Izma | Jasmine | Shaina | Tara | Nusrat | Jayshree
All names have been changed to protect identities
After 16 years of being in an abusive relationship, Izma had decided it was time to get out. The straw that broke the camel’s back was not the fact that he had “divorced” her on their trip back to the home country 5 years back. It was the fact that he was now getting aggressive towards their 8 year old daughter.
Isma had approached ASHA exactly 4 years ago, when her friend saw the website and told her about it. ASHA had been there with her all along, encouraging her, giving her confidence, helping her open a bank account in her name, sending her to driving school so she could learn how to drive and also helping her with her resume when she finally applied for a job. Her advocate had educated her regarding her options and how each one would impact her life. She knew she should file for divorce especially since he was already claiming he had “divorced her”. This was because of the letter he sent her, when she was visiting her sick mother back home. The letter had said “I divorce you”. That’s it. Nothing for her. Minimum child support, no division of property, no house, no money. But she still clung on to hope because when they came back to the US, he shared the house with her, shared her bed, she cooked for him, they went on trips together. True, he disappeared for months on end at times, but he always came back. And he loved his daughter.
And this scenario continued until the day he slapped his daughter twice.
Izma found a lawyer with ASHA’s help and filed for divorce. At home, when her husband found out that she had the “audacity to seek equal rights”, he became insufferable. He would constantly berate her and tell her there was no way she would win and he would see that she starved on the streets.
After numerous court hearings, 1 ½ years and almost $15,000 in legal fees ($10,000 paid by ASHA), the judge threw out the husband’s claim. Izma was granted 4 years of alimony, child support and got equitable distribution of their joint assets.
She now lives independently and with dignity with her daughter, has a job and dreams of one day owning her own home. Her daughter is a normal happy teenager, who studies hard, loves music, and believes in her mother.
Jasmine, a young girl from India, joined her husband here after four years of marriage. Her husband had left her behind in India soon after they married, leaving with her in-laws who financially, verbally and emotionally abused her.
Jasmine was able to join her husband only after a long wait. She thought once she came across to her husband, everything would be alright. They would be able to start a life together. After all, she had a PhD to her name, her husband was well settled with a good job and so what could possibly go wrong? Everything!
Her husband was physically here but emotionally controlled by his family in India. Jasmine gave birth to a daughter but suffered constantly, even through her pregnancy, at the hands of her husband. His only goal in life was to ensure her continued and extreme unhappiness so that she would eventually leave him. He deprived her of the basic necessities of life and tried his utmost to see that she was “out-of-status” in this country, so that she would quit and return home.
However, Jasmine had more spunk than that - she wasn’t going to be a loser! She fought back persistently. Through a series of dramatic events, she finally got her Green Card and her work permit. Her journey took her 12 long years. When she reached out to ASHA in the ninth year of her troubles, ASHA supported her every step of the way till she found her own two feet: very solid feet!
Jasmine is an inspiration to us, like all the other wonderful women who have overcome unhappiness and violence and taken hold of their children’s wellbeing.
Shaina came to the USA after an arranged marriage, with a college degree in her pocket, and a lot of hope. In a short while, her life in the Promised Land turned to virtual imprisonment at home, under the complete control by her abusive husband. Afraid that she would learn life skills from others, Shaina was kept isolated from her own community and barred from visiting the regular place of worship.
After 14 years in the US, Shaina could barely speak English, couldn’t drive, and possessed no work skills.
Shaina’s tormentor was physically, verbally and mentally abusive – and manipulative. He would plead forgiveness, wrest a pardon, and after a short reprieve, resume the battering. After a particularly bad bout, Shaina called the police and her husband was arrested. But he manipulated her again, promising her a monthly allowance, and got her to withdraw charges.
How much can a woman endure? Shaina had begun to take the first steps in self-preservation. She kept her passport and other critical papers in a safe easily accessible place. Finally, on a cold winter evening she escaped her ‘jail’, taking with her the most precious acquisitions from her troubled life, her two young children. To face the future, all she carried was a suitcase and her documents.
She was severely underequipped to meet the challenges of a new life. Like a baton, she was passed on from ‘friend’ to ‘friend’, shelter only for a few days at a location, and that too conditional to her paying for rent and food expenses. Her status was pitiable. Shaina had to stay outside the house in the hours her hosts were away at work: none of them gave her a house key. Where could she go? Entire days were spent hanging out in the lobby and hallways of her children’s school; a couple of late afternoons she and her kids spent in dollar stores to stay warm till the friend returned home.
In this bleak existence, a sympathetic school counselor befriended her. Her new ally referred her to ASHA and also the county’s department of family services. It was the turning point for Shaina. With ASHA giving her moral, emotional and emergency funds support, Shaina began to rediscover herself. She turned her back on dubious living arrangements, community pressure to return to her abusive husband, and self-doubt. Relocated in a women’s family shelter, she rapidly adjusted to her new environment, started picking up communication skills and took full advantage of job counseling. Within three months she achieved what she had been denied in fourteen destructive years! A job, a driving license, and her very own apartment.
Today Shaina drives a car given by the shelter and is well on the journey to a brave new existence. She continues to be guided by ASHA. Apart from occasional financial support, ASHA is empowering her to understand her rights, and is currently helping her work on claiming child support payments from her husband.
It’s wonderful and heartening to see her walk so tall.
Tara had an arranged marriage in India according to Hindu traditions, and came to the US on a fiancé visa. The husband's family had promised that as soon as the couple reached the US, Naresh would file a change-in-status for his wife and get her a Green Card. Since he was a citizen, everyone thought this would be the best way, as there would be no need for Tara to wait out in India for the Green Card formality, separated from Naresh.
As soon as Tara arrived in the US, the abuse started. At first it was a slap across her cheek, then it led to a beating with a belt. She was not given any food and was threatened that if she called the police, she would be thrown into jail because of her illegal status. Her husband and his parents started demanding that she pay for the couple's planned honeymoon. They were also upset that her father had given Tara some money during the wedding ceremony in her name alone and not her husband's.
When it came time for filing her Green Card papers, her husband demanded that she pay for the filing from her own money, but then ultimately held back her affidavit of support, an important document in the filing. He also withdrew her work permit application.
Tara suspected he was going to get married again, and since she was in the country not as his wife but only as a fiancé, she would be in trouble with the law. She was very scared and nervous. She could not even contact her parents because that needed access to a phone to call home.
One day, the daughter of her parents’ friends came to visit her and somehow Tara managed to communicate her situation. The friend visited Tara the next day when nobody was home and took her away. Through some others they found out about ASHA for Women and asked for help.
Tara's volunteer advocate helped and guided her. She immediately gave Tara access to emergency monetary support of $250 to buy food and took her to see an immigration attorney. ASHA gave Tara a no-interest loan of $3500 to buy a second hand car and pay the down payment towards the attorney's fees.
The attorney filed a VAWA (Violence Against Women's Act) petition under which a domestic abuse victim can file for Green Card status without any supporting paperwork which, under normal circumstances, is provided by the spouse. Within a month of filing the VAWA petition, Tara received a work permit and with the help of her advocate found a job. She rented a small subsidized apartment which she found through county support services. She received her Green card within a year and then filed for divorce.
Tara is adjusting to her new life in a new country, and she has found a new friend - her ASHA advocate. Tara has learned that beyond the dark clouds of physical abuse and hungry nights, there is a clean blue sky with warm sunshine, and a safe place to call her own.
First person: Nusrat
It was a pleasure meeting you on this weekend and I am really thank full that you were with us on the weekend. I appreciate that you have very busy schedule but still you came to my home and visited us.
Mayeda (My daughter) is very, very, very happy now and she is almost jumping to have her own pc. It is all because of you Maya, I am really really thank full.
All the clothes fit Mayeda too so thank you for that also, and actually she as in bad need of summer clothes. She has clothes but they are from wintertime. Now I think she will be fine for this summer break. She also Loves the toys you brought AND the desert was really tasty.
So I am thank full to you and ASHA. PC help is actually a great help and I really appreciate it. Special Thanks from Mayeda also.
First person: Jayshree
I want to thank you and “ASHA” for being my emotional support at the time when I really need to talk to someone. Just to let you know that along with attorneys my uncle-in-law is helping me negotiate with my husband so that I can move out of the house comfortably.
In order to maintain the peace in this negotiation procedure I communicate in writing with Uncle and he forwards the messages to my in-laws. Next week when schools will close for summer, I will move out of the house with Kailash and live with my uncle-in-law till I settle for my condo. By the way, the money I will get from this separation, I will buy a small condo for myself and Kailash. In last twelve years, I never thought that I will be able to come this far and start a new life; but once again it was not possible without your and ASHA’s support.
At this point I am just hoping that I will be able settle this case peacefully (the way uncle is planning with us). The only point my husband is stuck on right now is child support amount and I am hoping it will be settled soon. Once Child support is settled he will buy out my share from this house. I am really hoping that life will turn from here. I don’t want to think about my past and live peacefully with my son.