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My story began long ago, in Bogotá, Colombia. I was from a proud, military family. I worked for a bilingual school. But behind closed doors, I was in an abusive relationship. I covered the marks on my face, and explained away the stitches – a car accident, a trip on the stairs. I shamed myself into silence.

And then my daughter was born.

Suddenly my fear was not only for myself. I knew what my daughter’s father was capable of. We had to escape and the United States was our only chance to change our destinies. So we fled.

When we arrived in Maryland, I felt a sense of peace. My visa was still pending, but I met a man and eventually we were married. I thought, this time, it would be different.

But I was wrong.

Within a year, I was completely isolated. My husband controlled my emails and phone calls, he separated me from my daughter for hours at a time, and the physical and emotional abuse were constant. He even filed a restraining order against me when I fought back.

My husband, a U.S. citizen, took away the papers that guaranteed my legal residency and threatened to report me to immigration if I ever left him. He held all of the power, and I lived in fear, yet again.

Escaping my husband’s abuse was the greatest ordeal of my life. With little understanding of the laws put in place to protect women and mothers like me, and no access to my residency documents, I was shamed and scared into silence. Reaching out for help and safety seemed impossible. It took everything I had to find the courage to go to the police for help.

That was 10 years ago. That was when women like me weren’t afraid to go to the police.

If my journey had been today, I would not have gone to the police. With today’s policies, and reports of law enforcement facilitating the deportation of undocumented survivors, I would have feared them. Like so many immigrant women today, I would fear being sent back to a country I no longer call home, being re-victimized by violence, and being separated from my daughter forever.

For the past 20 years, Tahirih has answered more than 22,000 pleas for help from women like me. However, the need for assistance is more acute today than at any point in Tahirih’s history – the climate of fear is more widespread than ever and we are able to assist only 1 in 10 women and girls who reach out for help.

Tahirih gave me the life line I needed.

I am a mother. A survivor. An advocate. I fight to shine a light on the most basic of human rights – to live in safety and with dignity. There are thousands of women and children waiting to find justice, safety, and a life without fear. Through Tahirih, you and I can help them.

I stand with Tahirih, and I stand with you – our most generous supporters. Please stand with me!

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and warm wishes to you and your family.

With gratitude,

Olga Sanchez
Board Member and Former Client
Tahirih Justice Center

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