October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. The following testimonial is from a local woman, within the Tri-County area, who survived domestic violence through her own determination and the assistance and support from local resources. Maria's personal story was provided to the Orleans County Domestic Violence Task Force in an effort to raise awareness about the very real violence that is in our community...and how you can help.
NOTE:The following story is excerpted from the statement and U visa declaration of one of the clients of the FLSNY/VRC/IIB’s Farmworker Domestic Violence Program. This testimonial is being published with the client’s permission on the condition that all identifying details are changed to protect the privacy of all parties involved.
"I married my husband in Mexico in 1999. His violent behavior towards me started that very day. I was menstruating, and told my husband we would have to hold off having relations. Oscar wasn’t having that, he forced himself on me, saying we are married now and you are mine, my property. He stated that he wanted to “get me any where he could.” I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to have sex but he hit me repeatedly and said if he couldn’t have sex vaginally he would get me from the back. He continued to beat on me while he forced his penis into my rectum.
For the next nine years I endured this type of treatment. His violence towards me included physical beatings, unwanted painful sex forced on me including sodomy and oral sex. I was forced to watch pornographic movies to “learn how it’s done”. Humiliation, degradation and verbal obscenities were an everyday occurrence. He would point to the women in the porn films and say “look at those bodies, that’s the kind of woman, I craving for. I don’t know why I married you”. He would drag me by my hair around the house saying I was nothing but a lazy fat girl, good for nothing, an idiot, he said that I didn’t know how to please a man, he would have to go to prostitutes to have it done right. One day he was so angry he actually kicked me in the vagina. He hit me frequently and did whatever he wanted to do with me; I was only 16 and a half. He said that the woman was good only for bearing children and taking care of them and had to do what their man said.
I never told anyone what was going on for fear that he would retaliate in some way. He always threatened me that if I told anyone he would cause more harm to me and to my family. I had no one to turn to that could help me in my situation. I didn’t have options to choose from. I had no support to speak of, in my country it doesn’t matter whether your marriage bad, you are told to stay and work things out, no matter the cost. This was my mother’s continual advice, she would say that she endured great hardship with my father, so why couldn’t I. She didn’t want our family to be without a father, why should it be any different for me. Since I was a little girl my mother had treated me very poorly. She made me feel that because I was born a female I had no value, I was worthless. My mother would say to me that women reek, that what we carry “stinks” and that men are different. My mother displayed more love for my brothers because they were males then she did for me, a female. To her a woman was filthy, revolting, disgusting - to be loathed. I heard that so many times that it became a part of me, how I felt about myself.
After we were married we resided with my grandparents. My grandparents would give us food, and they also provided a room for us. My husband would abandon me days on end, to go and drink; sometimes he would look for work, other times he didn’t bother. He was a constant threat to my grandparents because he often threatened them with physical harm, or would shove them especially when they tried to intervene for me. My grandfather was sick with diabetes and was frail; my marital problems with Oscar and Oscar’s threats were too taxing for him and affected his health, eventually the stress took a greater toll on his health and my grandpa died. I did not want bring harm to my grandparents; I didn’t know where else to go, outside help didn’t exist for me. Even so, Oscar’s abuse took its toll and it wasn’t too long after that that my grandpa died. When Oscar did work, he never left me any money; his pay went for his vices, having fun in the bars, drinking with women, buying his beer and cigarettes. At times when he didn’t have his own money he would take money away from me to go drink, sometimes he would use drugs and that is when he would hit me the most.
I became pregnant with my first child two months into my marriage. My husband said the baby I was expecting wasn’t his and who knew where it came from, Oscar said “what man left his curdled sperm in you?” Just a few days before my son was born, my husband beat me relentlessly. That day I summoned the courage to file a lawsuit against him, I had witnesses and affidavits to testify on my behalf, only to be told by the judge to return to my husband. The judge said I had to be with him because he was my husband and I would have to put up with him, he knew what he was doing. That day my husband asked me to forgive him and that he would never again lay a hand on me. The judge encouraged me to give him an opportunity, so I did. Before we got home he started with me, calling me profanities, “you stupid bitch, there you go opening your big mouth, gossiping.” My husband said “the next time you want to go bearing tales; you won’t live to tell them.” He went on to say “I already told you I am like this and I am not going to change and if you want to you can go screw yourself, you son of a bitch”.
My son was born in 2000. Two weeks after he was born my husband went out to get drunk again. When he returned home he beat me, I became very sick from that incident and close to losing my life. Once again he asked me to forgive him, this time I told him that I wanted to leave him, my grandmother supported my decision but they were too poor to help support me and my son. My parents did not support me in my decision, they protested, they complained that it would not look right for me to leave my husband. Fortunately for me, something unexpected happened in August of 2000, the authorities put my husband in jail; I was told that he had done something disrespectful to another woman, and he had to do jail time. I never found out the exact details of what happened but the break from his abuse was a welcomed relief.
In 2001 I started selling chicken, tamales and buñuelos in the streets to be able to support myself and my son. I also did laundry and ironed clothing to make a little money. We couldn’t rely on Oscar; his money went for his vices.
In October of 2003 my husband came to the United States, and he left me behind with his mother. I lived in her house with our son, for seven months when my husband pleaded for us to join him in the U.S. We entered the United States without inspection in 2004. I had hoped that we would have a better life in the U.S., my husband had been going to church, and said that with pastoral guidance he had turned his life around. Shortly after I arrived in the states, I found out that it wasn’t so. It wasn’t long before he had hit me; forced acts of sex on me that I abhorred, his old habits were in full swing, abusing me and my son, and continued his drinking, drugging and prostitutes.
In 2008, I was pregnant again but had made the decision to leave my husband, once and for all. We had separated soon after that. My husband was threatening me with if I didn’t go back with him he would report me to Immigration so they could put me in jail. He never wanted me to have any friends. When I spoke to a friend he said it was because he was my lover, if it was a girlfriend I was speaking with, it was because she knew my secret of whoring around.
In 2008, I was sleeping in bed when there was a very loud knock on the door. It was around 12 am. My husband called me on the cell phone and told me to open the door; he said “I want to catch you in the act you bitch”. I told him that we had already split up, he had no business being there and that and I didn’t want him to come looking for me, or to come and bother me for any reason. He said if I didn’t open the door he would call immigration on me, he was banging on the door very hard. I had already been picked up by Immigration and had an upcoming court date in the deportation process. I finally went and opened the door; he barged in and immediately snatched the cell phone from my hand. I pulled it away from him but he pushed me and he hit me in the stomach, many times and very hard. Almost immediately I began having contractions and vaginal bleeding. It was a few days later when I went to the hospital; I was told by the doctor that my baby had died. They would have to remove the baby from my uterus; I was 8 weeks along in my pregnancy. From that moment on I was like a crazy person and I wanted to die. I felt terrible for the death of my baby son. I came to hate my husband even more than I ever had before.
Two weeks after losing my baby, I started working again. My husband would come for the children in a drunken state and he would take them in that condition, I was not able to stop him. He would hit the children frequently; he hit my older son with a belt on various occasions. One day he left him black and blue and sent him to school; they took notice at my son’s school, and another report was filed, the department of Social Services became involved. We both were under their supervision; I never spoke up out of fear from my husband’s continual threats of retaliation. He continually threatened to call Immigration on me if I dared speak up against him, “what will you do then?” he would say. “They will put you in jail and take your children away from you.” He would also threaten me with Immigration to coerce me into having sexual relation with him, nothing was sacred. I remained separated from him. There were other similar instances of the same nature, abusing the children, followed by subsequent charges and report to Child Protective Services.
In October around 6 am, my husband came to the house, he tried opening the door by force and managed to do it and come in the house, and then he left. Shortly after that, he started knocking on the windows saying he was going to kill me and my lover; he always accused me of having one, since I wouldn’t go back to him. He said he wanted to kill me that day; he had a knife on him and also a gun. He showed the gun to our oldest son, and motioned to him that he was going to hurt me with it. He started physically fighting with me, wanting me to leave with him, and he said to me, “do you want to see, you son of a bitch, if I really call immigration?” The police were called and arrived quickly, but he had already left the house. I showed my bruises to the police, they were on my arms and legs. The police were still at my house; writing their report of what occurred to me and the children, when he called me, the officer wanted to speak to my husband, I handed him the phone. The police officer told my husband they wanted to see him. When he returned, the police officers met with him on the patio and told me and my children to remain inside of the house. Since he had come to the house with a knife and a gun, they did not want to take any chances with our safety. After a while, the police arrested him and took him away. The policemen said not to worry him and that he wouldn’t be bothering me again. I explained my legal situation to the police; they gave me information as to who I could call to help with my dilemma.
Because I was now safe from my husband’s abuse, I could finally open up and tell the worker from Child Protective Services what had been going on in my home, and with my children. I told them that he had been the one beating us, abusing us, taking the children by force in his car when he was not in condition to drive. I told them that he had gone to jail at last because he had forced his way in my house, he had beat me in front of the children and he had come there with a gun making threats to kill me. He showed the gun to my son and signaled to my son that he was going to hurt me with it, and he would be deported very soon. All the charges against me were dropped, the case was closed.
After all of that turmoil I went to see a doctor, all those years of being hurt and threatened had taken a toll, leaving me feeling very frightened, frustrated and nervous. There were times I didn’t want to go on living. I saw a doctor; he was the doctor from a local clinic. I told the doctor the things that I had been through and he prescribed certain medications that could help me. Since I began taking this medication I feel much better. Taking the medication and meeting with my counselor help manage the depression I have. My children tell me and I can see that they are happy now; things are going better for them in school too.
I am afraid to return to my country, my children and I will be in danger. I fear my husband, and returning to my country will put me and the children in great physical danger again. The laws in my country do not protect women and children living in abuse as they do here, in the United States. What would become of me and my children if these laws and services were not available to victims of crimes here in New YorkState?
So I am especially grateful that my children’s teacher at the Even Start program referred me to the Domestic Violence Project of Farmworker Legal Services of New York and the VictimResourceCenter. With the aid of the project attorney arrangements were made for me to turn myself into immigration, as I had missed a court appearance while in the hospital when I lost my baby. Immigration put me under supervision with an ankle bracelet for 9 months, but as the attorney had begun my application for a U visa, within 3 months I was given permission to work and obtain a social security number, and now I am obtaining my license to drive as well. Most recently, after a final immigration court proceeding, my deportation case has been closed, and I am now waiting for the final word on my application for the U visa.
I appreciate immensely all that is being done on my behalf and that of my children’s to help and protect us. I wish to give special thanks to my attorney, Denise, from VictimResourceCenter and also to Alina and Cheryl from Farmworker Legal Services, and Cynthia from the VictimResourceCenter. Without their assistance, I would not have come this far. They have saved our lives. God protect you and bless you all. I am praying that my immigration status will be ultimately resolved with the grant of a U visa, and that the children and I can find rest from violence and torment, and that we can continue to live in peace here in the United States.