Meily Rodriguez’s first experience with the Verde Valley Sanctuary was a job interview for Administrative Assistant with the Legal Advocacy Office nearly 13 years ago. “The more I learned about domestic violence, the more the job resonated with me. My mother was a victim and several people in my life have experienced domestic violence. I felt compelled to help. Until we understand domestic violence and know all of its forms (emotional, verbal, psychological, financial, physical, sexual), we often don’t recognize that we are victims.”
What moved Meily to serve for so long was the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. “I learned a lot from clients by witnessing their journeys, their growing empowerment and finding their voice. Working here is like having another family. The Verde Valley Sanctuary believed in me. I learned through trainings and researched family law and immigration law (my personal favorite). I believe Immigrants are not “aliens or illegals” as labeled through the media, and deserve to have the same treatment as US Citizens. These women and children are simply undocumented. Through the immigration process, clients have been able to obtain a driver license and social security card, which gives them the opportunity to secure jobs and provide for their families legally. That’s all they really want.”
Meily’s greatest hope is that the Verde Valley Sanctuary continues to provide all of these critical services. Her vision: Increase bilingual Advocates and continue the Spanish-speaking Trauma Support Groups. She wants all victims to be treated with dignity and respect, and to have the support and safety they need in order to permanently stop the abuse and begin the healing journey.
“For me, it is rewarding to see clients empowered and find their voice. That’s my passion. Supporting clients in their healing journey leads to their empowerment, instead of enabling them and by taking away their personal power and decision making.”
Clients can sometimes be so traumatized and feel so broken with no hope. Victims of domestic violence have been controlled nearly their entire lives. We use the trauma informed care approach to aid them in understanding their choices and making decisions that suit their needs, at that moment.
Verde Valley Sanctuary Legal Advocates help clients get access to the legal system. As a victim, you have a right to speak, to be heard, to live a life without fear. We are not Attorneys, but we do understand the system and have extensive experience. We cannot give legal advice, but we can help clients understand the process for obtaining Orders of Protection, Divorce, Custody, Child Support, and helping them understand their Victims’ Rights. Legal Advocates provide information and resources to help clients navigate the legal system and achieve a safe resolution.
Meily Contreras-Rodriguez, Former Legal Advocacy Director