ANJC fundraiser provides support for victims of domestic violence and others
What Miranda Childress remembers from the ambulance ride is the teddy bear. The one the paramedics gave her young daughter — something to comfort her during a scary moment. Miranda focused on the bear, perhaps to distract herself from the reality of her situation, and the reason she was riding in the back of an ambulance.
“I was married to my ex-husband for eight years, and the violence was really subtle at first,” Miranda recalled. “It was more emotional abuse, controlling and manipulating. It was so subtle, it was easy to ignore or justify away. The first documented violence was in 2012. I survived strangulation. My daughter witnessed it. But I wasn’t ready to break free from the cycle of abuse at that time.”
It’s an all-too-familiar story: Miranda’s husband at the time made promised to do better. But those promises were broken, and just a few years later, Miranda had packed her bags and sent her daughter to stay with her mother. She was waiting for the right moment to leave her husband for good.
That moment came when he threatened to kill her.
“He put his hands on me to show me how he would do it. He started throwing a knife around,” Miranda said. “I made up an excuse to go to my mom’s that night, and I haven’t looked back.”
Asking for Help
Miranda got herself out of a dangerous situation, but she knew she couldn’t do the rest on her own: She needed to file for divorce, and she was determined to get sole custody of her daughter.
“I knew there was help available in the community, and I knew that having Alaska Native heritage, I had more resources available to tap into,” Miranda explained.
Although the Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC) provides services to all Alaskans, regardless of heritage or ethnicity, the organization’s name particularly draws Alaska Native people seeking assistance with their legal needs. ANJC offers services to those reentering society after incarceration, advocacy for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking, and assistance to those who need help in navigating the legal justice system — particularly when it comes to divorce and child custody cases.
The work done by ANJC is made possible, in part, by our annual fundraiser. This year, the theme of our fundraiser is Voices for Justice, reflecting the many voices needed — from our staff, our supporters, our participants, and our community — to speak out for justice on behalf of Alaska Native people. You can learn more about this year’s fundraiser here.
At ANJC, Miranda met advocates and lawyers who helped her fill out the paperwork that would allow her to petition for a divorce and custody of her daughter.
“If you’re not a lawyer, reading that stuff is really difficult,” she described. “The packet felt like it was a mile high and full of legal terms, but the lawyers translated it into a language I could understand. They treated me with respect, they were patient and validated my feelings. They really encouraged me to help myself.”
ANJC staff was also able to offer suggestions regarding what Miranda might request in her divorce, and they prioritized her daughter’s safety and needs. Since she successfully filed for divorce, Miranda has returned to ANJC for additional assistance, filing protective orders or getting help with court hearings as necessary.
No Longer Shattered
Today, Miranda and her eight-year-old daughter spend more time together. Her daughter is doing well in school, and Miranda has a good job that allows her to support herself and her child.
“Knowing I’m capable of doing that has really had a positive impact on the way I feel about myself,” Miranda said. “I went from being shattered and broken and scared to being the queen of my own destiny.”
She’s grateful for the assistance she found at ANJC, but she’s even more grateful for the way ANJC encourages individuals to become advocates for themselves.
“We’re all leaders in our own way,” she said. “ANJC helps us remember that. And when more people are aware of their own strength, they can make a positive impact on the community, so it sets off a chain reaction.”
For nearly 25 years, ANJC has been amplifying the voices of Alaskans and Alaska Native people seeking justice. You can help make sure that all Alaskans have access to legal assistance and advocacy by making a donation to support the organization.
For more information on the Alaska Native Justice Center, please visit www.anjc.org.