Welcome to our blog dedicated to the survivors of domestic violence at The Family Place. We want to share the voices of those who have overcome adversity, sharing their stories of strength, courage, and the journey towards brighter futures. By shedding light on the experiences of survivors, we hope to foster awareness, support, and empowerment for those navigating the paths of rebuilding their lives after and during their experience of domestic violence. Follow along with us as we share each month a story to inspire and uplift those who have triumphed over darkness.
A Survivor's Story of Perserverance
Dr. Aaliyah Miranda overcame adversity, facing abuse, homelessness, and family separation at 16.
With The Family Place’s support, she earned a Ph.D. in Education, worked in public education and victim advocacy, and now leads our residential programs, empowering family violence survivors. Her story inspires resilience, particularly for children.
“Thanks to The Family Place, I found the courage to be where I am today. The Family Place showed me and my children that there are people who care without even knowing you. I will be forever grateful."
Born and raised in Mexico, Aaliyah immigrated to Dallas at 16. Her first son was born when she was 17. He suffered from gastroschisis, a birth defect in which an opening in the abdominal wall allows the stomach, small, and large intestines to extend outside the body.
Aaliyah married after high school, but the relationship quickly turned abusive. She stayed for eight years before finding the courage to reach out for help. Her mom had given her a phone number for The Family Place, and calling it changed her life. When she came to The Family Place Safe Campus emergency shelter in 2000, she had no money or job skills. Her boys were 6 years old and 12 months old at that time. They lived in the emergency shelter for 30 days and then moved into our transitional housing apartments for three months. There she began the journey of learning how to support her family. A year later, her ex-husband sued her and won custody of one of the boys. With one son living with her abuser, and her boys separated, she found herself destroyed, uneducated, hopeless, and desperate.
Aaliyah was still connected to The Family Place and was receiving counseling and support from our Southern Dallas Counseling Center. She decided to go back to school and fight for her children. From 2000 to 2005, we helped her acquire the necessary tools to get back on her feet.
Aaliyah took full advantage of every opportunity. After taking many ESL classes, she enrolled in college level classes. Working and studying at the same time meant a lot of sleepless nights, but she was determined to accomplish her goals.
Eventually, Aaliyah received an associate’s degree in Applied Sciences in Criminal Justice from Mountain View College. She later graduated cum laude from the University of Texas in Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and went on to get a Master’s of Education with dual language emphasis. There was truly no stopping her! She completed a 12-hour newcomer/ESL graduate program at Southern Methodist University, received a principal certification in 2010, a superintendent certification in 2016, and earned her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University Commerce in 2019. Her dissertation topic was something she truly understood: “Exploring the Beliefs, Values, and Experiences of Latina Principals and Their Resiliency to Overcome Struggles Faced During the Pathway to the Principalship.”
After much praying, Aaliyah also was able to reunite with her son after eight years of separation.
Her work path while she was pursing her higher education was varied. She worked at Parkland Hospital in the Victim Intervention Program/Rape Crisis Center as a client advocate where she was responsible for completing forensic documentation and photography. She worked for 18 years in public education, serving as a dual language teacher, assistant principal, and principal. She served as a member of the Family Place board of directors and was also a member of The Family Place’s Ladies of Leadership, a group of survivors-turned-advocates.
She worked as a program director at DCET/Believe in Yourself, Inc., a nonprofit that assists immigrants. She’ also became a member of Toastmasters International and held various leadership positions in the club. In 2020, she completed the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award, the Toastmasters’ highest level of educational achievement.
At The Family Place, Aaliyah is sharing her journey and her knowledge to empower survivors of family violence by providing leadership, supervision, and program development for all our residential services.
“Thanks to the support I received from The Family Place, I found the courage to be where I am today,” Aaliyah says. “I used to be shy, had low self-esteem, and didn’t believe in myself. I am so grateful to The Family Place because I didn’t have to sleep on the streets. I promised myself never to be homeless again because of a man. To women who are currently recovering from an abusive relationship, I want to encourage them to keep moving forward, to not stop. We owe it to our children, but we especially owe it to ourselves.”
When Sylvester came to The Family Place Men’s Shelter, he was just expecting a place to stay. Like many survivors, he did not have a stable support system. He soon found that the support of The Family Place would be life changing.
Research shows that it is significantly more difficult for male victims to leave their abusers due to social expectations, fear of leaving children with their abusers, or feeling the legal system has minimized their abuse claims. Sylvester says when he first arrived at our Men’s Shelter, he felt emotional and mortified. He shut his door to everyone and thought he just needed a stable place to get away from the nightmare he was living.
But soon he learned that The Family Place was much more than a place to stay. He said the team at the shelter treated him like family. Even though he had a job, they encouraged him to pursue additional training and education.
This is something Sylvester had never considered doing for himself. He took advice from the shelter team and pursued certification as an X-ray technician. But he’s not stopping there. He’s continuing training to gain more skills and certifications as a medical assistant.
The Family Place Men’s Shelter is one of only a few shelters for male survivors of domestic violence in the Southwest. In 2022, it served 84 men, providing not only for their basic needs but also support, respect, and resources they deserve to live empowered, positive lives.
“The Family Place ended up changing me for the better,” Sylvester says. “Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Sylvester says his experience at The Family Place has led him to serve others that have gone through something similar.
“I want to pay it forward,” he says.
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Kimberly Johnson thought her abusive boyfriend would change when they got married, but as soon as she said “I do” the abuse became even worse. She watched her sons become angry with her husband and knew she had to leave before the abuse started affecting them.
One night she saw a commercial for The Family Place. She wrote down the hotline number and called the next day. Our hotline counselor explained that if she came to the shelter, she would have to cut all ties with her husband, something she was not sure if she could do after trying and failing in the past.
Two days later, Kimberly called back, and we had an opening at the shelter, so she prepared to leave. When her husband left for work the next day, she and her children left for the shelter. Although leaving was difficult, when she saw the look of relief on her sons’ faces, she knew she had made the right decision. With The Family Place’s help, Kimberly got an apartment and never returned to her abuser.
“Through the counseling and other services provided at The Family Place, I learned that I am worthy of love without violence of any kind, and that I am enough,” Kimberly says.
This year, many years after coming to The Family Place as a client, Kimberly returned as an intern. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in Human Service in December of 2018.
“I came to The Family Place to give back what was so freely given to me,” she says. “I am extremely grateful for the services rendered to me because I would not have made it if this agency wasn’t here.”