These days Pooja Jain says life is good.
She’s got her own apartment and is living by her own rules.
“I have freedom, my own freedom,” Jain said. “I can wear what I want, I can do what I want.”
It’s freedom she and her eight-year-old son Adi have only known for a few months.
For 10 years, she was physically and verbally abused by her estranged husband.
“He was not letting me make friends,” Pooja said. “He was not letting me talk with my family. I was not allowed to go anywhere.”
It was a life of terror she finally escaped in July after police arrested her abuser who held her and her son hostage inside their home, armed with a gun.
“It was very scary,” said Somy Ali, president and founder of No More Tears Miami, a nonprofit which helps domestic violence victims.
“He threatened her that ‘if you try to leave me, I will shoot you. I will shoot our son, I will shoot myself.’”
Ali says Pooja is one of dozens of victims who’ve come to her for help since the pandemic started.
She says her number of clients has tripled as some shelters have been turning people away because of COVID.
“The call volume is just unprecedented,” Ali said.
Before the pandemic, the nonprofit got about 20 calls a day.
Ali says that number has now jumped to about 50 per day.
Since March, they’ve helped 152 victims - more than triple what they normally averaged before.
“I’ve put in a lot of hours,” Ali said. “I’m getting calls at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. from detectives. ‘Somy, we don’t have a place to house this victim because there’s no room in the shelter.’ So, it’s been just nonstop. Nonstop,” she said.
Ali says because of the pandemic they also had to let go of some volunteers.
Ali, who also survived abuse as a child and teen, say thanks to donors, they’re staying afloat and are still able to provide apartments and furniture to survivors starting over.
“We just have to work extra hard,” Ali said.
It’s hard work survivors like Pooja say has helped them start a new chapter after years of living a nightmare.
“They gave me so much,” Pooja said. “My life totally changed.”