The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some kind of domestic violence. In Louisiana, more than 5,000 adult women experience domestic violence each year, including Julia.
Julia met her husband while they were coworkers in Russia. Shortly after the birth of their son, he convinced her to temporarily move to his hometown of New Orleans to care for his mother. Well educated and employed in her home country, Julia now found herself isolated in the U.S.
Her husband’s abuse was not only physical, but mental and emotional. “He was threatening to deport me,” said Julia. “When I told his family about the abuse, they would say they don’t understand my English.”
One night, Julia’s husband called and reported her to police. “I was so confused,” recalled Julia. Having lived in the U.S. for only four months, Julia felt helpless. “I had no friends, no family, no one to call.” Julia’s husband was granted temporary custody of their son and Julia did not see him for nine months.
“Catholic Charities helps people like me in many ways,” she commented. Julia was able to get in touch with Project SAVE, which helped her file a protection order and win back rights to see her son. If not for Project SAVE, it would have been almost impossible for her to fight in court.
Project SAVE (Stopping Abuse through Victim Empowerment), a partner of the New Orleans Family Justice Center, assists survivors of domestic violence in obtaining free emergency legal representation. Staff attorneys help with legal orders to keep survivors of domestic violence safe and their legal rights protected.
Julia also receives counseling through Catholic Charities Counseling Solutions and employment services through Workforce Development. Julia now wants to give back and to stay in the U.S. and attend law school. “I was told Americans will hate you, they hate Russians, but now I know better,” Julia adds, “Now I meet people; I introduce myself; I’m happy. I’m free.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and in need of help, please call 1-800-411-1333 (Louisiana statewide hotline) or 1-800-799-7233 (national hotline).