A 2nd Act: Life Reboot

Posted By on December 29, 2020

Control Alt Delete resets the lives of domestic violence survivors

Laura Pahules was frustrated. She had been working on the elements to launch her nonprofit but was struggling with a name. And then it happened: Her laptop froze. Praying that her work in progress hadn’t been lost, she reset it, pressing the control, alt and delete keys simultaneously.

“That’s when it hit me,” Pahules said. “The perfect name for my organization was Control Alt Delete, because sometimes you have to reset your life.”

Resetting lives is an understatement when it comes to the work Control Alt Delete does. Pahules’s days are filled with helping domestic violence survivors escape their situation. While there are many fine organizations that shelter abuse survivors and their children, the survivors need to get away from their abusers in the first place.

“We help them get to the shelters, or elsewhere,” Pahules said. “Many survivors have resources, family or friends they could call on. They just need help getting to them. And by helping them, we’re reducing the burden on shelters as well.”

Pahules knows what she’s talking about. She grew up in an abusive home. And because she didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like, she married an abuser. Once divorced, she spent years by herself until she met her wonderful husband, Peter. Making a difference in lives was burned deep into her soul, and Peter encouraged her to follow that calling. She began working in the nonprofit industry and thrived in agencies that gave her free rein. Launching her own nonprofit would allow just that, and her personal experience with domestic violence led her to create this desperately needed service.

According to statistics, 99 percent of all domestic violence victims are also financially abused. This fact dramatically hinders their ability to escape their abuser. They may have a car but no money to fill the gas tank. Removing that barrier changes an escape outcome from death to life.

In addition, the organization provides escapees BIN (Basic Immediate Needs) bins. These include necessities and nonperishable snack items like granola and fruit bars. Some abuse survivors are escaping to a nearby location, while others are embarking on an interstate bus trip. Most are starting over with nothing more than what’s on their back. The BIN bins preserve survivors’ dignity, giving them what they need to take that first step.

In the time since Control Alt Delete was founded, they have facilitated 1,532 escapes.

“We tend to think of domestic abuse survivors as young women,” Pahules said. “They’re not. Within those escapes were 3,102 children. Sixteen of our escapees have been men. Recently, a 77-year-old woman was beaten up by her ‘friend,’ who also stole her money.

We don’t give money, but when she left the hospital, we gave her a supermarket gift card so she could purchase pain medication.”

While gas gift cards are always the greatest need (to date, they’ve given 761), the organization also helps make homes safer. That’s where Peter comes in, changing locks, installing cameras, making sure the abuse survivors have security within their homes.

Because of COVID, abusers who are arrested don’t spend much time in prison. Pahules said, “Last Thanksgiving, we installed a two-camera security system. The woman’s abuser had just been released from jail, and she was terrified. When we finished, she told us that would be the first night she would be able to sleep.”

Pahules has lots of goals for Control Alt Delete, which is 100-percent volunteer-operated and has no overhead. She initially thought their work would be just in Maricopa County, but she now realizes the need is nationwide as they’ve helped people from 15 states and Canada.

With more volunteers to help with lock changes and website maintenance, Pahules would be freed for more escapes (during which she always shares her personal story). In addition, she’d love to have community members serve as mentors to guide survivors through balancing a checkbook, writing a résumé, and other life skills.

“I recently learned that if a survivor has a police record, many agencies can’t help them,” Pahules said. “We never ask a survivor’s race, religion or background. We help everyone.”

Consequently, there’s always a need for more money. An average escape runs $12.28 per person. But Pahules and her board of directors are up to the challenge, with creative fundraisers popping up on the website nearly every month. Control Alt Delete’s work is certainly worthy, considering the exponential growth of life reboots that Pahules’s own reboot continues to create.

To learn more, go to dvcontrolaltdelete.org.

Judy Pearson

About Judy Pearson

Judy Pearson is a journalist, published author, and the founder of A2ndAct.org. Her organization supports and celebrates women survivors of all cancers as they give back to the greater good in their 2nd Acts. Her passion is finding those who have have healed themselves by helping others.