You’ve heard about the crisis. Over the last several months, thousands of abused and abandoned children have arrived in the United States seeking protection from violence in Central America. But did you know that 40% of those children are girls under the age of 13? Many have risked everything to escape gender-based human rights abuses, such as sexual assault, gang violence, child abuse, incest, and human trafficking.
Tahirih Justice Center is uniquely positioned to respond to the crisis as the only national, multi-city non-profit organization providing a broad range of legal services, policy advocacy, and community education to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based human rights abuses.
Weary, malnourished, and traumatized, most women and girls arriving from Central America are placed in jail-like detention centers. Their names are added to a “rocket docket,” which schedules their court date within days of their arrival. Grappling with language barriers and physical and emotional scars, these young girls have no time to obtain legal counsel or convince a judge not to send them back into harm’s way.
Without an attorney and access to the critical social services they need to begin to heal, it is nearly impossible for survivors of violence to achieve justice and rebuild their lives in safety and with dignity. Vulnerable women and girls, like Gloria, need our help.
Born out of wedlock and orphaned by her mother in Mexico City, Gloria grew up without knowing what it felt like to be loved. At age 14, Gloria was homeless and was forced to drop out of school to support herself.
In her early 20s, she met a man who showed her affection for the first time in her life. He asked her to prove her love for him by getting his initials tattooed on her shoulder, and she did. Gloria couldn’t have known the meaning of the tattoo; his initials branded her as property of one of the most violent gangs in the world, Los Zetas. Soon after, her boyfriend took her to a party, where he sold her to Los Zetas as a sex slave.
During her six months in captivity, Gloria was beaten, raped, drugged, burned with cigarettes, cut with broken bottles, and tortured so often that she lost count. She was kept in a room with 20 other women and girls. All had similar tattoos on their shoulders.
One night, Gloria was put alone in a room after being raped. Frustrated, she punched a rusted air conditioner mounted in the window, and it budged. This was her chance.
She punched the air conditioner until it fell to the ground. Gloria climbed through into the night, and she ran for days.
Apprehended at the border, she was immediately placed in a detention center in Texas and sought protection through Tahirih. We helped Gloria win asylum and connected her with vital social services.
Today, Gloria is slowly rebuilding her life and healing from her trauma. She recently found a job and dreams of one day becoming a dentist. For the first time in her life, she feels like she has the tools she needs to build a home.
Unfortunately, Gloria’s story is not unique. At Tahirih, we hear stories like Gloria’s many times a day, every single day.
On International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and every day, her story is an urgent reminder of the work that remains in the fight to create a world where women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity.
Since 1997, Tahirih has responded to pleas for help from nearly 17,000 women and children from every corner of the globe. We protect courageous immigrant women and girls, like Gloria, who refuse to be victims of extreme gender-based violence, a worldwide epidemic that impacts everyone.
None of our lifesaving work would be possible without your help.
In 2014, to date, we have:
- Responded to more than 2,000 pleas for help from individuals fleeing violence;
- Maintained a 99% litigation success rate despite the complex and often uncharted nature of the cases we accept;
- Grew 12% nationally by hiring critical staff members to support more women and girls entitled to protection under existing U.S. law;
- Turned every $1 donated into $5 of impact thanks to nearly $13 million in donated services from our Pro Bono Network of more than 1,500 attorneys and professional volunteers;
- Served at the forefront of the movement to protect the rights of immigrant women and girls who fled gender-based and now are caught in the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border;
- Launched a six-city, 18-event, national tour to end forced marriage in the U.S.;
- Led a coalition of women’s rights groups at the White House to advocate for stronger protections for women and girls.
Despite these challenging times, this Thanksgiving, we have so much to celebrate. We are immensely grateful to our dedicated staff and our robust and compassionate Pro Bono Network.
We are also incredibly thankful for you.
Your continued support has saved lives, and it has given many of our clients a sense of home for their first time in their lives.
As we approach 2015, Tahirih Justice Center will continue to seek efficient, effective, and innovative ways to protect women like Gloria and all of our brave clients. But we cannot do this without your generosity. We simply do not have the resources necessary to meet the needs of the courageous women and girls who reach out to us for help; with every client we serve, we still have to turn two others away.
This Thanksgiving, please give what you can and know that the lives that your gift touches will be forever transformed.
With your continued support, we will increase the number of women and girls we serve through public policy advocacy and direct lifesaving legal services. Together, we will achieve a world free from gender-based violence.
Please make a donation at whatever level you can, and transform a life like Gloria’s this holiday season. Remember, every $1 you donate will be turned into $5 of impact.
With warmest regards,
Tahirih Founder and Executive Director
Please note that our client’s name has been changed to protect her privacy. The featured photo does not depict actual client, but the artwork you see in this post was painted by the child of a Tahirih client.