Huntsville woman says domestic violence fears amplified when victims face immigration issues

WAAY 31 met a woman who explained the complicated situation.

Posted: Oct 10, 2019 6:13 PM
Updated: Oct 10, 2019 7:12 PM

As tensions surrounding immigration issues are at an all time high, some people in the Hispanic community are even more fearful to report domestic abuse. WAAY 31 met a woman who explained the complicated situation. Miriam Nava shared her story at a domestic violence awareness event in Huntsville, so other people who are suffering know they are not alone.

"I suffered a lot and I don't want other women to keep suffering. My mother was an alcoholic. I suffered verbal, psychological and physical abuse. I then married an alcoholic, who was also abusive," Nava said.

Nava moved to the United States from Guatemala to escape that abusive relationship, only to marry a man in the United States who was also both physically and verbally abusive. At the time, she didn't have documents to live in the U.S. and had four children. Nava said she feared she would lose her children if she told authorities her husband was abusing her.

"You alone, you can be anywhere, but your kids. Where will your kids be? That's the biggest fear I had," she said.

Nava's story is an all too familiar domestic violence narrative in the Hispanic community. WAAY 31 learned that some victims in the Hispanic community are even more fearful to come forward because they are worried how it might affect their immigration status. Evelyne Rivera is the north Alabama organizer for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice. She said that fear is amplified when the victim has children.

"They may fear that their abusive spouses may be the ones to get the children in case they were deported," she said. "Sometimes, there are situations where their spouses are documented and they hold that against them so they can't go to the police, because their spouses are threatening to deport them, or they also may fear going to the police in general, because they may think they will be deported."

Rivera said there are resources and groups here locally that can help people who are in that situation get the help they need.

"They are not alone and they can definitely speak up, because there are people here who are willing to help them, so they don't have to stay in that kind of situation. They don't have to be living in fear and pain their whole life," she said.

After 15 years in an abusive relationship, Nava left her husband and took her children with her. She worked hard, saved money and bought a home. She is now a legal citizen of the United States. She urges anyone in an abusive relationship to get help and get out.

"In this country, we have many rights and many opportunities to go forward. They don't have to be there. A lot of women tell me, 'I love him.' I tell them, 'You don't have to stop loving him. Just leave him, because he's going to hurt you. Leave him and this country will help you. This country helps you move forward,'" she said.

If you or someone you know is fearful to report abuse because of how it might affect immigration status, there are groups that can help. For resources, click here.

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