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Survivor Stories

Each woman Jo had the honor of working with during her time running Web of Benefit shared her own unique story, dreams, and hopes.


Many of these stories are woven throughout the text of It Takes a Woman to Empower Women. Below are three selected stories ~ you can find more stories written by survivors inside the book!

*Names have been changed for confidentiality.

Sophie’s Story: Stepping into Freedom


Sophie was quiet and very shy. She had been forced to marry a family member at a young age in a country that had radically different customs than ours. She had been controlled and abused by not only her husband, but also her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  She did not believe that she deserved any better. 


Finally, after her sons were grown, she was able to escape her abusive husband. She knew it was a huge and scary step, but also knew she had to do it. She found an advocate who helped with a subway pass and taught her how to navigate the transportation system. Her advocate also got her into an ESL program and a safe place to live.

She came to Web of Benefit to request a grant to pay for her certification to become a licensed daycare provider. She received the grant the same day that I met her.

Sophie’s Dream: Sophie dreamed to go to school, to own her own daycare, and to be financially independent.

Positive Outcome: Sophie is now successfully employed as an assistant daycare provider. She speaks beautiful English and hopes to start her own daycare early next year.

Paying It Forward:  Sophie supports other women with young children through her work as a daycare professional and hopes to support even more as her career progresses.

Lesson Learned: Sophie learned that she could take steps to change her life, even if they were scary. She just had to take them one at a time.

Wendy’s Story: Dreaming After Years of Abuse


Wendy had lived an incredibly difficult life with years of horrific abuse. She could have very easily remained a victim, taking no responsibility for her life. Instead, she chose to be a survivor. When I met Wendy, she had already come so far, and she knew what she needed to do. 

Wendy’s sexual and verbal abuse started at a very young age, and years later she was raped.  She had two sons and two daughters and always dreamed of finishing college, but never had the time or energy for anything more than her family’s survival. After she fled her abuser, she knew she had to change her life.

Wendy had no idea how to begin, but she had an advocate who knew how to help. She contacted me, and we met and created Wendy’s Dream Proposal. With that in hand, she received a housing grant and a laptop to help with her education. Wendy knew then that she was a survivor, and that she could change her life by telling her story to other women.

Wendy’s Dream: Wendy’s dream was to find a better home for her children, to finish her education, and to start her own business in order to better support her family. 

Positive Outcome: Wendy found a new apartment and finished her education. After, she began writing a book to help other women.

Paying It Forward:  Wendy supports other abused women by telling her own story of surviving mental, emotional, and sexual abuse. 

Lesson Learned: Wendy learned that she was no longer a victim, reacting to what was done to her: she was a survivor, doing things herself to create her own future.

Winnie’s Story: Back Rent Needed

Winnie had been in an abusive relationship for many years. I can happily report that she’s now totally free from her abuser; however, before her abuser left, he wiped out all her bank accounts, leaving her unable to pay her rent.


Her eviction hearing in court was scheduled in Philadelphia two days after I met with her. There was no other agency that could help her quickly enough to keep her from becoming homeless and her children from being put into foster care. 

Winnie had found a new job that would allow her to pay her rent going forward, but she needed $500 in partial payment of back rent in order to negotiate a repayment plan with her landlord. With a housing stabilization grant from Web of Benefit, Winnie and her advocate were able to go to court assured that she wouldn’t be evicted. 

Winnie’s Dream:  Winnie’s dream was to be a nurse working with the mentally ill. She is currently researching schools for LPN and RN programs. 

Positive Outcome:  Winnie kept her family together in a safe apartment.

Paying it Forward:  Winnie is helping women find the resources they need.

Lesson Learned:  Winnie learned there are resources available if you just look for them.  She learned she was not alone.

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