Terri’s husband told her she was dumb and couldn’t do anything by herself. He also broke the walker she used to get around.
After 20 years of this abusive relationship with her second husband, she decided to move-in with her adult daughter, but they both feared he might become violent if she left.
Human Options, a nonprofit that serves survivors of domestic violence in Orange County, provided Terri with temporary housing while legal advocates helped get her a restraining order.
Lead Therapist Mieka Bledsoe told this story about her client— using a different name— to about 70 people who gathered recently for the inaugural Domestic Violence Community Awareness Form at the Orange County Family Justice Center.
The Anaheim Police Department partnered with the Mexican Consulate of Orange County and the Orange County Family Justice Center to host the forum in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In light of the Trump Administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, Acting Police Chief Julian Harvey emphasized to forum attendees that Anaheim police officers will never ask domestic violence survivors about their immigration status.
“Let me be clear, the Anaheim Police Department does not ask immigration questions,” Harvey said.
Kristina Hamm, assistant public information office for Anaheim Police, said the department has seen the number of domestic violence reports drop this year, possibly because undocumented immigrants fear that they will be deported for reporting abuse.
In the case of undocumented women, the biggest fear is that their partner will call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if arrested for domestic violence, said Elia Renteria, a victim advocate. Fortunately, there are state and federal laws that protect crime victims from being deported.
The highlight of the event was a panel featuring three women on the forefront of stopping the cycle of abuse: Dr. Ana Nogales, founder and clinical director of Casa de la Familia; Irene Martinez, director of Instituto Para La Mujer de Hoy; and Bledsoe of Human Options.
Nogales said three women are killed by their partner every day in the United States and seven women are killed by their partner every day in Mexico. To stop these killings, it is critical for the public to recognize signs of domestic abuse and survivors to partner with advocates who can guide them to nonprofit and government services, she said.
However, men and women abused by family members must first reject physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse as a normal part of life.
“There is no room for violence in any loving relationship,” Nogales said.
During the forum, the Orange County Family Justice Center displayed portraits of local women who escaped abusive relationships and took back power over their lives, and, in some cases, their children’s lives. The photographs were shot by Costa Mesa Photographer Richard Gamez for his collection, “Fear to Love.”
There is always more work to be done in getting undocumented residents to trust police officers, Renteria said. Having an advocate to walk them through the processes behind affordable housing, child support, and legal assistance is key to earning this trust, she said.
“I think the more education they have about the services that are available to them the better choices they are going to be able to make,” Renteria said.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and need emergency shelter you can call Human Options’ 24-hour bilingual hotline at 877-854-3594.