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This article was originally published in ABC7 News on May 31, 2014. You can access the original article here: bit.ly/1r06NKx.

Client struggles to secure a future for her family after husband’s sexual exploitation

ABC7/WJLA, the local ABC affiliate for the greater Washington area, featured a Tahirih client’s long fight to protect her daughters on its Friday evening broadcast.

When Lidia* discovered her husband had sexually exploited her daughter, she reported her husband’s abuse to the authorities. She left her home with her three children.

“It’s often a personal challenge for undocumented immigrants who witness or are victims of terrible crimes. Should they go to police and risk exposing their own legal status?” ABC7 Anchor Leon Harris said as he introduced Lidia’s heart-wrenching story.

Lidia risked everything to do the right thing.

“What she did to protect her children was incredibly courageous and brave, and she knew the consequences would be that she would have no means of support and nowhere to live. She did it anyway,” said Tahirih Founder and Executive Director Layli Miller-Muro, who was interviewed for the broadcast, which reaches approximately 5.7 million people in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Lida’s husband was convicted and deported. Now, Lidia has no source of financial support and is homeless. She is left to care alone for her three children, including one who is wheelchair bound with severe cerebral palsy. Lidia’s daughter can’t breathe or eat on her own and requires 24/7 care.

Tahirih Justice Center is working with Lidia to secure her legal status and ability to work, two roadblocks that prevent Lidia from full self-sufficiency. The legal process will take anywhere from 12-24 months. Meanwhile, local homeless shelters are unable to take Lidia and her children, who are U.S. citizens, because of her daughter’s disabilities.

“We’ve been bouncing, going from one place to another,” Lidia told ABC7.

Since January, the family has been staying in hotel. But, as ABC7 Senior Reporter Scott Thuman shared during Friday’s broadcast, money has run out.

“I really need – I am desperate – for a stable place,” Lidia said, whose daughter will shortly undergo an operation to address medical complications.

Despite the extreme challenges she has faced since turning in her husband, Lidia is glad she sought justice.

“I am glad that I reported the crime because if I didn’t I believe that even more severe harm could have happened,” Lidia said.

Countless immigrant women and girls in the United States face similar dilemmas as Lidia. Their undocumented status in the United States makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and adds a layer of fear to reporting crimes. Tahirih’s public policy team advocates for systemic changes in law that would reduce the vulnerability of immigrant women and girls to crime, and better protect victims of crime like Lidia who have the courage to come forward.

*Client name has been changed to protect client privacy.