Immigrants in abusive relationships usually threatened with deportation, so they never get help

Brave young mother wants other immigrants to know you can get help without being deported

SAN ANTONIO – KSAT spends a lot of time telling domestic violence survivors’ stories, often through Courtney Friedman’s series — Loving in Fear. But for years, one specific group of survivors has been hesitant to tell their stories — until Wednesday.

A nervous 26-year-old woman sat down next to her case manager, Magali “Maggie” Garcia, at the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter, where she is staying with her two daughters.

For her safety, we are keeping her identity hidden.

Garcia acted as a translator as the woman shared her heartbreaking story with Courtney.

The woman’s husband is currently in the Bexar County Jail on a felony charge, accused of trying to kill her two months ago.

They are both from Columbia and recently moved to the United States, leaving all their family behind. She said it was because they were poor and struggling, and her husband had “many enemies” in Columbia.

While staying at the shelter, the woman has learned that isolation is one of the key parts of gradual abuse.

“Once my family was not around, it became worse. Much worse. It was physical, very aggressive. He would verbally abuse me, and there was also sexual assault,” she said.

It was at the shelter that she learned for the first time that sex must be consensual, even between husband and wife.

“It was forced. So now she realizes that, yes, it was abuse,” Garcia said.

The woman’s husband often threatened her immigration status, saying if she left him, he would get her deported.

Experts in both advocacy and law enforcement confirm that this type of threat is almost always used on immigrant victims.

“That was very scary because he has a lot of enemies in Colombia, and if I had to go back, that would put me and my daughters in danger,” the survivor said.

RELATED: Don’t let a language barrier stop you from getting help with domestic violence

That same threat is why the majority of immigrant victims don’t come forward or even try to get help.

For this mother, the abuse got so bad that help came to her.

Two months ago, when her husband attacked her at their apartment complex, the police arrested him and took her and her daughters to the shelter.

The fear, pain, and shame began to lift from that moment.

At the shelter, she learned about the abuse she’d endured for years. She was able to focus on her and her daughters’ mental health and began believing she could have a real future.

At this point in the conversation, she sat taller in her chair. Her nerves had disappeared, and her true confidence and strength shone through her face and words.

“I feel powerful, capable, happy. Psychologically, it is hard, but I have learned it is not my fault, and they’ve empowered me to recognize that I can do this on my own,” she said through tears with a smile.

She and Garcia are already working on her immigration status, her divorce and custody, housing, and getting a work permit so she can contribute to the community that saved her life.

The woman said it was a hard decision to tell her story, but she felt it was necessary to educate other immigrants in her situation.

To those still suffering in a prison of silence, she promises that freedom is possible.

“Look in the mirror. Learn to love yourself and respect yourself, and get yourself out of that situation. They tend to make you believe that you’re not worth anything, but you are,” she said.

If you are in this situation and need help, you can call Family Violence Prevention Services, which runs the shelter.

You can call the 24/7 crisis line at (210)-733-8810. There are translators and full wraparound services available.

There is a long list of resources on the KSAT Domestic Violence webpage.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.