Fraidy Reiss, Founder of Unchained At Last
What is the mission of your organization?
Unchained At Last is the only organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the U.S. through direct services and advocacy.
Why did you decide to start Unchained at last?
I founded Unchained out of my own traumatic experience: I was forced at age 19 to marry a stranger who turned out to be violent, and I was trapped in that abusive marriage for 12 years. When I finally escaped with my two daughters, my family shunned me. I rebuilt my life and founded Unchained to help other women, girls and others in the U.S. to resist or escape forced marriages.
How would you connect unchained to a jewish value?
My own forced marriage, which was the impetus for Unchained, happened within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It is, in many ways, the ultimate in Tikkun Olam: turning a traumatic experience into a movement to improve the world. Still, Unchained helps women, girls and others from any culture or religion that practices forced marriage, and Unchained's clients come from every major religion, minor religions and secular backgrounds.
Who has inspired you in the work you are doing?
I am inspired by Jasvinder Sanghera, a forced marriage survivor who founded Karma Nirvana in the U.K. to do the same work Unchained is now doing in the U.S.
What has surprised you about working with your organization?
I am often struck by the shared experiences of forced-marriage survivors from vastly different cultures. We all seem so different at first glance, but forced marriage and other forms of gender violence transcend cultural and religious divides.
What's the best part of your job and why?
I get to help others who are going through what I once had to endure, except I had no one to help me.
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in your organization or cause?
Unchained relies on the kindness of volunteers to provide crucial, often life-saving services to those who are escaping forced marriages. A list of volunteer opportunities is available at www.unchainedatlast.org/get-involved/volunteer.
To learn more about Unchained At Last visit www.unchainedatlast.org.