I was a college professor in Argentina, had a large network of family and friends who supported and cared for me, and an independent career as professional architect. My life was looking up after a bad divorce: I had finally found a companion for the rest of my life.
But after a couple of years, he started complaining there was no opportunity in Argentina, a claim that can be truth at any given time in a country with a rocky economy. Although I was at the pinnacle of my career, teaching at the university and making excellent money with job security, we decided to emigrate.
He left with a promise of a job and landed in New Jersey. I stayed behind to sell all our belongings. The kids were excited, a new life in a promising country.
Just several months after we landed…
As a hard worker, he had found two excellent positions and started making good money. I was sustaining the house, the children’s adaptation, and helping him build a business. I had no career of my own, but I thought it was fine to sacrifice a little for someone who was giving me so much.
Soon this wonderful man started changing, his moods and his manners altered, he was either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. Nothing was satisfying enough, he became jealous and demanding; the children bothered him; we all started walking on egg shells.
In a new situation and a new country, I had very few people I could trust. Although I’m easy to make friends and I spoke good English, there were cultural barriers, and the adaptation was exhausting. My sixth sense advised me I had to do something for myself: I went back to grad school.
Money was coming in but I had no control over credit cards or checking accounts, having to ask for it to buy even the minimum grocery shopping. I kept thinking his mood swings were related to work pressure but soon, the yelling, the fights and the violence started to escalate. Luckily, I was never physically harmed but not because he didn’t try.
Through a friend, I found a women’s organization with support groups in New Jersey. I felt ashamed and thought it was my fault. I met a judge and a teacher in the group, which told me domestic violence does not stop with privilege, money or education.
Through my friend’s husband, I told him he had to leave or I would ask for a restraining order – which I never did. I was terrified he was going to take vengeance on me or the kids.
Slowly, I started a new life with my children. I got a job, and new friends that brought to my life great joy and support. I found a room-mate who kept an eye on the children while I was at work –they were already teens. Happiness came back into the house and I never looked back.
I have become a successful business woman, with a great career and a group of friends and colleagues that are there for me every time I need them. Yes, there were other relationships in my life but I never gave up my economic independence, ever again. Learning to make my own decisions have been the biggest lesson I have ever attained.
Don’t be afraid, make the call and ask for help!
National Domestic Violence Hotline Staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors who can provide crisis assistance and information about shelters, legal advocacy, health care centers, and counseling.
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)
According to the National Latin@ Network – a project of Casa Esperanza:
- About 20-25 percent of Latinas will experience intimate partner violence or IPV during their lifetime
- This rate is approximately the same as for women from other racial/ethnic groups. In fact, a recent study found no significant difference across racial groups once socioeconomic status was taken into consideration.
- Reported rates of IPV were lower for Mexican immigrants (13.4%) than for women of Mexican descent born in the United States (16.7%).
- Immigrant women (including Latinas) who are married are more likely to experience IPV than unmarried women.
- A study that included 2,000 Latinas found 63.1 percent of women who identified being victimized in their lifetime (i.e., interpersonal victimization such as, stalking, physical assaults, weapon assaults, physical assaults in childhood, threats, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, etc) reported having experienced more than one victimization, with a 2.56 times average.
- In a sample of over 300 pregnant Latinas, IPV during pregnancy was reported at 10% for physical abuse and 19% for emotional abuse.
- Latinas reported seeking access to shelters less than women from other ethnic/racial groups; this is especially true for immigrant Latina survivors.
- Of the Latinas who experience abuse, about half of them never report the abuse to authorities.
- Latinas prefer to tell family members, female friends, or neighbors about IPV and utilize informal resources for help while non-Latinas may be more likely to tell health care workers or clergy
- Nearly half of Latinas in one study did not report abuse to authorities, possibly due to a variety of reasons, including fear and lack of confidence in the police, shame, guilt, loyalty and/or fear of partners, fear of deportation, and previous experience with childhood victimization.
- Low-acculturated Latinas (both abused and non-abused) are less likely to seek and use formal social services than their more acculturated counterparts.
The National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities is a project of Casa de Esperanza that builds bridges and connections among research, practice and policy to advance effective responses to eliminate domestic violence and to promote healthy relationships within Latin@ families and communities.
For donations, go to Purple Purse Foundation