Editor’s Note: This blog was written and submitted by Vision 2020 Maine Delegate Susan Strommer.
Sara* lifted her head up from a pool of blood on the rough stone floor. This time her husband’s fist had hit her so hard he knocked her down two flights of stairs. Her neck was still swollen and bruised from last night’s beating, red welts visible from the belt he had tightened like a noose around her neck. Now her head was bleeding and she was in such pain she couldn’t stand up. She crawled out the front door to get help from a neighbor.
Sara knew she had to get out. Out of the reaches of her husband and his powerful family. Out of this small east African country where the government wouldn’t protect her. Sara feared not only for herself but for her three-year-old daughter Aisha*. Sara’s husband planned to have Aisha circumcised before she reached the age of five. Time was running out. Where could she go? As a Muslim woman she couldn’t travel without her husband to any neighboring country. She shared her troubles with a friend who knew a woman who had escaped to the U.S.
Sara decided to try for it. Abdikadir* gave Sara some household money each week to buy food, and she managed to squirrel away a bit of it each week. After many months, Sara had enough to buy air tickets for herself and little Aisha*. Sara and Aisha reached Portland, Maine in August 2010. There, they got help from local social services and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP). As a volunteer attorney with ILAP, I was assigned to their case. When I met Sara, she was suffering from major depression and had not had a menstrual period in over a year due to the vicious beatings by her husband. She was in near constant pain from the injuries to her back, neck, and shoulders from his beatings. The U. S. Customs and Immigration Service agreed that Sara and Aisha face unacceptable dangers in their home country and granted them asylum here.
Today Sara is safe and most of her injuries have healed. She is able to sleep through the night, has learned English, and has a full-time job in a manufacturing plant. Little Aisha, now six, is a bright child with a smile a mile wide and buckets of confidence. Aisha may just be one of the next great women leaders in the U.S.
The United States is recognized the world over as a leader of social justice for women, and Vision 2020 is helping pave the way for women everywhere by leading our fifty states toward full equality for women.
Read more stories about the women and families who’ve been helped by ILAP here: http://www.ilapmaine.org/ilaps_impact.html If you’d like to consider starting a similar program in your state, please reach out to Sue Strommer firstname.lastname@example.org 207-653-9890.