Marie* was nervous. So was her mother. It had been months since they had turned in her application for asylum. They should have heard something by now. She waited in the Houston immigration courtroom for word on whether she could stay in the U.S. with her mother.
If her application was rejected, she would be forced to relive her heartbreaking story again, this time in front of an immigration judge, and she would likely be forced to go back to San Salvador. Back to the beatings. Back to him.
Marie was born in El Salvador and from the very beginning, there was violence in her house. She grew up fearing her father, who regularly beat and verbally abused her mother.
When Marie was just 5-years-old, her father held a machete to her mother’s throat and threatened to kill her.
And Marie’s mother had every reason to believe he would. El Salvador has the highest rate of gender-motivated killing in the world. Not only are these murders widespread, but they are carried out with unimaginable brutality. Despite concerted efforts by activists within the country to change this, the perpetrators of these horrific acts are rarely brought to justice.
Fearing for her life, Marie’s mother fled to the U.S. After she left, Marie’s father terrorized her and her siblings. He hit her with sticks and electrical cords, often leaving her bruised and bleeding.
Marie’s father took every opportunity to put her down. He said she couldn’t be his child because she was overweight and didn’t look anything like him. He told her that he wanted her aborted and wished she was never born.
Then, when Marie was just 14-years-old, her father raped her. He threatened to kill the people she loved if she told anyone. So Marie stayed quiet.
Desperate to escape her situation, she quit school and left home to work as a maid in the hopes of building a safe life. She spent a hard year in that work, doing 15 hour days. She was depressed and reclusive, and then got sick — with appendicitis — and was forced to move in with her grandmother… and her father.
Less than a month later, Marie couldn’t take it anymore. She broke down and told her mother everything.
When her mother learned what her daughter had been through, she knew she had to do something. She appealed to Marie’s sister who, empowered by her sister’s brave confession, revealed to her mother that she, too, had been raped by their father.
Determined to help, her sister sold her used car to help get enough money together to bring Marie to the U.S.
After a perilous trip north, Marie was detained by immigration officials upon arrival and sent to an ORR shelter, then released to her mother. Determined to protect her daughter from future abuse, Marie’s mother called Tahirih’s Houston office and, with free assistance from Tahirih attorneys, Marie was able to apply for asylum.
But now she faced the real possibility that, after everything she’d survived, she might be thrown back into her hellish ordeal. Then, the word came from the trial attorney:
The entire courtroom broke into applause and the tears began to flow. Marie was finally safe.
Today, Marie is back in school and receives therapy from a counselor to cope with her ordeal. She is in the process of rebuilding her life, and has made new friends along the way. For the first time in a long time, she feels like she can trust people again. For the first time ever, the future looks bright.
Thank you for making it possible for courageous women and girls like Marie to rebuild their lives in the wake of trauma. Your support changes lives!
*Name has been changed and photo does not depict client to protect her safety and privacy.