September 3, 2022

International Rescue Committee Helps Refugee Family Experiencing Domestic Abuse Find a Safe Space

Afrah Abdulkader, Survivor Advocate at International Rescue Committee


For privacy reasons, this story will use J.A. to replace identifying information.


J.A. is a refugee from the Middle East who arrived in San Diego 6 years ago with her 4 children and husband of 14 years. J.A. was living in an unhealthy relationship, where she was abused verbally, emotionally, physically, and financially by her husband. Though she was emotionally and spiritually broken, J.A. knew she had to find the strength to persevere for her kids so that they could continue their education and be safe.

J.A. searched for resources and waited for the right and safe moment to leave her abusive relationship to protect herself and her children from the trauma they were experiencing.  The domestic violence led to her husband being arrested, harsh blame from her in-laws, and feelings of isolation. Despite these feelings, she called the police to end the abuse and save herself and her kids. A family mentor at one of her kids’ schools knew about her challenges and offered to connect her with International Rescue Committee’s San Diego Safety & Wellness Unit-Survivor Advocacy Services program.

When a Survivor Advocate connected with J.A., they made sure to create a safe space for her and to ensure her voice was heard. The program offers trauma informed and client centered services to refugees and asylees who are victims of crime, specifically domestic violence and sexual assault. 

The Survivor Advocate worked with J.A. to create a safe service plan to prioritize her needs. J.A. wanted to move to a new apartment, but she had no job, no income, and no credit history. The Survivor Advocate offered to help her receive a motel voucher, and referred her to the International Rescue Committee’s Early Employment and Career Building program to help her search for a job that matched her qualifications.  J.A. was also referred to the International Rescue Committee’s Financial and Economic Empowerment program for financial literacy, budgeting, and support in building credit history. 

The Survivor Advocate also referred the client to one of International Rescue Committee’s collaborative partners who offered pro-bono family law services. J.A. received a free legal consultation and help with filing for a civil protective order and divorce. J.A. and her kids were also referred for therapy in their own language so that as a family they could process the trauma they went through and begin to heal.

Through the Survivor Advocacy Program, emergency funds were provided for the client and family to help with daily life expenses, including a gas card and laptop to help the client attend all her program classes online. Extra financial assistance was provided to the family by additional collabortive partners.

The Survivor Advocate continued searching for safe shelter for the client and eventually found an apartment that was approved by a rapid re-housing program. J.A. and her kids where so happy moving into their new apartment, away from harm, where they can start all over again focusing on recovering from trauma and healing. J.A. stated that her next step is to get her US citizenship, so the Survivor Advocate connected her with International Rescue Committee San Diego Immigration Program -Citizenship Program for enrollment.

J.A. is focusing on her family and on her mental health, but she is only at the beginning of her journey. The role of the Survivor Advocacy Program is to support survivors all the way.

As J.A. stated:

“Nothing comes easy in life. We need to know what we want, how to go after what we want, how to ask for help without being afraid of rejections, how to say no, stop! And how to love ourselves and believe we are worth being loved. Life is beautiful.”

San Diego International Rescue Committee provides programs and service the create a safe space, where all our clients, refugees, asylum seekers, asylees, and all immigrants can always reach out for recourse, fact-based information, and support, and always, with respect, welcoming attitudes, culture sensitivity, diversity, and inclusive environment.

Learn more at

IRC Thanks their many community partners, many of which are Live Well San Diego Partners: