Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Salute to the Bravery of Escaping Domestic Violence

I want to salute the bravery it takes for a woman to take the affirmative steps necessary to escape domestic violence. 

You'll pardon me if I'm a little emotional as I write this today.  I just spent two days helping women who escaped from domestic abuse in Central America present their stories to Asylum Officers in the hope that they can gain the protection of U.S. law.  The stories have gotten me angry, and I need a constructive way to express that anger.

Sure, there's the obvious targets of my anger:  The SOBs who thinks nothing of treating their women like punching bags, or worse yet, like punching bags who had better have food on the table when I walk into the house drunk or stoned at 3:00am.  The men who feel it necessary to hold a machete tho their woman's throat to show them who's boss.  Who feel it necessary to use the most vile and foul language to constantly terrorize and tear down their women.  Who do all of this without regard to the fact that their children are in the room, watching and learning.

I'm also angry at the machismo culture that pervades much of Central America.  The culture that says a woman's identity is tied to that of her man, that says she is nothing without her man, that treats her as nothing more than property.  It's a culture where girls are trapped by decisions they make at 15 or 16, when they choose a man to be with, only later to find out his violent side when it's too late.  Of course, that's assuming the teenage girl hasn't been abducted by some SOB who thinks nothing of stalking and kidnapping in order to find a woman to tend to his needs.  It's a culture where families won't intervene in a "domestic dispute," because, well, this is the man you chose to be with.  It's a culture that adopts laws that say the right things, after all, we don't want to run afoul of the United Nations.  But, when it comes time to enforce those laws, the police are nowhere to be found.  Or, the police listen to a report of domestic abuse, only to do nothing.  Or maybe, they will arrest the guy, only to release him the next morning, angry enough to go back to his woman to teach her a lesson for making him spend a night in jail.  A culture that traps a woman, making it next to impossible for her to strike it out on her own, to make her own living without being dependent on a man.

But I'm also angry at the snot-nosed kid sitting behind the desk, who can't be more than thirty at the most, making my clients live their stories over and over again.  Worse yet, when human memory isn't perfect (as it rarely is), picking apart miniscule little holes, throwing the woman off their tracks as they try to tell their stories.  Using tiny misstatements as reason to doubt credibility.  Picking on those misstatements instead of taking in the clear emotional pain that is clearly being expressed at the mere mention of their ex-partner's name.  Using the fact that the these women do feel trapped, and for that reason did not come forward earlier, as further reason to doubt their stories.  Failing to realize that just as emotionally painful it is to retell the story in front of a total stranger, it is also painful to share that story with loved ones.  failing to understand that their very attitude is one of the reasons victims of domestic abuse don't come forward or try to escape.

I'm angry because someone has trained this snot-nosed kid to be this way.  Someone has trained him to suspect everyone seeking asylum in this country as just being a liar looking to stay in the United States the easy way.  Someone has trained him to be cold-hearted and skeptical.

I'm angry because just as the Board of Immigration Appeals releases a precedential decision that makes it clear that women who are trapped in abusive relationships that they cannot leave can indeed seek the protection of U.S. asylum law, critics, like those at the Daily Caller and Brietbart, who see it as nothing more than a way to open the flood gates to people who would flout our immigration law for the purpose of obtaining federal benefits.  Critics who would probably think nothing of telling me that all I've done is to assist those illegals in an effort to obtain amnesty.

And yet, it is in the face of all this that women like my clients had the courage to leave and seek protection.  They risked their lives leaving violent men, men who often continue to seek them out and threaten harm.  They risked their lives on the trip north, often knowing that the very Coyotes who are helping get into the promised land are going to rape them before leaving them off at the Rio Grande.  They face their fears over and over, telling their stories to their friends, their families, their lawyers, all before reaching the skeptics in the U.S. Government.

So pardon me if today I am a little angry, angry at a system that requires women to be brave in order to flee domestic violent and seek refuge in a place like the Untied States.  A system that likely exacerbates the emotional and psychological damage that has already been done.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832
(571) 551-6069 (ESP)

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