22 Mar 2012

Assisting an Immigrant Survivor with Legal Issues: STOP in Action in the District of Columbia

This week, A STOP funded legal service helps an immigrant survivor secure safety for herself and her son in the District of Columbia:

When Ana*, an immigrant from Peru, first met with Ayuda’s legal staff, she was frightened, ashamed, and overwhelmed.  For many years she had lived in silence, enduring physical and emotional abuse from her partner and the father of her child.  She believed that because she was an immigrant, she had no rights.  After separating from her partner, he aggressively stalked her by leaving up to 30 emotionally distressing messages a day, following her everywhere, threatening her repeatedly that they would “be together until death,” and engaging in other harassing behavior. 

Ana sought help at Ayuda, an agency located in the District of Columbia that offers free legal services to low-income immigrant survivors of domestic violence.  At Ayuda, she learned about her legal rights and worked with a STOP-funded attorney to prepare her case against her former partner.  She succeeded in obtaining a civil protection order and a custody order. 

After the court issued the orders, however, Ana’s troubles with her former partner did not stop.  Although he was ordered to go to the supervised visitation center at specific times to see his son, he would show up at Ana's house, instead, and at times different than those ordered by the court.  On a number of occasions, he also appeared for visitation smelling strongly of alcohol.

After these repeated violations of the protective and custody orders, Ana returned to Ayuda for help.  An attorney assisted her by filing a motion to modify custody, along with a supporting brief.  When her former partner’s violations of the custody order escalated and he made serious threats to kidnap their son, the attorney filed an emergency motion.  The Ayuda attorney succeeded in obtaining a hearing on the emergency motion.  The court entered a temporary order, and later a final order, granting Ana’s former only supervised visits at the court supervised visitation center, and included other provisions essential to ensure the child’s and Ana’s safety and well-being.

To take a deeper look at the promising S.T.O.P. funded work, view the S.T.O.P. in Action film. For more information on ALSO’s STOP Technical Assistance to Administrators Resource (STAAR) Project, click here. Make sure to check back next week to see if your state is featured or follow us on Twitter for these and other updates.


*Not her real name.