The US administration has recently decided to allow foreign women with severe cases of domestic violence to be considered for asylum, according to the New York Times. This revolutionary stance was laid out in an immigration court filing for the case of a woman known as L.R., who was victim of armed domestic violence in Mexico.
Why is this change so revolutionary? Refugee law is very demanding: in addition to proving they have been unable to find protection in their home countries, women must prove a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Bush administration lawyers had argued in LR’s case that victims of domestic violence could not meet these standards, but the new administration went through what NYT calls a “legal odyssey” to find a social group that would apply.
In a court declaration, L.R., who fled to the US with her children in 2004, recounts her endless horror story. Her aggressor, from a very powerful family, began abusing her when she was a teenager. Over the years, he forced her to live with him, raped her at gunpoint, tried to burn her alive when she was pregnant and threatened to kill her family. The police did not help and a judge even tried to seduce her.
Her court declaration highlights the disempowerment and helplessness a woman feels when there’s a gun involved in domestic violence:
“He told my sister he had school business to talk about with me so we needed to be alone in another room. I did not want to go with him but he had a gun in his hand and flashed it at me. It was the first time he had a gun and it terrified me. When he had me alone in his room he pointed the gun at me and threatened to kill me if I did not have sex with him. (…) He told me would kill my sister’s baby first so the others could watch and then he would kill my sister and her 3 year-old if I did not comply with his demand. I was scared of him and he had the gun. He raped me. I was too embarrassed and afraid to tell my sister what had happened. (…) Afterwards, I waited to get on the bus to go to Mexico City with my final belongings. [He] grabbed me from the bus line and pointed the gun in his jacket. He made me come to his house, where he forced me to put on a baggy jacket so that he could hold the gun to me without anyone noticing. He then dragged me to a nearby pay phone and forced me to call my sister and tell her that I loved I [him] and that I was staying with him. He took me to his house and held me captive there for several years.”
L.R.’s description of her utter despair and the lack of support from Mexican authorities reminds me of the stories I’ve been told in Colombia, which you will be hearing more of soon: “the police told me that it was a private matter and that my life was not in danger, so they could not help me.”
Ideally, women should be able to find sufficient support and protection in their own countries – which is what we are fighting for in this campaign. Nevertheless, I applaud this bold move that shows the world that domestic violence is not an issue to be slighted. By making this decision, the US government is implicitly supporting IANSA’s campaign and all the associations and actors who work daily in Colombia and around the world against domestic violence.
Posted By Rebecca Gerome
Posted Jul 22nd, 2009