VAWA in Action

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When Jia graduated from a U.S. university in the South, she knew she wanted to move to New York City to pursue her career. Shortly after graduation, she landed an unpaid internship at a small company in New York. Despite the lack of pay, Jia was just beginning her career and eager for experience. Additionally, having been an international student from China, Jia was no stranger to moving long distances to pursue her goals. So, she packed her bags and moved to New York City for the unpaid internship.
When she first got to New York City, Jia’s friends told her about New York Justice For Our Neighbors and the clinics that they provide. Jia got in touch with TJ and offered to volunteer at the clinics as a language interpreter. TJ accepted her offer, and Jia volunteered at a few clinics. Over time, though, as she became busier with work, Jia was unable to volunteer anymore.
It was during this time that Jia met John. After dating for a period, Jia and John decided to get married. While the relationship appeared healthy – and even Jia thought it was – she did not realize that John was abusing her until she saw a therapist. When Jia met with the therapist, she explained how John would routinely ask her for money, usually around $200, without any meaningful explanation. When Jia would ask what the money was for, he would provide a vague answer or become defensive. The abuse was underscored by the fact that Jia was struggling to find well-paying work while John had a well-paying job, and he never disclosed to his wife how much money he made. In what is known as financial abuse, John was exploiting their financial imbalance and Jia’s emotional attachment to him as a means of control. Not long after realizing that John was abusive, Jia discovered that he had been unfaithful during their marriage.
With Jia’s status as an immigrant, the couple were required to undergo a marriage interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, a few days before the interview, Jia confronted John. This led to the couple separating, and John refused to attend Jia’s green card interview. Worried that she would be forced to return to China, Jia personally called TJ for advice regarding her situation. TJ immediately advised Jia to leave her abuser and also informed her of the Violence Against Women Act, and in particular, the ability to self-petition. TJ immediately offered to help Jia. He helped her file her VAWA self-petition and prepared her for her interview. Jia recalls, “He was so kind at the moment when I was most helpless. I can never repay what he’s done for me.”
Today, Jia lives on her own and is proud of how far she has come. Following the interview and approval of her self-petition, Jia was granted work authorization. She now works for a mid-sized company and is learning more about her industry of choice. Jia is grateful for TJ’s help and says, “I still think without TJ’s help I could never be where I am now.” Thanks to VAWA, Jia was able to adjust her immigration status without the approval her abusive ex-spouse, allowing her to leave her abuser and take control of her life.


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