My Sister’s Café: Unusual help for domestic violence survivors

A look into My Sister's Cafe on Sacramento's Capitol Mall. (Photo: My SIster's Cafe)

When Nilda Valmores was growing up, her grandmother explained she would be a “good Filipino wife” if she accepted how a future husband treated her.

“Even if he slapped me, cheated on me or whatever; I would have to just be quiet and pray. That was her experience, but I told her that it would not be mine,” she said.

“This is an issue that does not discriminate against gender, race, language or age. I’m personally fortunate that my husband, my dad, and my three brothers have been good, respectful men,” Valmores said. But she knows not everyone experiences this.

“Two to four women graduate from the work program every year, some leave for local restaurants.” — Ron Tom

Valmores is the executive director of My Sister’s Café, an establishment that blossomed from My Sister’s House, a Sacramento-based program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Through 24-hour help lines, free attorney assistance, a shelter, donation centers, educational and work programs, survivors rebuild their lives in a family-oriented environment.

The café at 455 Capitol Mall, a few blocks west of the state Capitol, was crowded with guests and volunteers on a recent afternoon, all talking, laughing and hugging to celebrate five years since doors opened. As musician Rogeniv Mamauag sang and strummed his guitar, artist Nicole Romeo painted a tree on a large canvas and invited guests and volunteers to add to it.

Words like “empower,” “Dream,” and “I am enough,” floated along the many outstretched branches.

“I am titling this piece ‘Inclusiveness.’ This organization is very passionate about helping survivors move beyond the pain and into a new life. They don’t turn anyone away,” Romeo said.

 My Sister’s House board member and retired lobbyist, Ron Tom, mingled with guests as he explained the café serves as a physical presence and a place for survivors to work, while My Sister’s House emergency shelter locations are kept confidential.

“Two to four women graduate from the work program every year, some leave for local restaurants,” Tom said. Recently, a few accepted jobs at Google and Apple campus restaurants.

Yen Marshall, vice president of My Sister’s House, said many women working at the café have diverse backgrounds, cultures and religious beliefs and each are treated with respect and dignity.

“This place has such an impact on survivors.” — Rosie Dauz

“We provide a unique environment that is culturally sensitive. We celebrate cultural events and provide appropriate cultural meals. We celebrate everyone here,” Marshall said. “Working in the cafe is a great way for survivors to feel a connection to people again.”

The space is truly a labor of love, right down to the smallest details.

The walls are painted white except for a few purple accent walls. Purple floral designs surround the large menu behind the counter. Purple, the domestic violence awareness color, represents peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence.

“Preventing domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking helps people to be all they are meant to be. It is not difficult to be passionate about domestic violence. Especially as a mother, a future grandmother, a sister and a child advocate,” Valmores said.

“It is my political view that if we want to have the best possible, it starts with making sure our children are safe and in an environment where they can thrive and be all that they can be,” she added.

Rosie Dauz, an event planning volunteer since 2013, said throughout her time studying at Sacramento State and after graduation as her life began to get busy, she always finds her “way back” to My Sister’s Café and My Sister’s House to lend a hand.

“As big as this organization has grown, it’s still family-oriented and will always be. This place has such an impact on survivors,” Dauz said.

About one in five women and one in 71 men are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

Domestic violence: reports domestic/dating violence is a “pattern of controlling behaviors that one partner uses to get power over the other,” and can include physical violence or threat of violence, emotional or mental abuse and sexual abuse.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women–more than car accidents, muggings and rape combined and over 80 percent of domestic violence victims are women, the website reads.

Sexual assault: About one in five women and one in 71 men are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports. About 70 percent of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than any other violent crime, the National Sexual Assault Hotline reports.

Human Trafficking: The International Labour Organization estimates there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking globally. Over 80 percent are trapped in forced labor, 25 percent are children and 75 percent are women and girls.

The Polaris Project, a non-profit organization aimed at preventing human trafficking, reports traffickers take control of their victims by methods of force, fraud or coercion to “trap their victims in a human trafficking situation.”

“These control tactics can make the idea of leaving their situation seem like an insurmountable obstacle to trafficking victims,” the website said.

Are you a victim?
Reach My Sister’s House 24-hour helpline at (916) 428- 3271. Read more here:

Text HELP to 233733 or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 to get help for victims and survivors of human trafficking.

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