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For Immigrant Women, Domestic Violence Creates a Double Threat

Karla, a native Guatemalan, arrived in the United States 6 months ago. Love, dreams of a better life, and the thought of endless opportunity gave her the confidence needed to leave her home, her family, and all she ever knew. 

Karla met Samuel in her country 6 months before moving to the United States. Samuel, a United States citizen, lived in the US but frequently visited family in Guatemala. Karla was swept off her feet by Samuel’s good looks and confident personality. At first, Samuel seemed to be the man of her dreams. He was hard working, successful, and funny. Sure, he was sometimes a little jealous, but Karla believed Samuel when he told her it was because he loved her. Karla would often find herself worrying about Samuel’s short temper, wondering how he would react, and trying to avoid upsetting him. She hated when he was angry. He would yell and sometimes call her stupid. He always apologized, blaming his reactions on his stressful job or Karla’s carelessness. Karla forgave him each time and tried her best to keep him happy.  

When Samuel asked Karla to move to the US a few months into their relationship, she thought it was a great idea. She loved him and the thought of starting a life with him in the “land of opportunity” seemed exciting. Karla said goodbye to her family and home and traveled to the US on a conditional visa. She arrived in the United States in late November. It was colder than she could have ever imagined but she looked forward to seeing snow for the first time and to visiting New York City. Everything seemed to be falling into place, as promised. Samuel rented a small one-bedroom apartment in a nice community with kind neighbors, some of whom, to Karla’s delight, spoke Spanish. Everything was perfect, until it wasn’t.

Things started to change quickly after moving to the US. Karla decided to cook a special meal for Samuel as a thank you and a celebration for their new home and new things to come. Samuel was not happy. He yelled at Karla, telling her the food was terrible. He told her she was a worthless woman and a terrible cook. Karla was shocked. She knew Samuel had a short temper but he had never treated her so badly before. She was confused and started to wonder if she made a mistake by leaving Guatemala. 

Samuel’s behavior continued to change. Karla, a carefree spirit, started to feel trapped. Samuel began to limit Karla’s contact with her family. He monitored her phone and prohibited her from speaking to their neighbors. Samuel told Karla that she could not leave their apartment without him. He warned her that if the police or immigration officials caught her without him, a US citizen, she would be arrested and thrown into jail. Karla was afraid. She didn’t want to go to jail; she’d never been in trouble before.  

So Karla listened to Samuel. She did not leave her home for months. She didn’t work, she didn’t learn English, and she didn’t visit New York City. All of the things Samuel promised her seemed like distant dreams now. Instead, Karla spent her days dealing with Samuel’s outbursts and insults that were becoming more frequent.

 One day while using the computer, something she did very rarely, Karla decided to look for help or “ayuda”. She thought that Samuel’s constant insults and verbal attacks were not okay. At least they didn’t feel okay. She searched the internet and came across a website for an organization called Safe+Sound Somerset. She worried that the information on the website would be useless to her in English. But as she searched more, Karla was surprised to find the website was also in Spanish. 

She spent hours reading about “poder y control” (power and control) and “planes de seguridad” (safety plans). The information empowered her and gave her the courage to reach out to Safe+Sound Somerset for additional help. She called the hotline number and within minutes, was connected with an advocate who spoke Spanish. For the first time in months, Karla felt heard, validated and hopeful. Accessing information in her own language helped her take the first steps toward safety and healing. 

At Safe+Sound Somerset, we understand the need for and importance of having accessible services. For this reason, Spanish speaking individuals seeking help, support and guidance may now access resources and information in their native language at safe-sound.org. S+SS provides all of its services free of charge and in a confidential and culturally sensitive environment. Services may be accessed in Spanish and English.

If you or someone you know needs help leaving an abusive relationship, please call or text our 24/7 talk and text hotline at 866-685-1122.

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About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.

About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.


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