By Dilkhwaz Ahmed
February 16, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) -- It was about 10:00 p.m. when my telephone rang. I wondered who could it be? I picked up the phone and found myself speaking to a police officer in East County. He asked me for help in translating for a Middle Eastern woman who was a victim of domestic violence. He told me that I was the only one who could be trusted to assist in a situation such as this since I was the director of an agency providing domestic violence education and services to refugees and immigrants in San Diego County. I quickly responded to his request for assistance.
Since it was the end of the day, I was very tired and overwhelmed having dealt with several domestic violence situations. When I arrived at the victim’s house, I felt very comfortable to be there, but horrified at what I saw.
The trauma inflicted on the woman that night was terrible. There were bruises on every part of her body. On her sensitive skin were contusions and her skull appeared to be broken. There were cuts on her upper body, arms, and chest. The victim also had a large black bruise on her leg, the result of her husband kicking her repeatedly.
Those were the bruises we saw that night. I wondered if there were other parts of her body that were affected by this brutal beating, but the young woman was ashamed of showing us more of her body. Then, I heard the voice of her eight-month old baby.
He was crying, and that really broke my heart. His mother told me he had been constantly subjected to witnessing her being abused by his dad. When I saw the victim, with her body language and injuries indicating she had been beaten so horrendously, I really felt compassion for her because she was not able to communicate the extent of her condition to the officer due to the language barrier.
This young mother had been manipulated and never had a chance to reach out from the circle of her home to learn English. It was not the only thing that prevented her from knowing the rights she was entitled to as a resident of the United States. There was also the fear of leaving home and not having anyone to reach out to for help…..except her abusive husband!!
In her psychological perception, her husband became the source of survival in the United States. As a U.S. citizen he had petitioned for her to join him in this country. Consequently, she became very dependent on and obedient to him. Furthermore, he had threatened her and led her to believe that if she reported him to the authorities, she would be deported and their baby would be taken away from her because she is not a U.S. citizen.
The fear that finally motivated and drove her to call the police was that of being beaten to death by her husband. He had even threatened to kill her and throw their baby on the street. That night, as on previous nights, her beat her and told her to prepare food for him. He ordered her to watch him eat until he finished his meal. She knew that he would beat her then as he had done before he had eaten. After the tremendous physical and emotional abuse, he left the house, but not before his threat to come back and kill her. However, she managed to call the police in spite of her fear. Although her decision to contact law enforcement had given her dignity, she knew it was a definite risk. Yet, she believed it was better than the alternative of being killed and having her child raised on the streets as her husband had threatened would happen.
After I heard her story, I thought she was the luckiest survivor I knew. By calling the Police Department and having an officer arrive within five minutes, she beat the odds of having her husband return, hurting her and even possibly killing her. While I was holding the baby, talking to the victim and translating her story to the officer. I found the young woman to be so fearful for her life that she kept telling me, “He will be coming back any time to kill me. Please let’s go somewhere else. He is coming to kill us. You don’t know him. He is capable of killing.” Despite my talking to her and trying to calm her down, she was still very uncomfortable as well as very frightened.
Through reaching her with the help of authorities, I was able to introduce her to the rights to which a woman resident of the United States is entitled. I provided her with a safe and harmonious place to live with her child in peace and love. She was blessed to be living in the United States.
She said, “It’s my first night in four years that I’ve been able to take a deep breath without feeling that I and my child could be hurt.” She also said, “I am physically at peace, but psychologically surrounded by many people who tolerate and even support these kinds of behaviors.”
Her husband is still supported by many Middle Eastern men for his actions. They provide him shelter to keep from being arrested and keep pushing his wife to forgive him and go back to him because they believe Middle Eastern women should not call the police on their husbands.
I believe that violence should not be tolerated anywhere. Poverty, immigration status, and not knowing the language should not be excuses for women to remain in a cycle of violence. Everybody deserves a better life, especially persons who come from cultures where there are laws that prohibit the freedom of human rights.
The husband actually called his wife’s family overseas and threatened them that if they did not attempt to convince their daughter to return to the marriage and drop the case against him, he would kill all of them.
Having worked in the field of human relations for 15 years, six years in the Middle East and nine years in the United States, I was able to gain the privilege to become the source of assisting--and even changing--the lives of battered women. I have been constantly threatened by family members of victims of domestic violence. In spite of this, I am determined to sacrifice my life for those I believe deserve the right to live as human beings.
I would like to close my statement by asking those who welcomed us in this great land with open arms to also open their heart and be part of our mission for empowering and supporting those like this woman and others who are still living in abusive relationships.
Dilkhwaz Ahmed is the Executive Director of License to Freedom, an organization dedicated to stopping violence in refugee and immigrant communities in our region. License to Freedom seeks donations to help victims with services and items needed when escaping from an abusive home.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.licensetofreedom.org.