The “type” of woman the Violence Against Women Act helps

by Jenny Martin, Communications Coordinator

One client came to the U.S. from her home country on a fiancé visa. She met her fiancé online, and he came to her country and “wooed” her – taking her on trips, telling her about the family he wanted to have. He treated her with gentleness and kindness. When she came to the U.S. and they married everything changed. She knew little English and he never let her leave the house. She had a schedule of chores each day, from early in the morning until late at night, leaving little time to eat or sleep. She lost weight fast. She was not allowed to leave the house unless she was with him. Blinds were to remain shut at all times, and she was told never to answer the door. He beat and raped her regularly. He never applied for her permanent residency — the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse in a marriage is the only person who can do this — so once her fiancé visa expired, she was in the U.S. illegally, even though they were married.

Her husband told her if she disobeyed him he would kill her, and that no one would find out, or care, because she was not here legally. They then had a child together. Now, because the child was a U.S. citizen, her hopes of escaping to her home country faded – she knew she would never make it out of the country with her baby. She called the police once. When they arrived, they arrested her, because they relied on her husband for an explanation since they could not understand her broken English.

Once she came to SafePlace she was able to get an immigration attorney and self-petition for legal permanent residency as a result of the immigration statutes included in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This process was long and difficult: She had to prove that her marriage was in good faith and she was a person of good moral character – not the kind of proof that is accepted by giving her word, but the kind in which everything she did from the day she met her husband was scrutinized. Her story turned out happily. She finally obtained permanent residency so she could work legally, go to school, learn English and eventually divorce and move on with her life in the U.S. Hers is just one of thousands of stories that show why it is so important that all victims are protected by VAWA.

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourns on December 14th. VAWA expired at the end of 2011, the Senate passed a version, but it has yet to be reauthorized by the U.S. House of Representatives. That means appropriations (money that keeps people, like the woman above, safe) could go away starting next year unless Congress acts soon.  Domestic violence agencies around the nation support the passage of an all-inclusive VAWA, and your representative needs to hear from you.  Contact your local representative and key leaders today and urge them to pass VAWA.

Conact via twitter:
Key leaders in house:

  • Eric Cantor: @GOPLeader | @EricCantor (Majority Leader)
  • John Boehner: @johnboehner  (House Speaker)

Central Texas representatives:

  • Mike McCaul: @McCaulPressShop – 10th District of Texas
  • Lamar Smith: @LamarSmithTX21 – 21st District of Texas
  • Lloyd Doggett: @RepLloydDoggett – 25th Congressional district of Texas
  • John Carter: @RepJohnCarter – 31st District of Texas
  • Bill Flores: @RepBillFlores – 17th District of Texas

Share this story on twitter using the hashtag #PassVAWA2012.  For the most current updates visit www.4vawa.org.

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