In the background of all this noise, behind the computer screens and late night phone calls, you would see a woman with her finger pads aching, frantically typing the last paragraphs on a 25 page proposal or playing with the budget numbers one final time.
While all of this has been going on, I'm trying to complete the biggest project of my (very short-lived) professional writing career. My organization, in collaboration with two other non-profit organizations in the county, are applying for a federal grant program to support legal assistance and representation for victims of domestic abuse. The current budget for the project is in excess of $850,000.
Right now in southeast Texas, funding restrictions prohibit undocumented immigrants and working-poor victims from receiving pro bono legal representation. Even though undocumented victims are eligble for U visas through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act, they can't receive application assistance or even legal advocacy at the Social Security Office or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Houston. Legal aid funding prohibits the legal representation of any non-U.S. citizens or U.S. citizens above 125% of the poverty line.
Basically, all of those threats that an abuser makes, the ones that sound something like: "If you call the police, they will deport you...You will never see your children again....If you ever tell anyone what I did to you, I will take the kids away from you...You can never get away from me...I'll find you...you are still legally mine," are essentially true for these victims that can't access legal services.
For working-poor women, it's a tough line between "makes too much to qualify for services," but, "still can't afford a private attorney". Very, very few women can come up with a $2,000 retainer for a private attorney, especially when her annual household income is just over $12,000.
That is what I've been working on and why the noises around me sound more like static and less like a cacophonous orchestra. I haven't slept uninterrupted in more than three weeks. The medical mystery has been solved: Zac is getting all four of his molars in at once. He wakes up sometimes 2 or 3 times a night, even while lying next to me. I'm so tired that the numbers start merging in my brain and I end up trying to budget the salary of a paralegal at the same rate that I'm budgeting for a client advocate and counselor.
The enormity of what I'm doing and the amount of people we could serve if our proposal is accepted is enough to keep my head up and my eyes clear. There are many, many women in worse positions than I am. A bruised ego and a hurting heart will heal, even though some moments are harder than others.
Right now, I'm just trying to honor the 143 women and children that died last year in Texas at the hands of the abuser.