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Leticia's Story - Immigrant Women Vulnerable to Domestic Violence

PHOTO: Leticia Reta is an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. She says for many years she was married to a man who beat her, but was afraid to leave because he threatened to have her deported. PHOTO courtesy of Reta.
PHOTO: Leticia Reta is an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. She says for many years she was married to a man who beat her, but was afraid to leave because he threatened to have her deported. PHOTO courtesy of Reta.
August 30, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – There are a lot of immigrant women in this country who are abused, but are afraid to say anything because they fear being deported.

Leticia Reta used to be one of those women, but not any more.

Reta came to the U.S. two decades ago, and for years was married to a man who beat her. She says he threatened to have her deported and her children put in foster care.

Tired of being abused and feeling frightened all the time, Reta finally obtained a divorce, and now she's speaking out, no longer willing to live in the shadows and not be heard.

"There is so many woman,” she says, “they're in my same situation, and they're afraid to speak. I know probably is going to have consequences. But I'm ready to deal with the consequences."

Under current law, Reta says she is vulnerable to deportation because she has no documents and no way to apply for them.

Congress is considering immigration reform, but including a path to citizenship faces considerable opposition.

Reta says it took two years to get her divorce. She says she started the process at the urging of an employer, a woman whose house she was cleaning who saw her injuries and convinced her to go to court for a protective order.

"I was working and she said, 'Leticia, what happened to your hands?'” Reta relates. “And I said, 'Nothing, I just fell.' She saw my bruises in parts of the body, and she was so terrified."

Reta says the judge who granted her protective order didn't ask about her immigration status, and immigrant women are specifically protected under the Violence Against Women Act.

But Joyce Yadlosky, team coordinator with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says stories like Reta's are still disturbingly common. She says abusers will use any kind of leverage they can.

"For people who are immigrants, their immigration status is a very vulnerable area for them,” she explains, “particularly when they're in this country via the marriage or the relationship with a person who's being abusive."


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV