When I was a new lawyer, I worked for a fantastic male attorney. Whenever a domestic survivor (usually female) would have a consultation, my boss would bring me into the room and have me talk with her about her experiences. At first I wasn’t too happy about this – I thought he was doing this just because I was a woman. Maybe I was hesitant, too, because there is a history of domestic violence in my family and I wasn’t sure how close I wanted to get to that again. However, those experiences taught me to listen and support and I was able to bring those skills into my professional life. The people I spoke to were vulnerable and strong and they deserved to have their stories told.
It’s wonderful to watch a spark of hope start to appear in someone’s eyes when you tell them their abuser has no control over their immigration status. Survivors begin to see that they can live a life free of fear – that they can regain their independence and take joy in life again. It’s not a fun process, though. They have to talk about what they endured – the name calling, the manipulation, the feeling of always walking on egg-shells, and yes, the physical harm, too. It’s hard to relive those darkest moments. It’s also extremely hard to wait the two years it’ll take for USCIS to issue a decision on their I-360 (Violence Against Women Act) application. I remind them not to give up hope.
Despite all the obstacles, though….when I hear the shock and then the sobs when I get to tell someone their case gets approved…it’s such an honor to be part of that moment. The person at the other end of the line finally feels free. They feel validated. It’s watching hope come alive.