After the Abuse, Whether VAWA or Asylum

In the fall of 1987, I transferred to Boston University, majoring in journalism. I had never been there, did not know a soul, and was ill-equipped for the change. While accepting a package from a mailman in shorts, a September breeze went right through my t-shirt. Bitter cold pierced my chest. But I was free of the disaster of Miami, and freedom is priceless.

Filing Asylum/VAWA Statement with the I-589/I-360 Applications

I went to Boston University to reinvent myself. Domestic violence survivors often do the same. We want to forget the past. We do not want to tell our stories, the beatings, the fear. In my case, I lost a full scholarship at University of Miami following an epileptic seizure in my dorm. After the hospitalization, I did not remember my professors, my friends, or – truly embarrassing – my boyfriend. When I returned to campus, other UM students whispered around me. Or I imagined they did which is the same. In Boston, no one knew my past, no one knew me. I wanted to disappear between the grey sky and the grey streets of New England. I felt grey.

Residency through asylum or the Violence Against Women Act requires filing both an application and a written statement detailing the abuse. Shoot me, right? Recalling the past in excruciating detail is reliving it. I will include documents (joint lease, joint tax returns, texts from the abuser, letters from witnesses, and the marriage counselor’s report), but the applicant’s statement is critical. Know this: writing the truthful past does set us free.

Details of the Asylum or VAWA Statement

The who, what, where and when make a good statement. I fell into uncontrollable convulsions at my University of Miami dorm room in the spring of 1987. I do not want to know the exact date because its anniversary would clang horrifically like September 11 or January 6. Back then, I screamed before falling, which alerted the two students in the room next to me. When the paramedics arrived, I was laying on the scratchy rug, utterly confused, unable to say my name, my jeans wet from urine.

Regardless of how I try to forget, the experience remains. Boston’s grey rains did not wash it away. The guilt – Did I drink too much alcohol? Did I stay up too late? Did I pressure myself too hard for grades? — and shame remains. What do I do with my guilt and shame? And the guilt and shame for other experiences I survived? What do I do with the guilt and shame for the harm I caused? How do I talk about it? While searching for these answers, I begin to accept my past. Every survivor I know expresses guilt and shame. Welcome, brothers and sisters, to my safe haven.

Disclaimer – These entries are based on real life events. Family member names, when used, are real. Client names are changed for privacy.

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