Charity unveiled: Femmes en détresse

Cécile's journey: rebuilding with Femmes en détresse, two bags at a time

The Network interviewed Cécile (name changed to protect her identity) to hear her experience of breaking free from a toxic marriage with the assistance of Femmes en détresse.

Through the inspiring journey of Cécile, we get a glimpse into the invaluable work that Femmes en détresse organization is doing to support women and families in distress, in Luxembourg. Cecile's story is one testament out of the hundreds of people they monitor each year. Only in 2022, Femmes en détresse monitored 454 persons out of which 441 were women, an overwhelming majority. The association’s positive impact on the lives of countless individuals serves as a powerful call to action for those like The Network's community members and beyond who want to support their mission.

« I was lost and broken »

As I am looking at my notes, I don’t even know where to start. There are so many things to write about and I fear to miss the important ones. As a matter of fact, all is important. I kept seeing in the extended expat community in Luxembourg many messages from women asking for support and being directed to Femmes en détresse, so I wanted to learn more about their work and how they are impacting the local community for the better.

Cécile's life, prior to her encounter with Femmes en détresse, was marked by years of hardship and despair. If you’re like me, an expat partner who’s joined their spouse in Luxembourg for their role, you might understand the challenges we face to adapt to a new place, to reinsert professionally, all while growing your little family with no village around. With all these difficulties, I still cannot comprehend what inner strengths a woman like Cécile, with a similar background as myself, must have to be in the position of needing to escape a toxic marriage. All by herself.

« I’ve packed my life in two bags »

Cecile`s life was no easy job. Too often she felt like an outsider in her own, small family. She’s joined her husband for a better life in Luxembourg, and together with their children she’s had big hopes for love, career, and life in general. But her life became a nightmare and she dreaded her marriage with an unloving husband, who was belittling her, mocking and cursing her in front of the children, keeping her out of finances, and threatening her. It’s this « treatment » that got her to seek support, and through her social worker, she’s found out about Femmes en détresse. It was them who helped her find shelter just as she’d been threatened to death.

« They’ve been very helpful »

Femmes en détresse was part of Cécile`s journey of escaping a toxic marriage. They’ve been able to support her with various actions, from consultations, information on the various social services, to where she could get legal aid. They offered psychological support and sheltered her and her children for 3 weeks in their anonymous shelter.

In all her sufferance, it impressed me to core to hear her talking about the bags. The two bags she’s had to pack in a couple of hours, in the only window of opportunity to escape and save her life. And what stroke me most was her absolute care and speed in sorting

something that felt like an automatic mental list of things she needed, not for her, but for her children. « They need clothes, they need books, they need toys. » And so much more. She’s had to quickly go through her entire life and screen on what was paramount to take, because « you don’t know when you’ll be back ».

« They were my bridge for saving me from drowning in the sea »

As her situation was climaxing, as she describes, the only legal solution for her was to go to the shelter. Protecting her, and trying to offer a more peaceful life to her children, deeply affected by their parents` situation. Cécile is vividly describing her encounter with « two beautiful ladies » from Femmes en détresse who’ve not only helped her with the formalities, but have played with her children, and even offered her basic sanitary products a woman needs. And I knew her using the word beautiful had no reference other than their soul. « They were beautiful and warm ».

Receiving one of the organization's largest spaces for shelter, a room with beds for everyone, she tells me about the peaceful night she and her children had on that first night at the shelter. She felt relieved, and so did her children. « We finally slept, after some months. We slept peacefully, together. »

Surrounded by care and good intentions

Cécile journey to navigate her struggles was only made possible through the support of Femmes en détresse. Cécile recounts « Femmes en détresse offered me not only shelter and safety, but hope. All of a sudden, from the home you are locked in with someone vicious and aggressive, you are all of a sudden surrounded by someone so caring, and so well intended. They really helped me to go from hell to a normal situation and I would never be grateful enough for them. I will always mention these two ladies in my prayers. God bless them! »

To me, Cecile's story stands as a very real testament to Femmes en détresse commitment to providing a safe path for women and children in their darkest moments. Their holistic approach supports women such as Cécile to find a path toward a brighter future.

written by Diana Trisca-Rusu

Femmes en détresse

The nonprofit organization Femmes en détresse was created in June 1979 by a working group of the Movement for the Liberation of Women. Its aim was the establishment, development, and management of a shelter for women in distress, with the intention of providing effective protection for women and their children against male violence. The association's stated goal of contributing to "the improvement of women's lives by helping them integrate into the economic and social life, providing them with psychological, legal, and social support, and offering specific training" has materialized through the creation of diversified services over the years. Their latest Annual Report offers deep insights into their impact and how you can help.