HealthRight International’s Human Rights Clinic honors Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October 31st, 2016    News

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, HealthRight International’s Human Rights Clinic (HRC) shines a spotlight on the stories of two survivors recently assisted by the program.

Judy* is a native of Kenya who is seeking asylum in the United States after enduring long-term abuse at the hands of her husband, Ken*. Over a period spanning two decades, Ken beat, threw objects,  and burned Judy when she behaved in a manner that he did not like, such as when she bought something for herself or when she refused to give him her earnings. Throughout their relationship, Ken also forced Judy to have sexual intercourse with him, and she contracted sexually transmitted infections (STIs), likely due to the extramarital affairs he was having. After one incident of particularly brutal abuse, Judy suffered a stroke which left her temporarily paralyzed and wheelchair-bound, forcing her to rely on Ken’s help for basic activities. Ken’s verbal and physical abuse escalated further during Judy’s recovery, leaving her increasingly disabled and fearful for her life. To this day, Judy walks with a limp and suffers neurological effects from her stroke.

After futile efforts to seek help and repeated attempts to escape from Ken, Judy made the difficult decision to leave her children and flee to the United States where she is now seeking asylum. Through HealthRight International’s Human Rights Clinic, she received a comprehensive forensic evaluation documenting her ongoing neurological deficits and lasting psychological effects linked to the trauma she suffered, which was submitted in support of her asylum application. While her case remains pending, Judy has been able to access mental healthcare and case management services in the interim, including medical care, housing, and food through HealthRight’s ASSIST Program in order to continue on her path to healing.

Pedro* grew up poor in a one- room house with his mother and stepfather in Honduras. While his stepfather, Carlos* treated Pedro and his mother well when he first moved in, Carlos soon became aggressive and violent. Pedro spent his life terrified of his stepfather, who beat him almost every day, often using objects like a machete, belt, or rope.  While his stepfather squandered his own income on liquor, Pedro went to school without food and adequate clothing, and was made to work at age 8. In one instance, his stepfather forced Pedro to kill his beloved pet dog by cutting its throat open. Meanwhile, on top of enduring his stepfather’s direct abuse, Pedro was also forced to watch as his stepfather beat, cursed, and raped his mother.

Despite Pedro’s attempts to run away and go into hiding, Carlos would always find Pedro, or his mother would forgive Carlos and take him back. No longer feeling safe in Honduras, Pedro fled to the United States where he filed for asylum. His attorney turned to HealthRight International to document Pedro’s physical scars and emotional trauma stemming from his stepfather’s abuse. Following the asylum interview, Pedro’s attorney shared, “I submitted a lot of material, but the only thing the officer remembered was your evaluation.  It really carries a lot of weight.” As Pedro awaits a decision on his case, the ASSIST program has connected him to job placement services to facilitate his transition to life in the United States.

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect client identity.

About the Human Rights Clinic: The Human Rights Clinic provides physical and psychological evaluations to immigrants in the United States who are fleeing torture and other severe abuses, including women, men, and children who have suffered domestic violence. Through its Access to Support and Services for Survivors of Torture (ASSIST) program, the HRC simultaneously refers survivors to follow-up medical, psychological, and social services needed to rebuild their lives in a new country. For more information, please contact: Lauren Pesso, Program DirectorDirect: 212-992-6132; General: 212-226-9890; Email: lauren.pesso@healthright.org.