Gabrielle: An Immigrant Survivor

"I'm not the person I was when I met him."

Gabrielle* is a 35-year-old mother of three American-born children. She met her husband, Albert*, through friends in their home country. When she became pregnant with their first child, she moved to Philadelphia to live with Albert. She left her home, her family and friends, and a stable job with medical benefits. She was looking forward to starting a new life with Albert in the United States.

Gradually, Albert changed...

Initially, Albert offered to sponsor her and help her become a permanent U.S. resident. Gabrielle was thrilled, as this would make it easier for her to find a job after having her first child. But gradually, Albert changed and he refused to sponsor her. He wouldn't allow her to get a driver's license, a car, or have a bank account. She couldn't apply for a job. He refused to provide health insurance for her and their children. Gabrielle sold her engagement ring in order to pay for their groceries, bills, and any emergencies that arose.

He got angry all the time; she felt like everything she did upset him. Gabrielle, as an undocumented immigrant, knew that she was at risk of deportation. Exploiting that fact, Albert threatened to report her to immigration.

Apart from verbal abuse, she was being physically assaulted. If they went out, he would punch her face and try to push her out of the car. Sometimes, he would purposely slam the car door on her hand.

She was referred to WIT.

One evening, after being hit by Albert, Gabrielle locked herself in a room and called the police. By the time the police arrived, he was gone. But after following up, she was granted a three-year Protection from Abuse order. She was referred to Women In Transition (WIT), where a counselor assisted her with writing a letter to Nationalities Service Center documenting the abuse, which is an essential part of the VAWA self-petition process.

Her WIT counselor assisted Gabrielle with safety planning, and supported her in setting and reaching her goals. Now, she has a visa, sole custody of her children, and has relocated to her own apartment. She is living separately from her husband and raising the children on her own. She plans to continue working and provide her children with a safe, loving and supportive environment.

*Names changed for confidentiality