*As told by her counselor.
Shani has come a long way. When I first met her, she was a very traumatized person, living in constant fear. She had been with her abusive husband for 15 years and he had totally controlled her. She left him 4 times and kept going back because she was so dependent on him. She came to the Fort Bend Women’s Center in April of this year and said, “This is it, if I go back one more time he will kill me”. So started the process of restoring this woman’s self-esteem and self-worth.
She was undocumented because he wouldn’t take her to immigration. He was born and raised here locally. Shani doesn’t know how to drive because he didn’t want her going anywhere on her own. He even had a relative live with them most of the time to keep an eye on her when he wasn’t around. She could only watch Spanish stations on TV because he didn’t want her learning English. He constantly belittled her and when he felt like it, he would beat her for no reason. He would call her names and tell her she was worthless. He would force her to have sex when she didn’t want to.
Shani got pregnant and thought that would change him. It didn’t. He now had someone else to control. As their child grew and started to speak, he forbade her to speak to the child. He did not allow their child to speak Spanish. Since the child could only speak English and the mother could only speak Spanish, they basically used their hands to communicate with each other.
The culminating point came this year when he said he was going to kill their child.
At this point, no one else was living with them, so she entrusted a neighbor. She started hiding things in her neighbor’s garage, for when the time came to escape. She knew he had important papers in a certain area, so she took them too, along with some small pieces of jewelry. When the time came to call the police for help, she had what she needed.
The husband was on disability. She didn’t qualify because she was undocumented. She found a letter that he had forged to Social Security, with her forged signature, written in English. Remember she doesn’t know how to speak, read, or write English. She had her neighbor read it for her. She also found other documents he falsified and kept hidden from her.
Since coming to the Women’s Center, she has reported the forged letter to Social Security and now has the benefits coming to an account in her name, for the child’s benefit. Social Security is also trying to get back pay for her. She was approved for Crime Victims Compensation. She has started the immigration process which should be complete by the end of this year. She will be getting her GED diploma in November. She is taking ESL classes and once she gets her GED she will start computer classes. She finished her Parenting Class and got her certificate. She continues with counseling. Her child is also enrolled in a bilingual school to learn Spanish and is also in counseling. They were placed in our housing program and they are doing well. She knows that situations are going to arise, but she is now able to face them instead of fearing them. She has already petitioned for divorce and child custody.
Shani is very grateful to FBWC for all the help and support.