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This article was originally published in The Washington Post on February 08, 2012. You can access the original article here:

Teresa Gomez, a Salvadoran woman in her 20s, and Margaret Ashong, a grandmother from Ghana, endured regular beatings, threats and insults by the fathers of their children. Like many battered immigrant women in the Washington area, they mostly suffered in silence, fearful that if they went to the police they could lose their right to remain in the United States and their source of economic support.

It was not until both women ended up in emergency rooms — Teresa with her face slashed and bloodied from a knife attack, Margaret bruised and traumatized from another beating — that they discovered a network of support that eventually helped them obtain legal immigration status as well as psychological and financial help.

“He treated me like a slave, and there was no one I could tell,” said Ashong, 62, who lives in Arlington County. “He told the police I was not his wife and that they should send me back to my country. But [the police] said to me, ‘Don’t weep, madam, this is not an immigration matter. It is a case of domestic violence. We will get help for you.’”

In the past decade, several new laws have allowed abused foreign-born women, including those who entered the United States illegally and those whose immigration status depends on their spouse, to obtain legal residency on their own. Read the full story.

Photo credit: Jahi Chikwendiu, The Washington Post