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July 17, 2013

When I was a child, my country experienced political unrest, and my family and I became refugees in another country.

While abroad, a good family friend, Marc,* briefly moved in with us, hoping to convince my parents to join his political movement back in our home country.

One day, while my parents were away, Marc raped me. He took out a knife and cut my stomach, as if to mark his territory. Being just a child, I laid on the floor in shock until my mother came home.

My community learned about the assault and shunned me. Feeling desperate, ashamed, and alone, I tried slitting my wrists. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed.

Life started to improve when my family was able to move back to our home country. However, my new life did not last long. Marc moved next door. My family was powerless to remove Marc because he had become a ranking member of the dominant political party.

Marc started taunting me. One day, he threatened to have a “talk” with my younger sister, who was in elementary school at the time. I wanted to protect my sister, so I followed my sister and Marc to his house. There, he brutally raped me. Again. He cut my stomach once more to mark his crime.

The police dismiss women’s reports of rape, so I didn’t even try. My first rape was too shameful for me and my family. I kept this one a secret.

I persevered. I moved on with my life and enrolled in university. There, I became involved with a new political party that had split from Marc’s. However, Marc’s political party grew in power and started threating members of mine. Police made constant arrests and would often torture and murder anyone they took in. Marc consistently called my phone just to harass me.

I had to leave.

I arrived in the United States and applied for asylum. But my application was referred to immigration court. I needed an experienced attorney to help.

My answer came when I found the Tahirih Justice Center. They took my case and set me up with a pro bono attorney from Holland & Knight. With Tahirih’s professionalism and trust, I was comfortable talking about what had happened to me. After months of hard work and two intensive court hearings, I was granted asylum in immigration court—an outcome that keeps me safe from Marc.

Names may have been changed to protect client privacy and safety. Photo may not depict actual client.

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