Mail-Order Brides in CT May Be Vulnerable to Domestic Violence
Thursday, January 6, 2011
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - So-called "mail-order brides" are being brought to Connecticut legally from other countries, but then can end up abused by the husbands they hoped would introduce them to a better life. Sheila Hayre, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance who specializes in domestic violence cases, says of the 100 cases on her desk now, about three-quarters are immigrant women. She says one mail-order bride from Eastern Europe met a man via e-mail and then met him in person, but he was not what he seemed.
"The woman relies on these representations, which are usually inaccurate, gives up everything - so she gave up her job, her home, her apartment, said goodbye to the family, essentially took leave of everybody - and when she got here, nothing was as she hoped."
Hayre says she's been able to help some of these women gain legal status if the husband, who is their sponsor, refuses to follow through on his promise to help with immigration issues. Then, the women are free to pursue divorce and build their lives here without worrying about deportation.
Hayre says once these women arrive in the state, many of them say their husbands become very demanding.
"They expect them to do labor in the house; they have intense sexual demands on these women; there's often a significant age difference; and in some cases, it can lead to even trafficking, where they're expected to work in an industry and are not paid for their work."
She adds that many of these women are completely isolated, don't seek help, and are at the mercy of the men who brought them here.
"These men can legitimately say to these women, 'If you don't do X, Y or Z, I'm sending you home, and I know you have nothing there.'"
But she says there is help: To escape their virtual imprisonment, these women can either report the abuser to the police or seek protection under the Violence Against Women Act.
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