Legal Aid Helps Domestic Violence Survivor
November 2010 — An immigrant from Kuwait, Nahida Farunia has been an exemplary citizen of Lakewood for more than twenty years. She works as a daycare teacher and an Arabic interpreter. She volunteers for the community at every opportunity. Ms. Farunia started an organization to help other Arab-American women adjust to life in the United States; the work earned her a feature in Cleveland Magazine’s 2003 “Most Interesting People” issue and a Lakewood City Council resolution.
However, Ms. Farunia was living a nightmare at home. Her husband was abusive and controlling. He believed he “owned the family.” Ms. Farunia didn’t have the financial independence to leave and stayed in the marriage for the sake of her five children. But in 2006, during one particularly bad fight, Ms. Farunia reached her limit. “I hadn’t raised my voice in twenty-eight years,” she said, “But I was like a cup that finally spilled over.” Neighbors heard noise and called the police; the husband was taken away in handcuffs, yelling threats to his family. Ms. Farunia secured a protection order and called a family meeting with her children to tell them she intended to divorce their father. The children were all supportive of their mother’s decision. The youngest, then eleven years old, told her “enough is enough.” Ms. Farunia says proudly, “I am honored to have my kids.”
Ms. Farunia had referred other women to Legal Aid in the past. Now, she was ready to take the same step. Alexandria Ruden, Senior Attorney in the Family Law Unit, represented her and stayed by her side through a contentious four-year divorce process. Ms. Farunia remembers the exact day her divorce was finalized, “April 7, 2010 was my ‘freedom date’.” She is grateful for the support of her children, friends and employer, Holy Name Family Center, which allowed a flexible schedule for her to attend court dates. Ms. Farunia is also deeply grateful to Ms. Ruden, who helped her get the house deed transferred into her name after the divorce, “She has a big heart. I still call her to check on her. I feel like [Alexandria and I] are friends more than she’s my lawyer.”