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How Domestic Violence Survivors Get Evicted From Their Homes After Calling the Police

1:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Annamarya Scaccia for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A sheriff at an eviction

Why are some cities evicting domestic violence victims?

On June 23 of last year, Lakisha Briggs’ ex-boyfriend, Wilbert Bennett, went to find the 33-year-old mother of two at her house in Norristown, Pennsylvania, which she rented with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 voucher. Bennett, who was just released from prison, wanted to get back together, and he refused to take no for an answer.

“You are going to be with me or you are going to be with no one,” he allegedly threatened.

Even though Briggs was terrified Bennett would hurt her or her 3-year-old daughter if she forced him to leave, there was something she feared even worse: calling the police for help. If she did, she could be kicked out of her home, and that wasn’t a risk she could afford. Feeling defenseless, Briggs succumbed to his intrusion and demands, allowing him and the friends he invited over to stay.

As outlined in the federal lawsuit filed April 24 on behalf of Briggs by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), and Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, Briggs had already been given three strikes under Norristown’s discretionary Rental License Ordinance. The ordinance gives the Montgomery County municipality the right to countermand a landlord’s rental license and provoke a tenant’s eviction if police respond to three “disorderly behavior” calls in four months, including domestic disturbances in which a mandatory arrest in not required.

The strikes Briggs received were the result of police calls made in April and May of last year — two of which were due to acts of domestic violence committed against her. In May, the borough began proceedings to revoke her landlord Darren Sudman’s rental license, but granted the property — and by extension Briggs — a 30-day probationary period after a late May hearing. Any violation during that period would have resulted in rescindment and eviction, claims the lawsuit.

Despite her reluctant surrender, on the evening of June 23 Bennett assaulted Briggs, according to the suit. Her lip was bitten and torn. A glass ashtray was shattered against the right side of her head, leaving a two-inch lesion. She was knocked down. Grabbing one of the large glass fragments, Bennett stabbed her in the neck. Briggs become unconscious as blood surged from the four-inch-deep wound.

Though the attack was brutal, Briggs didn’t call the police, because she feared provoking eviction. But a neighbor did, and soon Briggs was airlifted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for emergency medical care.

According to the lawsuit, David R. Forrest, Norristown’s municipal administrator at the time and one of the defendants named, considered the police response a violation of her probation. Three days after the incident, he told Sudman his rental license was rescinded and Briggs had ten days to vacate. She had just returned home from the hospital when Sudman broke the news.

“[Sudman] tried very hard to help her. He was very supportive of her and didn’t think it was fair that he should have to evict her,” Sara Rose, an ACLU-PA staff attorney and representative on the case, told RH Reality Check. “Ultimately, the borough gave him no choice.”

Although Magisterial District Justice Margaret Hunsicker overturned the eviction, allowing Briggs to remain in the unit, Norristown officials continued to pursue it, asserting they had an “independent right” to enforce the city’s ordinance. They ostensibly planned to remove Briggs from her home and condemn the property.

Legal Challenge

This is where the ACLU intervened. According to Rose, the group sent a letter to Norristown officials in September charting the ordinance’s First, Fourth, Fifth, and 14th Amendment infringements, as well as other legal issues identified under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits housing discrimination based on a number of identifiers, including sex.

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Rethinking Immigration: Moms Will Do Whatever it Takes to Protect Their Kids

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

immigration rally

Immigration Rally

Written by Trisha Teofilo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from the National Immigrant Justice Center blog.

Congress needs to understand something important as it works to pass a new immigration law: Neither a border nor even the threat of detention can keep a determined parent from trying to reach a child who needs her care.

To ignore this fact, when we have the opportunity to create an immigration system that truly meets the needs of our families and communities, would not only be a lost opportunity for good public policymaking, but also would put countless lives at risk.

I have spent the majority of my career working with immigrant victims of domestic abuse. Although it can be challenging, it has proven to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling work. For more than a decade, I have had the privilege to work with men, women, and children who have taught me how to persevere.

Harsh Laws Undermine Critical Victim Protections

Fortunately, in most of the cases I see, something can be done. I often can assist my clients with filing self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act based on domestic abuse, or applying for U Visas based on being crime victims, or at the very least can refer them to counseling services and assistance to obtain orders of protection. I have learned to appreciate the many small steps it takes a person to move from a life of abuse, victimization, and dependence to a life of freedom and security. It is not easy, and dealing with the complex bureaucratic immigration system is a burden that often takes a backseat to the more urgent issues of personal safety, survival, and escaping abuse.

Despite progress in our laws to protect victims of domestic violence, the U.S. government’s focus on harsh enforcement practices and rollback of basic due process protections — including the chance to see a judge before being deported — have led to victims being denied true security. Deportation can be life-threatening for people who are forced to return to countries where they will not be protected from domestic violence, or for the children they leave behind in precarious situations in the United States. Deportation can mean death.

When Carmela’s* case came to me, she had recently been released from immigration detention. As a child, she was abused by her parents and older siblings. The abusive home life led her to get married at a very young age, but her husband also became abusive. Carmela fled her husband’s abuse and came to the United States. She eventually married again in the United States, only to be victimized again.

In 1995, an immigration judge granted Carmela voluntary departure. She left the United States to comply with the judge’s order. Unfortunately, the attorney she had at the time did not submit the appropriate paperwork so that the U.S. government would know that she complied with the departure order. Thus, her voluntary departure, which would have allowed her potentially to return to the U.S. lawfully at any time, turned into a deportation order, which permanently barred her from lawfully returning to the United States.

Carmela’s Struggle to Be Near Her Children

Carmela’s abusive husband insisted that she return to the United States and arranged for her to return unlawfully. Carmela felt desperate, as if she had no other choice, because she needed to care for her children. She returned to the United States, only to again be caught by immigration officials, detained, and subject to reinstatement of her deportation order. Even after she was deported, the abusive cycle continued and Carmela’s husband once again arranged for her to return to the United States unlawfully.

Carmela eventually was able to leave her abusive relationship, but without legal immigration status, it has been difficult to provide financially for her family. Her 17-year-old daughter Magaly is an excellent student who has lived in the United States since she was one. Magaly is applying for temporary protection from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Carmela also has helped to raise an “adopted” U.S. citizen daughter. Another daughter, Ariana, has become a naturalized U.S. citizen and begun a family of her own.

After a car accident in 2012, a police officer arrested Carmela and transferred her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She was detained for three months, during which Magaly was left without her mother. Current immigration law denies Carmela a hearing in front of an immigration judge because of her prior deportation order. NIJC has helped Carmela file two applications for a stay of removal and a request for prosecutorial discretion, since she easily falls into what the Obama administration has designated as “low priority” for deportation.

However, with her prior removal order, Carmela does not qualify for any long-term immigration relief. If Carmela were able to qualify for permanent legal status, she would be able to solidify the roots she has established in her community, with her family. Carmela and Magaly would not be afraid that ICE could show up at their doorstep any day and take Carmela into custody again. Magaly would have the opportunity to become a permanent resident and be able to pursue dreams of a college education after she graduates from high school this year. Instead, the family lives in fear that Carmela can be deported any day.

Laws Should Protect, Not Punish, Families

Congress needs to rebuild our immigration system so that it includes people like Carmela and Magaly. Carmela should not be punished for returning to the United States to care for her children. She should be afforded a hearing in front of an immigration judge and an opportunity to share her story. She should not have to fear returning to immigration detention. She is not a criminal or a flight risk. Rather, she is a mother and a provider. She should be allowed to stay in the United States and obtain long-term immigration status to build a life with her family, free from abuse and fear.

And if my argument is not persuasive enough, read Magaly’s own words from her DACA work authorization application, where she tells the U.S. government why she wants a chance for her family to build a future in the United States:

 photo magaly_zps5180b5b3.jpg

*All names have been changed

Photo by Loretta Principe released under Creative Commons License

One in Three: Silenced Stories of Survivors of Sexual Assault and Women Who Have Abortions

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lindsay Rosenthal for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Valentine’s Day is a day when we are supposed to remind those we care about that we love them. But it is also V-Day, a day where people around the world share stories of physical and sexual violence against women in order to remind the world that we care about women and will not tolerate rape, battery, and abuse. This year marks the 15th Anniversary of V-day and the 40th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. So I thought it would be appropriate to draw a connection between the silenced stories of the 1 in 3 women worldwide who have experienced physical and sexual violence and the silenced stories of 1 in 3 women in the United States who will have an abortion in their lifetime.

As a survivor of rape and a woman who has exercised my right to choose abortion, 1 in 3 is much more than a statistic. In my view, the social stigmatization that blames women and tells women they should remain quiet and be ashamed of having been assaulted is rooted in the same view of women as second-class citizens that says abortion should remain unnamed and unspoken about in public. Gender-based violence takes many forms and our concept of gender-based violence should be broad enough to include the structural violence inherent in a society that seeks to control and regulate women’s bodies and denies them the ability to exercise their reproductive rights in the absence of stigma, shame, harassment, and a slew of unnecessary legal and financial barriers to reproductive health care.

Today, I offer my abortion story as a means of complicating the assumption that a legal abortion is necessarily a safe abortion in a social and political context that denies women’s reproductive autonomy and moral worth as citizens. I want to challenge society, policymakers in particular, to see that it’s not enough to keep abortion legal, as difficult as that fight has been. I want to offer my story to a collection of stories that make the case for positive and unrestricted abortion rights and hopefully challenge people outside the movement to view my choice in the context of my humanity.

I have dedicated both my personal life and my professional life to the advancement of women’s health and rights. Throughout college I defended women’s access to abortion and right to reproductive autonomy both through academic engagement and activism — I’ve done everything from screening on abortion hotlines for women in distress to serving as a clinic defender, protecting women from the harassment of protesters as they entered the clinic for abortion services. As a young professional, I advocate for women’s health and rights every day, nine to five and beyond.

My decision to pursue a career in the reproductive justice movement was based on my own experiences coming of age with a uterus, but it was also deeply influenced by experiences as an advocate in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, watching as pregnant young women were bounced around from foster home to incarceration without so much as a single conversation about the circumstances of their pregnancy or whether they wanted to be pregnant, and without receiving even an approximation of adequate representation in court as they endeavored to keep custody of their baby if they wanted to be a parent. I knew one young girl who desperately tried to self-induce an abortion from a prison bathroom and another young woman in the throws of despair as her new baby was removed from her custody without cause.

All of these formative experiences taught me how vital it is for women to be in control of their bodies. I had no idea that I would eventually need to exercise my own right to choose abortion. But I understood that it is fundamental to women’s freedom and liberty as human beings that we have the right to choose when, whether, and how to become parents and that we be fully empowered legally, politically, and socially to safely make our reproductive choices.

Women have countless reasons for choosing abortion. For some women, abortion is needed as a result of sexual violence. For some women, their abortion will be the means of escaping the violence of an abusive partner. For some women, having an abortion will be a means of keeping the children they already have in the context of a society that makes it difficult for poor families to provide for their children’s basic needs and that punishes poor parents by removing their children from their custody and placing them in foster care. And for some women, having an abortion will simply be about making the affirmative decision that they do not want to be a parent or have another child.

For me, pregnancy was like this: My body had been implanted with a foreign entity that made me violently ill from the time I got up in the morning until I got home from work at night. Worse, it was threatening to grow larger and larger until my whole life was subservient to its needs and desires, and others’ expectations of what I should be. I wanted and desperately needed one thing and one thing only: not to be pregnant. My choice to have an abortion was not one marked by moral ambiguity or internal conflict; not one rife with grief over the potential life that some would tell me I should feel an innate sense of duty to bring into existence. Not to be pregnant — it was a need that I can only describe as primal.

From the clichéd bathroom scene moment when I learned the result of the pregnancy test until after I had the procedure, I was overcome with a feeling of absolute desperation. The instant that second pink line appeared on the positive pregnancy test, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that had always been an abstract reassurance, suddenly became an offering of grace and a tangible pathway to safety and security and the freedom to determine my future in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life.

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Justice Delayed, Justice Denied: Budget Cuts Threaten Safety and Rights of Survivors of Domestic Violence

1:53 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Austerity measures that target the courts can hinder enforcement of statutory rights and procedures — bringing to mind the famous saying, “justice delayed is justice denied.” Nevertheless, state courts throughout the country have experienced severe budget cuts since the 2008 financial crisis. “The justice system’s funding has been decreasing in constant dollars for at least two decades,” David Boies, renowned Bush v. Gore attorney and co-chairman of a commission formed by the American Bar Association to study court budget issues, told the New York Times last year. “We are now at the point where funding failures are not merely causing inconvenience, annoyances and burdens; the current funding failures are resulting in the failure to deliver basic justice.”  

For domestic violence (DV) survivors who rely on the courts for a wide range of services, this “failure to deliver basic justice” can add an extra layer of difficulty to their pursuit of a life free from abuse. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has analyzed the impact of cutting court budgets, finding that over the past three years, dozens of state courts have decreased their hours of operation, reduced services and cut staff salaries in order to save money. The specific impact these cuts are having on DV cases has not been studied in depth and requires closer attention, but some states are reporting greater difficulties in timely restraining order hearings, enforcement of abuser sentences and decreased counseling capacity from court staff — suggesting a reduction in the efficacy of state courts in aiding DV survivors.

Eric Berkowitz’s recent article in California Lawyer delves into the difficulties California courts face in meeting restraining order requests from DV survivors due to crushing state court budget cuts. Attorney Protima Pandey of Bay Area Legal Aid was profiled in Berkowitz’s piece. “Things like the availability of a courthouse to hear restraining order cases within the three-week period, or seeing a mediator — these things are statutorily mandated,” she told me on the phone after a long morning of preparing restraining order applications for the DV survivors who came to her clinic’s door. “They are basic things that we used to take for granted. But we are starting to see these basic services being impacted.”

According to the NCSC, California’s judicial branch budget was reduced by over $300 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011. In response, California courts have had to reduce their hours of operation, imposed staff layoffs, and delayed filling vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions. They anticipate reducing court clerk office hours and reducing the number of civil courtrooms open. Some Branch locations will be closed and some mediation services will be affected as well.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye was among the first to link these cuts to DV services in her recent State of the Judiciary address, when she pointed out that a rural California court with reduced hours of operation cannot meet all DV survivors’ requests for temporary restraining orders.

California’s budget crisis is more severe than that of many other states, but these challenges are not unique to California. Nevada has one of the worst DV records in the United States, having for two years in a row ranked first in the nation in the number of husbands killing their wives. According to Sue Meuschke, Executive Director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence (NNADV), Nevada is seeing struggles in the state’s ability to meet the needs of DV survivors overall — in part due to tight state court resources.

“In Nevada we’ve experienced cutbacks everywhere, so state courts are just one part of the story,” Meuschke said. “The heavy case load that is impacting all the courts in the state makes the ability to monitor sentencing, particularly on misdemeanor cases which most DV cases are, very difficult.”

Nevada judges are charged with handling all follow up to make sure sentences are being enforced, Meuschke said.

We have a requirement in Nevada that offenders attend batterers’ intervention courses, along with jail time, fines and other punishment. But courts have to figure out how to monitor compliance with sentencing, and that can be difficult with an overloaded judiciary.

The NCSC found that Nevada courts have reduced staff support for judges, court operating hours and assistance from retired judges. Nevada courts have also experienced staff furloughs, salary reductions and salary freezes. “As a result, some responses to requests are delayed and courtrooms sometimes go dark because they cannot pay for senior judge coverage,” NSCS states in its summary about Nevada courts’ cuts in services.

Similarly, Oregon courts have reduced their hours of operation, imposed staff layoffs, delayed filling judicial vacancies, delayed filling vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions, among other measures. “Budget cuts have led to the suspension of facilitation appointments, or in-person assistance with court staff,” said Judge Maureen McKnight, chief family court judge in Multnomah County, Oregon. “We’ve left DV survivors and family law litigants in general without a resource that used to assist them in processing papers.”

Meuschke feels that resource challenges may make women reluctant to formally charge abusers or pursue restraining orders. “If there is no follow up, if the courts can’t monitor sentencing implementation, then DV survivors are not going to be as likely to utilize the courts in the future.”

One Billion Rising: Ending the Pandemic of Violence Against Women

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Violence Against Women

(Photo: Paul Garland/flickr)

Written by Soraya Chemaly for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Every day, girls and women the world over face a broad range of assaults which, in the aggregate, inhibit equality everywhere. In the United States we are dealing with a legislative assault on women’s rights, well documented here, that few people understand as a real and violent assault on women’s physical integrity and right to bodily autonomy. More often than not, people think of the “war on women” in the United States as a politically expeditious metaphor when it is not. There is nothing abstract or metaphorical about it. That’s too squeam-inducing for many people to consider. However, in direct and more obvious, “forcible” and “legitimately” recognized ways, women in the United States  experience directly recognizable physical violence, too. Among developed nations, the United States has a higher than average rate of violence against women. This violence sits squarely in the full spectrum of violence, much more crippling and extreme, that takes place in other parts of the world. It’s all of a cloth.

Last Fall, I wrote an article in the Huffington Post called “Violence Against Women is a Global Pandemic.” If you click on the link, you can review the still relevant deplorable statistics. It goes without saying, a scant 10 months later, that data regarding the chronic and oppressive reality of systematized gender-based violence are still valid. For an updated, dynamic and mappable resource, it’s useful to explore the Womenstats database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

The good news is that more and more people and organizations are working diligently to raise awareness and confront the pervasive risks that girls and women face just for being female. Among upcoming efforts are the United Nations UNITE to End Violence Against Women campaign, which recognizes the 25th of every month as an awareness raising Orange Day;Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October; The Pixel Project’s Paint it Purple initiative; and, at the end of November, the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence takes place.

A visionary in this fight is Eve Ensler, who today released a short film on YouTube, One Billion Rising, to raise awareness for a Feb. 14, 2013 global strike to end violence against women. This strike is being organized by V-Day, the international organization she founded 14 years ago whose vision it is to end this violence. They are doing this by organizing a global network of activists, artists, grass-roots movements and more. The #1billionrising movement imparts – to quote a Tweet, an amazing message: “1 Billion Women Violated is an Atrocity. 1 Billion Dancing is a Revolution.”
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As VAWA Languishes in Congress, Domestic Violence Shelters in Texas Are Struggling to Meet Demand

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Paige Flink for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A mother nurses her infant

We must protect Texas women & children from abuse (Photo: See-Ming Lee / Flickr)

It has been a brutal summer for victims of family violence. For the first time in the 34-year history of The Family Place in Dallas, Texas, we will shelter 113 people, including 38 women, 73 children, and two men. A mom and her young child are being transported right this minute by the Dallas Police Department because of the dangerous violence in their home. 

We’ve had to place some families in hotels because it is more than we have bed capacity to handle, but their lethality risk was too great to turn them away. My colleagues at other emergency shelters in Texas are experiencing the same overwhelming demand. The shelter in Arlington is putting up cots in their gymnasium. We are setting records we wish we never had to reach. 

All this is happening at a time when some Texas politicians report that things are going great in the Lone Star State. The women who are struggling to keep their kids alive would not agree with that perspective. 

Yesterday I met Sarah. She had been living in a hotel with her two autistic sons because her abusive husband had lost his job and they’d been evicted from their apartment. She put up with the abuse for years so her kids would have stability and a roof over their heads, but the recent pain was too much for her to bear. We’ve got her in a safe place for now, but finding a job that pays enough to cover her specialized child care needs and living expenses is going to be very difficult. 

Last month I met Mary. She moved to Dallas in 2009 to escape a 15-year marriage to a minister who was well respected in the community. Her employer provided transportation to Dallas to escape her husband’s extreme physical and emotional abuse. Her plan was to live on unemployment until she found a new job. Unfortunately, she was denied unemployment because the state where she had previously lived does not recognize the fear associated with domestic violence as a valid reason to leave employment. To make matters worse, Mary has high blood pressure. Her medical insurance from her employer was good for one month, but she can’t afford COBRA’s high monthly fee. Without insurance, she can’t afford the cost of a medication refill. I hope she’s healthy enough to find a job and keep it.   

And I can’t stop thinking about Gloria. During an abusive rampage, her husband shot and killed her brother who was trying to protect her. Her two little boys witnessed this horror, but managed to escape by jumping out of the bathroom window. Gloria’s husband kept her trapped in their marriage by not letting her become a legal resident. He didn’t want her to gain independence from him because he was afraid he would lose her. 

"Save America, Vote!" reads the sign in the yard of a politically-opinionated neighbor. What good will that do? If we send someone new to Washington DC, will they take action? Will a new Senator or House Representative reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)? Since 1994, this critical law has provided funding for shelters, saved thousands of lives, and helped reduce partner violence against women across our country. The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34 percent for women and 57 percent for men; the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased 53 percent in the years since the law was enacted. Today, this effective law is a political football, languishing on the desks of Congressmen while agencies such as ours struggle to shelter every person who needs it.

Come on Congress: Where are your "family values?"  

In my 20 years of working to stop family violence in our community, I have seen thousands of courageous women and children escape to a better life. They couldn’t have done it without the financial support of caring individuals. Find a shelter in your town. Help feed and clothe these families. Provide enriching activities for the children. Bring your gently used baby stroller and car seat to help a new mom in the shelter transport her baby home. 

Call your representative, get mad, get active, and tell politicians to do their jobs and reauthorize the VAWA before the situation gets even worse. 

VAWA Saved My Life. Now House Republicans Are Pushing For Changes That Will Leave Others Like Me Vulnerable

6:16 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Erika Anonymous for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Photo by Tom Godber

My name is Erika.  I came to the United States with my parents when I was six years old and I have been here ever since.

I have lived in fear for most of my life because of my ex-husband. We met as high school freshmen in Chicago. Our relationship was rocky from the beginning and he became more controlling and possessive over the years. But when he joined the Marines after high school, things seemed to change for a while. He apologized for the way he acted and promised to treat me with respect.

After we got married, he became worse than ever. He came home drunk and assaulted me. He would lock me in the house all day when he was at work, even though I was caring for our infant son. When he would come home, he would bring many friends and drink all night. When I told him he needed to stop drinking or I would leave, he shoved me against a wall and swung to punch me. I ducked, so he hit wall instead. When he was deployed to Iraq, he was supposed to put money into a bank account for our family, but he put most of his money in a separate account and left me without access to it. Even though he was making money, because I was undocumented, I was unable to earn money to feed my children and I had to ask my parents to buy us food. After he returned from Iraq, he began having relationships with other women, sometimes in front of me.  Eventually, I reached out for help and I left.

I would have lived in fear my whole life without protection under the Violence Against Women Act. I now have lawful status and a job as an office manager. I can do anything now. I am not afraid that my ex-husband will take my children away from me or have me deported, as he threatened to do before. I have high hopes for the future. I want to go back to school to study culinary arts, and because of VAWA, I can reach for that goal.

But my ex-husband would have done anything in his power to prevent me from getting legal status. He would have lied and denied that he was abusing me. Even as I was going through the application process, he threatened to kill me. If he found out about my VAWA application, I truly believe that he would have acted on his threats. The proposed VAWA bill, which requires immigration officials to interview the abusers, is dangerous. The government cannot let abusers continue to have control. The government is supposed to protect victims. VAWA saved my life, and I hope it is left as it is now so it can continue to save other women in dangerous situations.