When Sally* first came to APALC, she had no one to turn to for help. She met with APALC Attorney Amy Woo Lee, and shared her story.
She had been abused and abandoned by her husband Chris, an American citizen she had met online while she was still living in China. In China, Sally had a stable life and a steady job as the assistant to the general manager of a large company. Chris courted Sally for two years. During that time, he was gentle, understanding, and dependable. Chris traveled to China frequently to see her, bringing her small gifts, and sending money every month to Sally’s mother to help her with her living expenses. They eventually got married, and had the wedding in China with the traditional Chinese wedding customs.
Though Sally wanted Chris to move to China to live with her, he could not due to health problems. He convinced Sally to come to California to live with him. After moving here, Sally noticed that Chris’ behavior towards her began to change. Chris became easily irritable, and frequently threatened to divorce her and send her back to China. Sally considered returning to China, going so far as to book airfare. But Chris had taken her passport and refused to return it to her – so she was unable to leave
The situation only worsened until one day, in an angry rage, Chris struck Sally hard on the face. When her nose began to bleed profusely, Chris denied hitting her, and told her that she had hit herself. He also told her that it was not blood at all, but spilled red nail polish. He refused to take her to a hospital, and ended up abandoning Sally that night. He also took Sally’s house key so that if she left the home, the door would lock automatically behind her and she would have no way back in.
Sally had no ID, not even her Chinese passport, no money and no car. Chris also stopped the internet service, television and changed the home phone to allow only incoming calls. Sally was a prisoner in her own home. For the next six months, Chris manipulated and abused Sally, promising that he would change if she would only be a “good girl” and do whatever he asked.
But ultimately, as time went on, Sally realized Chris was never going to change. One day, while in the car, Chris told Sally that their marriage could only work if she obeyed him unconditionally. When Sally told him that she could not do that, Chris asked her to move to the back seat of the car. As she opened the car door to step out, Chris suddenly accelerated and Sally was flung against the side of the car. At that point, Sally gave up on trying to save their marriage.
She then sought help from Chris’ former in-laws with whom she had built a good relationship with. They took her in and brought her to APALC, where she met Lee, an attorney who specializes in helping domestic violence survivors.
Amy represented Sally in gathering evidence and preparing an application under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which allows certain undocumented survivors of domestic violence to petition for their own legal status. Amy also helped Sally in finding refuge in the Los Angeles domestic violence shelter, Center for Pacific Asian Family. While on her own, Sally began studying to improve her English. After Sally’s VAWA application was approved, Amy represented Sally in filing for both work authorization and legal permanent residence in the United States.
In the fall of 2012, Sally received her green card. She continues to study English and has enrolled at a local community college. She intends to study international trade and economics. In her free time, she plans to volunteer for agencies that assist domestic violence survivors.
"I respect the staff at APALC that helped me. They supported me and treated me with dignity and respect when my own husband mocked, abused and abandoned me” she said. “I may never be able to return the kindness that APALC has shown me, but I want to show them that they did not waste their generosity on someone useless.”
“I am thrilled that Sally has obtained her green card and that it will be a key to her obtaining the self-sufficiency that she so greatly desires,” Lee said. “I hope that through her example, and the examples of others like her, victims of abuse will find the courage, in their own time, to take their own steps towards independence.”
For more information about APALC’s work to help domestic violence victims, click here.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.