Content Warning: This story contains descriptions of physical abuse and sexual assault.
Teresa came to the US from Peru in 2000 with her 8-year-old son. A few years later she met Marco at the local mechanic shop in Arlington. They eventually exchanged numbers and began to date, but Marco was very jealous. Earlier on, he said that he was traumatized because his prior girlfriend had cheated on him with another man. Teresa felt sorry for him and tried to be patient. Reassuring him of her faithfulness only seemed to make him angrier. Unfortunately, that anger and jealousy turned into physical abuse and sexual assault both at home and in public.
Teresa remembers the fear and anxiety that would run through her body when he began insulting her and hitting her. She hoped that things would get better after they got married but the situation only grew worse. She remembered one incidence when she had been babysitting a little girl and when she came home, Marco accused her of having an affair with her employer, the parent of the child. The situation was especially painful as Teresa recalls that her son tried so hard to keep the couple together because he remembered how lonely she had been after his father abandoned them 10-years prior. But nothing that Teresa or her son did seemed to help.
Marco’s abuse of Teresa started to become apparent to her employer and she lost her job as a result. This gave Marco increased control of Teresa’s life. Once when Teresa tried to escape in her car, her husband ran after her and punched the glass of the vehicle until it broke. Marco begged her not to call the police but even after she relented, his abusive behavior did not change. She became so frightened, demoralized, and depressed that she couldn’t care for her son anymore and sent him to live with his aunt. Teresa recalls sobbing all the time, feeling that she had let down her son. She tried to gain greater independence and began working at a 7-Eleven, but the abuse continued.
One day after Marco hit her on the face and gave her a black eye, a co-worker noticed her bruising and called the police. The police took her to the hospital to get an MRI. Although she was afraid from her husband and concerned about her immigration status, she told the police about the nearly 5 years of abuse that she endured.
She remembers several domestic violence advocates and social service providers helping her. They connected her with Just Neighbors, where an attorney helped her apply for U-visa application, which is for victims of crime who are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of a case. Her Just Neighbors attorney encouraged her to attend the criminal proceedings against her husband. Despite pressure from husband’s defense attorney, Teresa found the courage to tell the judge, in front of Marco, about the years of abuse. He was sentenced and she received a protective order.
Just Neighbors worked with Teresa for several months to obtain a certification from law enforcement verifying that she had been helpful in the investigation and prosecution of the case. After 5 and half years of waiting on immigration to adjudicate her case, Teresa is finally able to work and live with a greater sense of security. Teresa continues to battle with her confidence and self-worth, but she knows that Just Neighbors is on her side and she is excited that she will be eligible for her green card after 3 more years.
The names and locations in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of our client.