeth.
Through the strength and generosity of the R.O.S.E. network of dentists and doctors, these women have taken critical steps towards rebuilding their lives and renewing their self-esteem. Not only have these participating doctors erased scars and given these women beautiful smiles; they’ve given them a reason to smile. These successful medical outcomes provide these women with not only a refreshed outlook, but also the self-esteem and self-confidence they need to effectively interview and secure a good job. With your support, these courageous women have been able to rebuild their lives, return to the workforce and increase their financial independence.
A couple of recent R.O.S.E. recipients (S.R*.is a R.O.S.E. Scholar and R.D.* is a R.O.S.E. Award Winner) have recently graduated from law school, taken the bar exam and are excited to launch their legal careers. Both are committed to dedicating a portion of their time to serve as legal advocates for other women survivors of domestic violence. Other past R.O.S.E. recipients (Scholars, Award Winners and Reconstructive Surgery Recipients) recently shared with us how they are bringing more women into the labor force as they are growing their organizations (M.C.* owns a beauty salon north of Boston, and M.L*. just opened her third domestic violence shelter this summer in the southwest). They credit the support they received from R.O.S.E. as having played a significant role in enabling them to start and grow their organizations that are focused on the safety and self-esteem of women.
Perhaps the sentiments of these women are best captured in the words of a 53 year old mother E.K.* who, with R.O.S.E. support, continues to advance her nursing career:
“With help and support from R.O.S.E., I found and used the keys to free myself. The best thing is that I have a career that I want, a career that I’m excited about and one where I can make a real difference in people’s lives. I do not believe in revenge as a rule. But having my independence and my financial freedom is truly the best feeling in the world, and the sweetest form of vindication. I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve given me. You’ve given me back my life.”
Your hard work, generosity and ongoing support of R.O.S.E. enables us to invest in these women, their families (80% of R.O.S.E. recipients are mothers) and their futures; investments that continue to pay forward rich and rewarding dividends. With your support, the cycle of violence is being replaced with a cycle of empowerment, with women helping women.
Thanks again for your support and helping us to achieve all of the above. Enjoy a safe and happy holiday weekend. I look forward to seeing you soon at the 2009 Annual R.O.S.E. Awards Gala on Tuesday night, October the 13th at Boston’s Fairmont Copley Hotel.
Daniel J. Walsh
Chairman and Executive Director
The R.O.S.E. Fund
The last several weeks have been particularly busy ones here at the R.O.S.E. Fund, as we’ve been working diligently with our medical partners to get treatment for as many women as we could prior to the July 4th holiday. The effort has been a huge and satisfying success.
A number of these women haven’t attended traditional July 4th celebrations with their family and friends for a few years or more. They’ve avoided these gatherings because they are too embarrassed by the facial scars and dental injuries that they live with as a result of an abusive relationship. They’re too ashamed to have to explain what happened to them, too tired to talk about it and answer all of the unavoidable questions.
“How could you let that happen to you?”
“Why didn’t you leave sooner?”
It’s no way to relax over a holiday.
However, thanks to the support of the R.O.S.E. Fund friends and family, these were able to celebrate their own freedom, pride and independence over the holiday weekend. Below is the story of a recent R.O.S.E. Award recipient who will be seeing her family and celebrating with them at their annual July 4th cookout … for the first time in 2 years.
Tamara* has suffered from bouts of depression and been particularly reclusive for the past few years. Her melancholy outlook stems from the abuse she suffered in her last relationship and the embarrassment she experiences from the resulting scars. The abusive relationship left her with low self-esteem, as well as facial scars and a range of dental issues; most notably, Tamara is missing her front tooth. Her dreams of reuniting with her extended family at their annual 4th of July cookout have finally come true since the onset of her injuries.
I grew up in Boston; Jamaica Plain. There were two of us: Mom and me and, later, my little sister. Mom was a nurse.
Now I’m 38, my sister is 24. I have two boys, ages 20 and 12. My oldest boy graduated high school and is through one year of college. He’s [hoping to become] a Medical Assistant. My youngest will be in seventh grade in September. They’re good boys.
My [passion] is helping the elderly; I [was] a nurse’s aide and I want to get back to that. I want to take good care of my Mom, as she needs it. I want to make enough [of a] salary for her to come and live with me.
There were some fun times with my husband, especially in our first few years. Abuse happened slowly and there we’re definitely warning signs. I overlooked them.
It started with verbal abuse. I was “good for nothing,” et cetera. I should have caught the warning signs; I should have [left] then, but a lot of women stay in a relationship for the children or financial issues. That was me. I took his “sorry”s and “I love you'”s, but it became physical.
One of the last times, he cut my face with a knife and punched me so hard that his fist broke my front tooth, resulting with me going to the hospital. I had been with him for eight years, but I had enough. I knew I had to pack up my kids and go. I had to wake up before he killed me.
I packed myself up and a lady, [my advocate,] took me in. When I first met her, I was in no condition to talk about all that pain again. She told me, “I’m here to help YOU! You’re the one will have to go back out into the world again. Your kids need you.”
I started opening up and the talk was good. She told me about The R.O.S.E. Fund and said, “There’s help for you – right here in Boston!” I really didn’t believe it. Why would people want to help me?
The first time I went to Dr. Corbett’s office with the other R.O.S.E. Fund ladies, he and his staff were so welcoming. He had a choice of coffees and teas that you’d like to have in the morning. He took x-rays, made us feel so at home and even said I had beautiful teeth. That was wonderful to hear. Then, he measured me for an oral implant and matched my teeth up with it.
Dr. Corbett is a very patient, kind man. He said, “It’s okay. I’m going to make you beautiful again.” That just melted my heart away! Having my teeth fixed by Dr. Corbett and The R.O.S.E. Fund just shoots my self esteem right up! At first, I was embarrassed and still can’t smile, [since I feel like] people are staring at me. But keeping in touch with The R.O.S.E. Fund reminds me: This is all going to change.
Through The R.O.S.E. Fund, I received dental work and a tooth implant from Dr. Corbett; he and his staff used FedEx so the implant would make it in time for the holiday. I have also started treatment for the scar removal with Dr. Mack Cheney at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. I can’t believe the treatment I have received. I will soon look like I’m sixteen again: Beautiful and unmarked! And this weekend, like everybody else, I’ll be at a cookout in the ‘burbs with my friends and family.
To the R.O.S.E. Fund supporters, partners and staff: I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Getting my teeth fixed and scars removed has changed my life! You have no idea how much it helps me every day of my life. Please keep up the good work for those of us who so desperately need it.
*Names have been changed for the purpose of safety and confidentiality