Washington, D.C. (Conciencia News) – From the moment Cira Espinoza got married at age 16, she was beaten by her husband. She always hoped that this would change, but it never did. She even started to think that this kind of behavior was normal. Three years ago, she made the decision to get a divorce and “live happily,” as she says.
There are thousands of immigrant women like Espinoza in the country who are physically or mentally abused by their partners and are afraid of leaving because of the possibility of being alone, losing their children or having problems with their migratory status.
According to the Office on Violence against Women of the United States Department of Justice, one out of four women in the country say they have suffered from some type of violence at some period of their life. Statistics also indicate that, on average, three women die every day due to abuse by their husband or boyfriend.
“Domestic violence is not restricted solely to Latinos. It is also common among the general population, among poor, rich, literate and illiterate people,” said Amy Sanchez, Executive Director of Casa Esperanza, an organization that helps women who are victims of domestic violence.
Although October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month, during the next few months, organizations will continue to help more women prevent domestic violence.
Casa Esperanza launched the Hope Campaign in order to invite people from around the country to take measures in their daily life to create a world without domestic violence.
The National Hope Campaign, sponsored by Verizon Wireless, leaves the work of ending domestic violence in the hands of individuals and communities. A new interactive internet page (www.casadeesperanza.org/hope-campaign) offers tools, advice and ideas for people to participate in the Hope Campaign, including a “Promise of Hope,” a personal commitment to basing relationships on love, respect and understanding.
“It is not the work of Casa de Esperanza or any other organization that is going to end domestic violence,” said Amy Sanchez, President of External Affairs of Casa de Esperanza. “Individual and community action will end violence and will create communities in which everybody is safe and valued.”
Making the Decision to Break Up Is a Possible Challenge
For many years, Espinoza, originally from Mexico, thought that living with an abusive husband was normal and that she deserved it. She never thought she would be able to make the decision, but she did.
“Two months after we started living together, he began to hit me, and that is how it was for the whole 24 years we lived together. One of the problems was also that he took me to live at his mom’s place, and she also hit me,” said Espinoza, 45, who has four children from her marriage.
Her ex-husband hit her with a belt, shoes, pushed her, beat her with his hand when he got drunk or when he was jealous, or when her mother told him she had misbehaved or went out without permission. “I felt like a little girl. He hit even me when I was pregnant, and I had not done anything.”
According to Sanchez, there are different reasons for which women stay in these relationships. “There is the religious issue, they think it is the cross they have to bear for their children. There are aunts and relatives who tell them, ‘This is what you chose,’ and they believe it,” Sanchez said.
Other factors that influence women not to leave their partners are their children and their economic situation. “Sometimes the abusers blackmail them if it is the husband who has helped them obtain their legal status in the country. They tell them that they will lose their residence, but that is not true,” Sanchez said.
“I always thought about leaving him, but I could never do anything,” Espinoza said. “I was scared and he told me he would take my kids away.”
But she was not the only one who was scared: Espinoza said many of her friends are living the same “nightmare” she did.
But she finally found the strength to make the decision when her youngest daughter started to run off from school, and nobody could find her. “I never realized the damage we were doing to her. The psychologist told me that she did that because she did not want to see so much violence at home.”
For Espinoza, it was not easy to make the decision, but her older children were adults and no longer lived with her. It was at that point when she made the decision. “I did not want my daughter to continue to suffer.” At first her husband followed her, insulted her, but she found help from an organization where she received psychological counseling and was able to find a job.
“I think a woman who is suffering should look for someone to talk to. It does not have to be social services. It could be a friend. She needs to find someone that makes her understand it is not her fault, someone who supports her,” Sanchez said.
After her separation, Espinoza began studying English in order to start taking cooking classes and fulfill her dream of becoming a chef.
“My advice to these women who want to get separated is to think about themselves and their children. It is difficult, but they need to find the strength somewhere. It is not easy, but they need to find help,” Espinoza said.