Safe, healthy parents are imperative to raising safe, healthy children. CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) is San Mateo County’s only provider of comprehensive intimate partner abuse prevention services. This organization is the result of the 2003 merger between the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention and Sor Juana Inés Services for Abused Women. CORA is able to support mothers and children when they need it most, and we are so glad that CORA has helped them share their stories:

Karla & Jason

Karla and her young son, Jason, came to CORA last year after his dad moved out of the home. Karla had experienced verbal and psychological abuse during her marriage and after they separated. 

Karla was particularly concerned about how her son had been impacted by the verbal arguments he witnessed, in addition to how he was processing his father’s departure from their home. Through CORA’s First 5 program, they participated in 6 months of dyadic therapy. During this treatment, they experienced protected one-on-one time together and collaborated in attunement activities that strengthened their bond. 

Karla was given some individual space with therapist to process her own emotional experience– so that she could separate her feelings from her son’s feelings and be more present for what he was going through. The clinician taught Karla how to be more available to son’s emotions and more able to reflect his feelings back to him so that he felt acknowledged and validated. 

The clinician worked with Jason to build his emotion vocabulary so that he became more skilled at recognizing his own feelings and expressing them to his mother. The same clinician then worked with Karla to help her create a story using her son’s favorite television characters that mirrored their own family’s experience, and facilitated sharing this story with her son through his toys. Jason was able to understand, participate in his mom’s story, and add to it; this was a way in which mother and son safely processed together their family’s traumatic experiences. The clinician used play therapy throughout treatment to allow Jason the opportunity to express himself through play and they supported and assisted Karla in witnessing and engaging in son’s play and process. 

The clinician provided Karla with psychoeducation throughout and instructed her in a practice called “Serve and Return,” focused on child-led play and attunement. In the final stages of therapy, the clinician provided ideas and support around helping Karla reassure her son that he will continue to have time with both mom and dad. Karla was able to make Jason a calendar in his room to help him see which days he would get to visit with his dad. Additionally, the clinician provided techniques to help Karla support her son during his transitions from one parent to the other. 

Karla feels more confident in her parenting and in assisting Jason as he navigates his parents living in different households. Karla also reports that Jason has increased his ability to share and speak about how he is feeling and that this has made them feel more connected and in tune with one another.

Jennifer, Mateo, & Christian

Jennifer, a 37-year-old Hispanic mother of two boys, 4-year-old Mateo and 12-year-old Christian, have been receiving a range of services with CORA for a year and a half. Jennifer has completed treatment of individual therapy, where she participated in ongoing safety planning, processed her experiences of domestic violence, learned how to manage her triggers and stress, and significantly diminished her PTSD symptoms. Jennifer and Mateo also engaged in our First 5 Spanish Speaking Dyadic Group where they strengthened their attachment and communication allowing Mateo to express his feelings and thoughts openly with his mother. Additionally, both mother and son were able to create a new family narrative going forward. Christian is in our Tween Boys Group, where he works on social skills and processing his stressors. 

Jennifer is now a part of CORA’s Mental Health Support Group where she’s able to connect with other survivor parents. The group is also a source of strength and support to other members. Jennifer received case management through our First 5 San Mateo County Program to access resources for her children and herself. She also accessed CORA’s legal services to prepare for her family court hearings. 

Jennifer and her two sons have also joined us at many of our First 5 family engagement events. After a year and half as part of our CORA community, Jennifer is now in a healthy relationship and has expressed feeling happiness that she did not expect to feel again after her last marriage. Through all of the services Jennifer has received, she is now able to feel safe and secure for herself and her family.

CORA’s values and vision recognize the connection between social and institutional oppression (including sexism, racism and heterosexism) and violence, including intimate partner abuse. And, they recognize that intimate partner abuse results from and is perpetuated by societal beliefs and norms. Their broad spectrum of services address the intergenerational nature of violence and the goal of creating a community where intimate partners treat one another with mutual respect, compassion and integrity. If you are in need of support, or are curious about what this partner does, visit their website and take a look.

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