The following article is part three of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and we hope to educate our community on this very important issue. 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Locally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse since 1978. Last year, HCWC served 2,111 victims of abuse (face-to-face) primarily from Hays and Caldwell Counties. 1,022 of those were victims of domestic violence.
By, Belen Anchondo, MS, LPC-Intern, NCC Supervised by Sheri Cobarruvias, MS, LPC-S, NCC – Non-Resident Bilingual Counselor II
*Marivel (not her actual name due to confidentiality) is a single mother from a small, impoverished city in South America. She has family, friends, and a job in her city which makes this her home.
She wakes up one day and goes to her job at a nearby coffee shop as usual, where she notices a man she does not recognize working on his laptop. She goes on about her business as usual, only to find that the man seems to have taken interest in her and approaches her.
He seems polite and friendly at first, introduces himself, and asks her a few questions about herself. She comes to find out he is a businessman from the United States who travels often for meetings.
During his stay, the man begins to charm her with gifts. The man continues to pursue her until they begin a relationship. He returns to the United States and they continue their long-distance relationship by communicating through an online messaging app.
The man makes a few trips back to her country and eventually convinces her to move to the United States with him. She is hesitant at first because she has children and is comfortable in her country, but he assures her she will be well taken care of.
Once she arrives in the states with her three children, the man suddenly starts to become controlling and abusive. *Marivel is unsure of what to do. She has been isolated from her friends and family and is now in a country she is unfamiliar with. She is afraid of reaching out for help because her abuser has told her they will deport her and keep her children here. She does not know the language and does not want to be separated from her children. What should *Marivel do?
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center Advocates have seen a trend of individuals from foreign countries being targeted by abusers and brought to the United States under false promises of a better life. So far this year, advocates have helped 17 clients with immigration-related services.
Typical ways abusers find these victims are through online dating sites, matchmaking businesses, business trips, or randomly in social settings. There are also instances where the victims are already living in the United States, and are targeted because they are seen as vulnerable due to their immigration status. These immigrant victims come from several different parts of the world, including South America, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East.
Abuse can take many forms, and foreign victims face a unique set of challenges, such as language and cultural barriers, that make it difficult for them to access help. Abuse can look like taking away important immigration documents, refusing to let victims speak to family members in their country of origin, threatening to have them deported, and giving them false information about the law and their rights. All of these tactics are ways to establish power and control by manipulating and isolating the victim.
Many victims are not aware of the assistance available to them, but there are resources they can turn to for help. Agencies such as Asian Family Support Services of Austin, Catholic Charities of Central Texas, Refugee Services of Texas, American Gateways, and Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project provide legal and supportive services specialized to the immigrant population.
Other legal resources include Texas Advocacy Project and Texas Legal Services Center. HCWC can assist with accessing these specialized services and help negotiate the challenges facing victims like *Marivel. Today, *Marivel has started a new life after receiving services and accessing resources available to her and her children.