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VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN:
“While tremendous progress has been made, violence is still a significant problem facing women, men, families, and communities.
- Three women die every day at the hands of husbands or boyfriends.
- Domestic violence causes two million injuries a year to women and untold amounts of human suffering.
- Domestic violence shelters are still full, hotlines are ringing, and for every victim who has come forward, many more are suffering alone.
- And it’s the nation’s youth who are most at risk – young women between the ages of 16-24 suffer from the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault.
- More than 20 million women in the US have been victims of rape, and less than 1 in 6 rapes are reported to the police.”
It is critical to ask the US Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) because since its inception crimes against women have dropped by more than 50%. So VAWA works. It saves lives.
VAWA ensures that victims of domestic violence are seen as such, and not as criminals. For example, sometimes women may be in a domestic violence/abusive relationship, and their abusers may also be committing another crime such as selling drugs, for which the woman could be charged as an accessory to the crime.
What I have learned through the various domestic violence and human trafficking prevention workshops that the Human Trafficking Survivors Foundation (Fundación de Sobrevivientes de Tráfico Humano- FSTH.org, which was founded in OC by Virginia Isaías) offers directly or through its partnership with great organizations i.e. Laura’s House, is that statistics show that it generally takes about 7 attempts before the young or adult woman in a domestic violence situation leaves it successfully, assuming she or someone close to her is not harmed or murdered because she attempts to flee or is successful in fleeing this situation.
A personal example, of a friend I’ll call Rosalinda. Rosalinda is someone I befriended in the last couple of years both through Los Amigos of Orange County and through my leadership and volunteer work with Virginia Isaías, President and Founder of FSTH.org. It is only recently that I learned details of Rosalinda’s past personal life, trauma, and immigration status.
For many years, Rosalinda was in a domestic violence situation, suffering great physical violence and often kept locked-up. She also had children.
The father of Rosalinda’s kids was also selling drugs. He got caught distributing drugs. But because Rosalinda knew of this and never reported it, just like she never reported the violence and abuse she suffered, she was also charged as an accessory to the crime.
Rosalinda served about 3 years in prison, and was then deported because of her undocumented status.
Because she had three US born children whose lives were well established here in the US, she re-entered the US to take care of her three children. Rosalinda opened a restaurant and was taking care of her children.
(Her oldest daughter is in college in San Diego with a double major; her 17 year old son will be graduating from high school this year and is considering joining the US Marines; and her youngest son is a special needs student).
Additionally, Rosalinda was very giving and supportive sponsor of FSTH.org.
Although Virginia Isaías has surrounded herself with incredible volunteers because of her own life’s story of being a victim of child sexual abuse and domestic violence in her marriage, and later a kidnap victim and survivor of human trafficking, I often wondered where Rosalinda’s dedication to FSTH.org came from. And as I found out recently, this came about because of Rosalinda’s own personal traumatic story.
Well, last October 2011 Rosalinda was detained and has been in federal detention because of her past deportation. And because of this, at her sentencing hearing of Monday March 26, 2012 Rosalinda was now facing 37-46 months of prison time before being deported, as recommended by the probation report
- “Chicho” (a volunteer from Los Amigos); Virginia and myself drove in my car, for an early Monday morning sentencing hearing in San Diego, to give support to Rosalinda at her sentencing hearing and to share with the judge our own experiences of the tremendous support that Rosalinda was offering to other victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
- A letter was also delivered to the judge from Los Amigos of Orange County in support of Rosalinda.
- And the father of her kids, who will be serving a total of 24 years for his own drug sentencing conviction, also wrote a letter to the judge acknowledging the domestic abuse.
We were asking and hoping that the judge would consider Rosalinda’s extenuating and mitigating circumstances i.e. as her troubles arising because of the domestic violence she endured in silence, and give her an earlier release from prison and deport her to Mexico. So she could help her children from Mexico, rather than risk jail time by re-entering the US.
The judge mentioned that under the law he was considering all options, but that he was also considering Rosalinda’s unique circumstances.
The judge sentenced Rosalinda to 12 months plus 1 day. So Rosalinda will have to serve an additional 6 months before being deported.
VICTIM or CRIMINAL?
Rosalinda originally committed an infraction by entering the US without authorization.
But under the law undocumented people may obtain immigration readjustment of status if they are victims of a reported and documented violent crime and cooperate with law enforcement. Some of these programs are:
- U-visa (victim of violent crime);
- T-Visa (victim of human trafficking); or
- refugee/asylum status.
If Rosalinda had broken her silence and had originally reported the domestic violence and cooperated with police, she most likely would have not served a day in prison, and could have paid a fine for her immigration infraction, and could have had her status adjusted. She would have been treated as the victim that she was, and could have been free to continue to raise her children well, as she was doing.
Unfortunately, Rosalinda did not break her silence, continued suffering the domestic violence, was perceived and treated as a criminal and served her prison time, and will now be serving a full year before being deported. For years, her children have been without a mother, and will continue without a mother for some time.
Rosalinda’s story is not uncommon for undocumented victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. But the reauthorization of VAWA also helps legal resident or US citizen young and adult women from being perceived and treated as criminals, and to be treated as victims and receive the proper help that they need from the justice system.
Please share this link and click-here to Sign the Petition to Reauthorize VAWA (Violence Against Women Act).
We must continue advocating for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and Give Them Hope, as this also results in greater public safety which saves millions in dollars to the taxpayer while saving lives.
Candidate for State Assembly 2012 – 69th AD
To Restore and Safeguard Our Future Now!
FranciscoForAssembly.com (under construction)
(My opinions only and not those of any group)