Dear Crystal,

I am a Vincentian residing in the US for the past 5 years. Initially, I came here on a visitor’s visa, but I decided to stay after meeting my current girlfriend who is also a Vincentian. My visa has expired, and I am now here illegally. I’m currently employed as a construction worker, but I get paid “off the books” (Illegally) due to my immigration status. I met my girlfriend at an event; we knew each other from back home. We started dating, and I eventually moved into her apartment. Our relationship evolved, and I asked her to marry me. Knowing my status, she promised to help me get my green card.

There’s a saying; “to know me and to live with me are two different things.” This woman uses giving me my green card as leverage to control me. I contribute towards all the household expenses, and support her in every way possible. I wanted to open a bank account, but couldn’t do it without her. Her name is on my account because I don’t have a social security card and all the other necessary papers. I can’t even send a barrel home to my mother because this woman is in complete control of my life. Each time I try to leave, she threatens to call immigration. She even went as far as putting her hands on me. My mother raised me to be a decent man, I will not hit her and risk getting arrested. People like me who get arrested are most likely to be deported. I came with the hope of making something of myself. Life is hard in the US, but even harder in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I am the only source of income for my mother and sister back home who depends solely on me. What should I do?

Sincerely,

At my wits end

Dear At my wits end,

I’m sorry to learn about your current situation. This is a clear case of abuse! Our society focuses on how women are abused, we tend to overlook how women can be abusers. There’s a stigma where men feel as though they can’t come forward when being abused, whether it may be physical, emotional, or verbal. In most cases men don’t know how to confront the issue of abuse even through it is damaging, especially to their self esteem. Throw immigration status into the equation, and it’s easy to get lost and feel hopless. If you answer yes to any of the questions in the following drop list, you are in an abusive relationship.

Does your partner:

Verbally abuse you?

Belittle you?

Humiliate you?

Harasses you with accusations of being unfaithful?

Tries to control where you go and who you see?

Manipulates you into doing things in order to control you?

Controls how you spend money?

I know you are in the United States, but you never made it clear which state you are located in. I will provide you with a few websites that may be of some assistance to you. You may also reach out to the Vincentian consulate, ask questions. Seek legal advice from agencies like the “Legal Aid Society.” Sanctuary Cities like California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, Vermont and Washington, has laws in place to help you.

Here are a few links you can use as reference:

https://www.legalaidnyc.org/what-we-do/standing-with-immigrants/

https://www.uscis.gov/archive/archive-news/information-legal-rights-available-immigrant-victims-domestic-violence-united-states-and-facts-about-immigrating-a-marriage-based-visa-fact-sheet

The VAWA Act of 1994: http://www.ncdsv.org/images/FAQ_VAWA%20and%20Gender.pdf

https://nnedv.org/content/immigration-policy/

Domestic abuse is NOT acceptable and should NEVER be tolerated, whether the victim is male or female. Everyone has the right to live an abuse-free life. The first step in protecting yourself and stopping the abuse is to reach out. Do you have friends or family members you can connect with and confide in? Admitting the problem and seeking help doesn’t mean you have failed as a man. You are not to blame and you are not weak. You may struggle with upsetting emotions, or feel disconnected and unable to trust others or even other women after this experience. It can take a while to get over pain and bad memories, but always remember you can heal and move on.

Best wishes,

Crystal Clear

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