Rising above domestic violence

Editor: Anna Croyts, Kalaya McAuley

It was a quiet night when suddenly a loud noise was heard through the streets. Neighbors, concerned by the screaming, decided to call the police. The cops arrive at a small house in Richmond, Virginia, and walk to a scene of domestic violence. They meet a woman named Esperanza * who answers their questions completely and easily. "What happened tonight?" the cops ask. “My husband got angry because I didn't want to leave my mother alone. He threw the plates at me and hit me. I tried to run, but he pushed me between the wall and the door and he started hitting me with the door, crushing me against the wall. "

Domestic violence is a widespread problem. In the United States, nearly twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, which is more than 10 million people per year. The statistic alone is enough to attract attention, but the important thing to remember is that each of these ten million people has their own story, and as a result, their own trauma. How many individuals are experiencing domestic violence but cannot talk about it?

Esperanza's husband was arrested and remained in jail for two months. Unfortunately, when he was released, Esperanza's situation only got worse. He blamed Esperanza for her incarceration and financial situation, criticized her appearance and beat her regularly, even during her pregnancy. Finally, her abuser left her after the birth of her third child, but not without taking all her savings, leaving Esperanza without the possibility of providing for her children.

Soon after, her husband returned and begged Esperanza to take him back, to which she refused. One day, he came to Esperanza's house and started beating her, told her that he had a gun, and threatened to kill her. Luckily, Esperanza managed to flee and called the police, which resulted in a longer prison sentence for her abuser, and a protective order against him.

Dealing with such traumatic events is difficult no matter who you are, but for an immigrant without legal status, the difficulties are exacerbated. Immigrant women specifically have a higher risk of experiencing domestic violence. Unlike citizens or permanent residents of the United States, victims without legal status are in a more difficult position to escape from the abuser, due to problems such as language barriers, residency status, or access to means. Immigration laws in the United States cause individuals to feel like they are trapped in the abusive relationship. Immigrant women who are married have a higher rate of abuse than single women, with 59.5% and 49.8% respectively. Additionally, the culture of domestic violence is more prevalent in other countries, which can make individuals feel that the laws against domestic violence in the United States are inapplicable to their situation.

In 2013, Esperanza began her application for nonimmigrant status in the United States. In her application, she assured that she felt safer and more protected against her situation of domestic violence when she was in the United States as opposed to if she will return to Mexico. Deportation would increase the likelihood that her husband would find her, and current laws and security in Mexico would not do enough to protect her or her children.

Thousand Women Legal Services provide help and support to women like Esperanza. Being with her from the beginning of her U Visa application, until its approval for the period 2015-2019, Mil Mujeres played an essential role in her immigration status.And showing that hope never ends, last week Esperanza received her legal permanent resident card!

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