July 19, at Citizens Trap Their Immigrant Wives: It hurt me very deeply to know that he would do this, knowing the hardships I overcame knowing that without worth authorization papers and a social security number I could not work. He did not have to worry about these things because he was a citizen and all his relatives were born here. We were married in , and I still do not have a green card, work authorization, or a social security number. I do however have a tax ID and have paid taxes.
It was also shocking to learn of the hatred his family held towards me. In this country, when you are an immigrant living under these circumstances it is very difficult to recover. He knew I had done a great deal in the past to help my young brothers who were also being abused and that they needed me. I needed to return to my country to help them and I could not get there if I did not have a green card, and if I did not have a job here to build up the funds, to take them out of that violent, and demeaning setting.
He knew when I was in my country my mom harassed me on the job, and did everything she could to stop me from gaining enough money to be able to show that I could provide for my young brothers. I came to this country to be free of this harassment, and to escape the stigma of being sexually abused, but always with my return in mind. After this declaration, I continued to do my best to earn an income mostly through freelance work, as a writer.
It was the only work I could do without breaking labor laws. I knew of others who were working under the identity of Americans to survive similar circumstances. However, I did not see this as an option. Instead, I reasoned that if I could simply create my own employment, I would be able to save enough money to escape the situation. My husband also used humiliation by telling his family that I was a victim of rape in New York.
In turn his father who was convinced I was exploiting his son, and who was also a tyrant in his home, according to my husband and his sisters , started to inquire about the times I would be at the apartment alone, by then two burglaries had been carried out, during the first, only my things were stolen.
During the second, some things of my husband were stolen mostly things he himself did not want. These types of tactics between my husband, his father, and his mother, eventually pushed me out of my own apartment, I was forced to call a shelter. I was not accepted at any NY shelters, instead I was sent to a shelter in Newark, while there, I saw how victims were ill treated by a few, it made me wonder if I could be safe there.
I learned of another shelter an hour away, at that shelter, I saw a woman beaten in front of the entrance. Like me these women were stripped of more than their money, they were denied their productivity. What are we without productivity? Being human is akin to being productive. For me, it is everything.
I also would like to say that it is one thing to be an immigrant victim of domestic abuse who is latino, and another to be an immigrant victim of domestic abuse who is black.
To add to this, I noticed that when shelter staff learned that my husband was Latino, the response was even more complicated. Based on the comments made by some some, I reasoned that many people automatically assume that I was the problem, because black women are often presented publicly as aggressive.
I reasoned this way because even individuals at my church who learned of the abuse, supported him, even though I never did anything or acted in a way that was aggressive or offensive to him, or them. They saw him as mild tempered, and told me I must be mistaken, even when they learned he had not filed my green card and stopped me from having money, they said, that he was under the influence of his family, and his family must be like that because they wanted him to marry within his culture.
I was dismayed that even in a church setting, and a shelter setting, people reacted in ways that compounded my distress. In spite of this, at the shelter, I cannot say that I felt angry with those who tolled out this treatment. I felt very disappointed that were not all seen as equal victims of domestic abuse.
To complicate matters some of the staff including my advocate commented on how I seemed to be educated and articulate and found it difficult to believe that I could not find a way out of this situation. Are we not all the same, do we not bleed, hurt, and long for love, honesty, respect, and compassion, the same? Do we not have dreams to be free of oppression, economic abuse, and scorn? Is it so hard to imagine that a diabolical man who is clearly a covert aggressor, a calculated person, an evil doer, could trap someone like me, someone without any family support?
The only thing that has kept me going all these years is my prayers, my request to God to hold onto my mind, and not let the depression take it over, and to help me help myself to get out. I have lost many years in this bind, inside this plight, and it is compounded by the abuse that continued in my country. My plan failed to rescue my brothers. My plan failed to rescue me.
But I have not failed completely I simply need another plan and even as I recognize this I am reassured even more by the fact that my husband is still trying to overtake me, that fact alone reminds me that it is not over, I have not failed me, completely, otherwise there would not be a need for him to try so hard.
But unlike many, and I do concede that many have gained the help of organizations such as Safe Horizon , I have not benefited from these services. I think to myself if only it could be true, for me.
For those with different experiences I am happy to know you found help. The women who were immigrants at the shelter I mentioned seemed to suffer a great deal more because like me they were told by the counselor that there was nothing that could be done for them because they had no access to an income, but these women had one thing in common with me, regardless of their race, they were set on finding a way on their own, an honest way to be independent, and like me they too suffered from severe depression, and that complicated how far they could take their dreams, restore their autonomy.
And like me they had been diligent wives, helping their husbands. I had written three proposals that helped my husband gained three promotions. I had done everything a wife should. When he flared up and did spiteful things I constantly questioned what I did wrong. And when I had managed to save up money and he found out through his surveillance of me, he would create a crisis, such as not paying rent for months unknown to me, or allowing the lights or phone to be turned off, or not buying food, until every penny I had saved was gone.
You ask how can a woman suffer if she has never been beaten? How can she really experience distress without a death threat? People say these things, ask these questions, because they do not understand that economic abuse is akin to being struck down over and over with a blunt instrument, it pounds you down, and down, into scraps of nothing, into a thing rather than a person, a thing to be pitied or looked down upon, a thing to be turned away, a thing to be counted as much less than a person, and it comes with the insults, with bullying, with psychological violence, and it comes with unspoken threats too.
You wake up and find your husband glaring down at you as I did, his eyes so big with darkness and mad will, that you scream as I did involuntarily to the top of your lungs. Did he strangle me? Did he try to suffocate me?
He wanted me to know. He could have kill me. And because I read a great deal, I could support what I saw in his eyes, my certainty about what he was doing. To say that is to simplify human behavior. Knowing someone could kill you if you keep fighting for your right to have money and live like a human being is the same as knowing that they will at some point attempt to kill you when you do. It feels the same to me. I know that the moment I am financially independent he will try to kill me.
I know this because he is determined to win. Based on all he has done to me thus far I have every reason to believe this is his intent, regardless of what anyone outside this situation has to say.
But I am equally determined to do all I can to block his will from succeeding. I told him once we are both determined here and I am willing to go all the way, to stop you from taking over me. He backed away, looked at me, and left the apartment for hours. What worries me is when my depression comes it is so overwhelming, I am not as strong as I was in the moment I said that to him, and he knows this. There was also little food there, and I honestly did not want to eat.
I thought only of escaping this setting but I had no place to go. It taught me a valuable lesson that even when you go someplace expecting help, you still have to be on guard, people driven by control and dominance go where they can gain easy access to victims, and this includes other women, not just men. In that shelter, the women would share their experiences about their residence at shelters, and how some advocates were high on the power they felt over victims.
I was surprised and was told by one of the women at the shelter that the shelters in the poorest areas were like this, and I needed to find a shelter in a wealthier area, but I needed to have an address near that area.
I was very sad after this and decided I could not listen to any more these conversations because I felt my depression coming for me. I did not want to ignore what they were saying because we were there to listen, and support each other but hearing these things cut a like knife, it hurt deeply and I needed to focus on how to regain my economic freedom, to stay on track in spite of the chaos around me.
If you were sick due to depression the shelter staff entered the room and demand that you get up and find something to do.
There was a lack of compassion but I decided to use this demand as inspiration. I told my depression to go away. I would say this every day in my mind. The computer rooms could only be used in the middle of the week even though no one was using them. It was hard to know what you could do to empower your self.
All that was on my mind was to find a way I could earn an income independently, I thought the computer and access to the internet would help me figure somethings out, find some sort of inspiration, do some type of research but most of this was restricted. It was also very cold in the shelter and I became ill the heat was limited. I tried to go to a shelter in New York but because I had not been beaten,and because I did not have children, and because I had no restraining order, I was turned down by Safe Horizon.
In the end, with no money, and no way to really sit down and craft a plan to create an opportunity to use my talents to make money, I was forced to return to my husband. He allowed me to return but he stopped purchasing toilet paper, bathroom soap, then he stopped buying food. I contacted the church I attended and asked for help. They told me they could not believe he would do this and no one showed up to help me, never mind that I was a baptized member.
I moved from one state of chaos to another, never really having an opportunity to think my way out of hell. Why do women stay in domestic abusive situations where their economic freedom has been censored? But I am still trying to escape economic abuse, even though there are many organizations stating they can help you gain a divorce, get your green card under the VAWA Act, gain counseling, and help you get away from your abuser, it is not that simple.
There is a waiting list for this help. So again, you are back to the beginning, as an immigrant trapped by economic abuse and the tactics employed by your husband, and you are back to finding a method to gain an income without him knowing, so that you can hire a lawyer to help you get the divorce and get the green card, and for me, that means so I can finally overcome economic abuse, and while you are doing this you have to regulate your brain chemicals to keep the depression away, because it does come for you with great force science have proven that sexual abuse early in life affects our brain chemicals making it harder to keep depression out.
It is the depression that also compounds our ability to get out in time. But I say though it has been the greatest challenge of my life, I still believe I can do all this, and get away in time, before he realizes what I am doing and tries to kill me.