Debbie* is not unlike many victims of domestic violence, feeling that she needed to stay with her abuser because she had no other options. In 2011, Debbie’s abuser, the father of her child beat her so severely it left her face disfigured and she wound up in the hospital. As Debbie sat in Valhalla Medical Center, she thought about everything she had been through. She was undocumented, came to America not speaking any English and with no family in the area. She knew to stay quiet about the abuse because her abuser threatened that if she ever called the police, he would take their son away from her. Debbie was scared for her life but even more scared for her one-year old son. At this point Debbie knew she had to leave. But how?
One month after the last attack, Debbie’s abuser was called home to Mexico for a family emergency. This was her chance. With fear in her heart, and determination in her soul, she moved and obtained sole custody of their son. Unfortunately, the story does not end here. Years passed and Debbie began to relax and live a normal life, until all of a sudden, the harassment started again. Her abuser started looking for her, calling her mother, other relatives and friends in an attempt to locate her. She was terrified, and rightfully so, as one day he showed up to her home, tried to grab their child and threatened her once again. Debbie could not take it anymore.
That afternoon, Debbie walked into the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) to get help! Unfortunately, she and the Yonkers Police Department, had difficulty serving an order of protection on her abuser. On Debbie’s behalf, LSHV made an appearance in Family Court, and we were granted a five-year order of protection where Debbie’s abuser had to stay completely away from her and their child! We also advised Debbie that we could attempt to help with her undocumented status and obtain a U Visa, which is set aside for victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse while in the United States. At the time Debbie came to us, family court was not familiar with U-Visas. But LSHV was! We set up a meeting with the Judge to discuss U Visas and after that meeting Debbie’s U Visa certification request was signed. During the waiting period, guess who shows up? You guessed it – Debbie’s abuser! And he tried everything to stop Debbie from living a peaceful life. LSHV continued the fight and in the end all family court matters were settled, and Debbie was granted the U Visa certification making her eligible to become a Legal Permanent Resident in three years. Today Debbie, is safe, happy, and living her best life!
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s Domestic Violence Unit is dedicated to protecting the rights of domestic violence survivors. Our experienced attorneys provide free assistance to victims in matters such as orders of protection, child custody and visitation, divorce, immigration assistance for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and so much more. If you, or someone you know, has a story like Debbie’s, be sure there is help available. You can find your champions here at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. For more information or to get help visit: https://lshv.org/who-we-are/ If you would like to become a champion on behalf of victims like Debbie, click here.
*Denotes name change