Finding Freedom: Getting Connected to Legal Help

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa counties.



LAWO’s “Steps Out of Poverty” program focuses on meeting the basic needs of low-income persons, by providing them with free legal assistance.

Last year, 2,255 legal cases were resolved by LAWO lawyers and legal assistants; 78% of clients were women.

Over 60% of all clients assisted were 100% below the federal poverty limit and 33% were between 101-200% below the federal poverty limit.

Through the generous support of our donors, and donor designations, United Way will invest $116,427 in LAWO’s “Steps Out of Poverty” program.

“Will you marry me?” He asked, as he knelt down on the brick path that surrounded the stone water fountain; my favorite spot in the botanical garden.

“Yes, of course!” I proclaimed and wrapped my arms around his neck, and almost tackled him to the ground. I couldn’t believe it. This wonderful guy I had been dating for several months just asked me to be his wife! My heart was so full with happiness, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

The smile on my face went from ear to ear as I stared at my beautiful diamond engagement ring.

Tom was perfect…at first. We had our “normal” back-and-forth bickering, as any couple does. Mostly because he always wanted to know who I was texting, where I was if I left the house and who I would be on the phone with if he caught me chatting. Stern conversations on his demands to know my every move turned into shouting-matches, which led to Tom becoming physically aggressive towards me; pushing and shoving me when he’d become angry.

When we first started living together, before the engagement, we’d have disagreements here and there, but it never escalated further than that. Not long after I said “yes”, his verbal outbursts would lead to a slap or hit.

When he wanted to make sure I “understood him”, he’d grab my arm so tight, he’d leave bruises. Which made me have to wear a long sleeve shirt, even on hot days. If I had walked away from him during an argument, he’d chase me down and push me to the ground, scream at me, roll me over and yell directly into my face.

Once he saw the fear in my eyes, he’d settle down, apologize profusely, hold me gently and soothe me as I wept, still scared of who this man had become. Every single day, I was frightened for my life.

“We didn’t have much when we got married, but we made it work during the first few years.”


I took on a majority of the household responsibilities and I had to make sure I did everything correctly, according to Tom’s standards…or there would be an issue. I always tried my best to make everything perfect for him. Sometimes, he didn’t see it that way.

One day I went grocery shopping and I was so sure I had correctly purchased everything on the list. After I arrived home, Tom helped me unpack the groceries, and to my surprise, I had a made a mistake. I bought the wrong brand of a snack he liked to eat. It was the last mistake I ever wanted to make.

“Tom gave me a fat lip, a black eye and left bruises and bloody scrapes all over my body that day.”


I needed medical attention, but I didn’t have insurance. I felt I couldn’t tell anyone, because if Tom had found out I said something, he would have been so upset with me.

Days later, I finally hit my breaking point after another one of Tom’s vicious, unwarranted attacks. I just couldn’t live like this anymore. One of my girlfriend’s picked me up early on a Tuesday morning, right after Tom left for work, and I decided to speak with a local police officer.

They told me I would need a lawyer, or some kind of legal defense. I just didn’t have that kind of money. I simply couldn’t afford a lawyer that would finally take this case to court.

The police department referred me to Legal Aid of Western Ohio (LAWO) who, they said, focuses on assisting with and meeting the legal needs of low-income people. With LAWO, I was able to work with a lawyer and file a Civil Protection Order, at no cost to me.

LAWO secured the protection order for a five-year term. I remember the day so vividly. Finally in that moment, holding that order, I was able to leave Tom for good. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt free.


This post is brought to you by the generous support of Morgan Stanley, a wealth management and investment banking advisory firm. As a global leader in capital-raising services, Morgan Stanley works to positively impact local communities through philanthropy.


*This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by Legal Aid of Western Ohio – “Steps Out of Poverty”. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.