Meet Maria, Client of OBF grantee Catholic Charities, and one of OBF’s 75 Faces of Impact. Her story is made possible by the generosity of OBF donors.
I never imagined I would end up a victim of human trafficking and a survivor of domestic violence.
When I was 16 years old, Javier, my boyfriend and father of my child, brought me and our baby to the US from Mexico. He promised we would build a better life for our family. I felt excited about the opportunities. After we arrived in the US, he told me to get to work cooking and cleaning for him and his employees. He took my documents and told me to not leave the house because anyone on the street could be working for immigration. He said if they caught me, they would deport me. I did not understand my rights, and I was afraid.
Shortly thereafter, Javier told me he had to travel for work. He locked me in the house and boarded up the windows, saying it was for my protection. I was left in that house for eight months. He came back sporadically to bring food and diapers, but that is when the abuse began. He would rape and beat me each time he returned. Because of this, I became pregnant again. After giving birth, I was released from the hospital, and Javier demanded I do laundry for him and his employees. I was tired and still in pain from childbirth, but he did not care. He dropped me off at the laundry mat with our newborn and toddler. Three days later, I was forced to cook and clean for Javier and his employees. There was no time for me to rest, heal and bond with my baby.
I was miserable and trapped in this nightmare. He told me if I tried to leave, he would find me and beat me. Then, he hit me so hard, my eardrum ruptured. I knew at this point the abuse was only going to get worse and I was tired of living this way. When he left the room, I had a moment to text a friend to ask for help. My friend called the police, and Javier was arrested. I was relieved to find out I could get a restraining order to protect my children and me.
I was referred to a nonprofit for basic needs and shelter. The case worker said I needed an attorney, but I told them I could not afford one. They referred me to the Immigration Legal Services program at Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of Oklahoma City. Their staff attorney helped me get a U visa for me and my daughter. I learned I was eligible for a U Visa since I was a victim of crime and would help the authorities with the investigation. The same lawyer later represented me in the deportation proceedings initiated against me when I entered the U.S.
Having an attorney’s help gave me tremendous hope. The assistance I received not only saved my life, but it empowered me to start my own business. I always dreamed of being a makeup artist and hair stylist and now I was free to follow my dreams and earn my own income. Since then, I have bought a trailer and have a home for my family. My life was changed drastically and now I can focus on being a good mom.
Maria’s story is unique because not only was she a victim of violence, she also needed immigration legal services adding to the complexity of her overall case. That is why giving to the Oklahoma Bar Foundation is so important because each year we fund many Oklahoma nonprofits providing legal services for domestic violence victims as well as immigration legal services.
Unfortunately, many Oklahoma women and children live in similar violent situations like Maria and need the help of an attorney. Reports show that family violence has increased tremendously due to the Covid pandemic lockdown. In honor of the OBF’s 75th Year, we are conducting a campaign to raise $25,000 for OBF Grantees who provide legal services to victims of violence. Donate to our 75 for 75 Campaign and one hundred percent of proceeds raised will go to these Grantees.
You can help by donating to our 75 for 75 Campaign: 75for75.swell.gives