Rare pampering brings smiles to abuse victims

By Sarah Mervosh / Staff Writer


The 33-year-old Kenyan woman’s dark eyes hone against purple eye shadow. Her lips were smooth and pink after being coated in three different glosses. She looked into a hand-held mirror and smiled.
She didn’t just feel pretty. She felt affirmed.

Since leaving her abusive husband earlier this year, she’s been raising her three children alone and seeing shelter with Mosaic Family Services, a Dallas nonprofit that works with refugees and other immigrants in crisis. She was one of several domestic violence and human trafficking survivors to receive makeovers Tuesday as a part of Neiman Marcus’ Give Share Care program.

“Those brushes, they feel good. It’s like therapy, you know?” said the woman, whose name is being withheld because of safety concerns. “This place is applauding your efforts by saying, ‘You deserve to be beautiful.’”

At the Shop at Willow Bend in Plano, up the escalators at Neiman Marcus, through the winter wonderland and around the corner from sparkling ornaments, the women gathered. In their pasts, they had endured abuse and oppression, but Tuesday they indulged in frivolity.

Some sat in high wooden chairs, as makeup artists went to town. Others nibbled on quiche, strawberries and mini-muffins. Christmas music hummed softly in the background.

Case manager Jyoti John watched her clients light up and said she hoped they would hold on to that feeling.

“It’s important to remind them that life is good and it’s worth fighting for,” she said.

One 32-year-old woman from Pakistan sorted through piles of Reese’s, Skittles and lollipops to make up a candy bag and take home. Earlier this year, she was still living with her husband and his family in Chicago. She wasn’t allowed to use the computer or the phone. The family refused to pay for her to get legal documentation in the United States.

Then, when no one was around, she risked a call to her sister, who got in touch with a friend in Dallas. Once she had a place to go, the woman called the police.

The Pakistani woman used to question why her husband treated her so poorly. She wondered what was wrong with her. But a day of pampering and compliments helped her see the answer.

“That means the problem wasn’t related to me,” she said. “The problem was related to him.”

The Kenyan woman said the makeovers sparked a change in her friends. She saw a glimmer in their eyes – one that was not just from the makeup. “Usually, where we live, everybody’s kind of stuck in their problems,” she said. “I can see that the hope is there now.”
The hope was there for her, too.

Not too long ago, the woman lived under the tyranny of her husband.

Occasionally, he sexually assaulted her. She wasn’t allowed to work or go to church without him. He manipulated and controlled her. She tried to leave him but always returned.

“I didn’t want to be alone,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a single mother.”

But she wanted her children to have a better life. About a year ago, she finally left her husband for good. She lived in a hotel or with a friend until she found Mosaic. Now, she works as a waitress to support her family.

On Tuesday, she stepped into her first Neiman’s and got her first makeover. She posed for a picture with friends who had also overcome so much. And when she saw herself made up in the mirror, she saw her future.