Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Vista nonprofit helps people experiencing domestic violence through legal processes

For 22 years, Las Valientes has been helping men and women with legal proceedings associated with domestic violence.

The nonprofit in Vista helps clients with obtaining restraining orders, divorce, child support and connect with attorneys for family law issues, immigration and juvenile court.

"(Domestic violence victims) don't know where to go, and sometimes they've gone to court and they ask, ‘Do you speak Spanish, no ... OK go over there' and they point you over there … and by the time its all said and done, they're frustrated and they just go home back to their abuser sometimes," said Ana Serrano, the founder of Las Valientes.


Serrano started the organization after her own experience with domestic abuse.

"When I was going through the abuse, I had no clue there was even help out there," she said. "Even after my ex-husband put me in the hospital, I still went back to him. I didn't know there was help."

She says that’s the case for many men and women who face additional barriers like not speaking the language, limited finances and fear.

All the of the staff at Las Valientes are survivors of domestic violence and now help others.

"They've lived it, they've survived it, they understand," Serrano said.


Although she measures just under 5 feet tall, Serrano does not hold back with her clients.

Ana Serrano, left, consults her client at Las Valientes in Vista Calif. March 28, 2023.
Ana Serrano, left, consults her client at Las Valientes in Vista Calif. March 28, 2023.

She says in her line of work, there’s no room for sugar coating.

“It's easy to say, 'Ay pobrecita ... you poor thing, oh yea he's such an ogre, terrible.’ But how is that going to help her? You’re keeping her or him in that place of ‘feel sorry for me.’"

Instead, she tells her clients, "You can do this. And I'm going to help you because you either want to do this or you don't. You're either going to stay in victimhood or come out a victor, which is it?"

She knows that dealing with courthouses and lawyers can be intimidating.

"Attorneys are expensive.  I work with several who are very, very good and I know their retainer fees are really not that expensive. But even their low prices can be a lot. We've seen the need out there," she said.

Las Valientes charges flat fees for their services and has a fund set up for clients that can't afford to cover them, but need help.

Serrano says they are filling an important need in the community and have helped thousands of women like Maria Isabel Montes.

She felt she was too old to seek a divorce but her children, who are all over 18, encouraged her to seek help.

"Our culture instills in us that marriage is forever. But it's not, it's really not. It's forever when it's a healthy relationship. When there’s respect among each other and one helps the other. But when that is missing, the healthiest thing is to cut ties," Montes said.

Miriam Flores left an abusive relationship in 2007 with her four young children.

"It was a lot of up and downs for the first few years," Flores said. "It was a journey ... a process. And then I met my husband now."  

Through her healing process, Flores found love again with someone who was also getting out of an abusive relationship and getting help from Las Valientes.

"He was getting out of a situation and fighting for his kids. He had to fight against other stigmas against men, too, that this is unique to women ... men are usually the perpetrator," Flores said. "And that brought us together,"

Flores says leaving her first relationship was hard, but she’s glad she did.

"Its hard to move on and let go, but just know that there is support out there. You are not alone. It's not happening only to you. You have nothing to be ashamed of," she said. "And I think places like Las Valientes is one of those outlets to help a lot of people out there."

Serrano says her clients walk through her doors defeated, but they walk out taking back the reigns of their life.

"That's why I do what I do," Serrano said. "Am I hard? Am I tough? Yes, because I love them. And I care about them. And I don't want to see another woman get beat up because she doesn't know there's help. That breaks my heart."

Las Valientes operates solely with the help of donations and gets no grants or aid from the government.

The North County Focus newsletter is your bi-weekly guide to all the news coming from North County, plus a handpicked selection of events and trivia tidbits.