Survivor Advocacy in Action

Woman sitting on balcony looking sadly outMia was a political activist in her South American home country. After years of demanding change and accountability from her government, she faced growing threats and harassment. Eventually, a member of the military assaulted her during a political rally. No longer feeling safe in her country, Mia made the tough decision to leave her two daughters with her sister, and flee to the United States.

Mia won political asylum and relocated to Washington. Her limited English proficiency made it challenging to find work, but a friend from church helped her find a restaurant job. Mia was relieved that she could begin saving to bring her daughters to the U.S.

Several months into the job, Mia’s boss began making unwanted sexual advances. She asked him to stop and made it clear she wanted to keep her work and personal life separate. The harassment continued, and he eventually threatened to call the police and report her for stealing if she refused his advances. Over the next year, the violence escalated in Mia’s forced “relationship” as her boss routinely physically and sexually assaulted her. Mia felt isolated, afraid, and depressed.

After Mia’s boss slammed her hard against a kitchen wall, she tried to call 911. He grabbed her phone and smashed it, yelling that he would destroy her life by telling the police that she tried to stab him. When the police arrived, the cook and her boss told the same story. But when Mia tried to tell her side, the interpreter had trouble understanding her. Mia was arrested, and her boss fired her.

Once she got out of jail, Mia called her friend from church. She helped Mia connect with a LifeWire legal advocate. Mia was especially worried about being deported and finding a new place to live but had no idea how to navigate the many complicated systems.

Her legal advocate connected Mia with an immigration attorney to answer her asylum questions. Collaborating with Mia’s public defender, her legal advocate helped Mia write a lengthy supplemental statement for the police and obtain a protection order. LifeWire helped Mia get temporary housing in a hotel until space became available at My Sister’s Home, LifeWire’s emergency shelter. Her advocate helped connect her to the resources she needed to get settled and find a new job.

Mia enjoys her new job and hopes to bring her daughters to the country soon. She is still working to address the criminal charges, and she feels hopeful now that she has an advocate to help her navigate the legal system. Mia is relieved to have someone who believes her and wants to support her every step of her journey.

Renata’s Story

Renata was both relieved and afraid to learn her husband was behind bars. She felt safe, but knew that wouldn’t last. He could be released at any time. Renata wanted to protect herself and her two daughters, but she didn’t have any place to go. And without immigration papers, the Mexican-born woman didn’t have may options. Sensing Renata’s distress, the police officer assigned to her domestic violence case referred her to LifeWire.

Confident womanWith the help of her housing advocate, Renata and her kids relocated to My Sister’s Home, LifeWire’s emergency shelter. My Sister’s Home provided the family with the space and resources they needed to begin healing. After meeting with her legal advocate, Renata learned that as a survivor of a violent crime she was eligible to apply for a U Visa. If awarded, the visa would allow her to live and work legally in the U.S. LifeWire connected her to a pro bono immigration attorney, who helped Renata apply for and receive the temporary visa.

As Renata prepared to leave the shelter and move into her own apartment, she learned that had to provide a higher security deposit due to her limited rental history. LifeWire was able to use flexible funds to assist with her move-in costs and her first month’s rent.

Today, Renata and her kids are healing. She still attends group therapy sessions and social gatherings with other survivors. Renata wants to help other survivors the way LifeWire staff and volunteers helped her.

Domestic Violence and Immigration

Imagine you are Maria.

After years of being abused by your husband, you finally found the opportunity to leave. On your way to your very first support group at LifeWire, you look over to the car next to you. All of a sudden a woman starts screaming at you, “Do you even speak English? Go back to where you came from.”

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Threat of deporation

Mature woman looking at camera with woven hat on

Living with the threat of deportation

For 20 years, Anna lived under the abuse and control of her American husband who refused to allow her to become a U.S. citizen. Despite her efforts to obtain a Green Card, she needed her husband’s approval. Instead of signing her paperwork, he held the threat of deportation over her head as a method of control.

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