Since 1996 Saheli has worked with over 1,000 women to ensure they can live safe, healthy and independent lives. The following is a testimonial and some of their stories. To protect confidentiality, all names are fictitious.
Veena thanks Saheli Domestic Violence Advocate Salita Mehta
Heartfelt thank you to Saheli for helping me when there was no one else to help me, at the times when we were in great need. Saheli helped me, listened to me and advised me whenever I needed and lost my confidence. Finally, Saheli gave me much needed financial help to buy winter clothing, a laptop, and pay for online software courses in preparation for resuming my career. I am becoming a confident and strong person now. I will remember all of you with gratitude, for the rest of my life! Without your help nothing was possible for me. Please let me know if I can be of any help, I will be very happy. Again, thanking Saheli and will be thanking you for the rest of my life with all my heart.
Getting out of an abusive situation is only the first step.
“Saheli helped me to get on my feet.” – Chandan’s Story
Chandan, abandoned by her husband, lived in a shelter in Boston, while her child was placed in foster care. Lacking a green card, she could not avail of federal and state welfare programs and relied entirely on Saheli. She sought free food from soup kitchens and received medical care and legal help at the shelter. With Saheli’s referrals, Chandan secured a job as a home health care giver for an elderly South Asian woman. She was glad to have a safe temporary home, food and a small salary. Her daughter enrolled in a good suburban school. Helping the terminally sick elderly woman gave Chandan the much-needed skills that allowed her to progress on to her next job.
With help from Greater Boston Legal Services, Chandan received a special VAWA visa and upon the advice of Saheli’s Domestic Violence Advocate, found employment at a local hospital. In time she secured public housing. Now living independently, and with her experience in health care and some knowledge of computers. She is currently in the process of brushing up her software skills and building up the mental fortitude to start a job in the hospital industry. Chandan is in the fortunate position of being able to choose from several jobs that a local hospital offers.
Each year, significant numbers of South Asian women are abandoned overseas by their spouses
“I felt completely helpless.” Varsha’s Story
Varsha came to the US on an H4 spousal visa with her husband. Her child was born in the US. After seven years of marriage she was abandoned by her spouse on a family trip to Mumbai and left without a passport for herself and her child. Her attempts to reach her husband, who had returned to the US, failed repeatedly.
After overcoming many obstacles, Varsha traveled back to her previous home in Massachusetts, USA, only to find that their apartment was locked. She called 911 and the local police, put Varsha in touch with Saheli of Burlington. Saheli helped Varsha obtain free temporary housing at a South Asian motel and Saheli counselors supported Varsha to regain her confidence, safety and security.
Varsha, who was not a permanent resident in the US, documented the abuse she had experienced and apply for a special U Visa with the help of Saheli’s immigration attorney. After several months, Varsha obtained a legal work permit reserved for women who testify against their abusers. Saheli advocates used our economic empowerment programs to help Varsha find attorneys to represent her in court, provide transportation from home to court, donated a laptop computer, and supported Varsha with financial assistance and friendship for well over one year.
Today, we are happy to share that Varsha is working legally in the United States and on her way to a safe and healthy life for herself and her child.
Arranged marriages can place young women in dangerous situations. Parents often marry daughters off without careful consideration of the character of the man they choose
“I didn’t think I’d be able to survive on my own.” – Fatima’s Story
Fatima’s husband was physically and sexually abusive, unfaithful, and used family finances to control and abuse his wife. Like many women who seek help from Saheli, Fatima suffered physical and emotional abuse when she married a man who was a virtual stranger. In deep misery and isolation, Fatima called the Saheli helpline at 1-866-4SAHELI and used the website to contact advocates who counseled her —
- To make a safety plan with the help of a Saheli domestic abuse advocate. The Saheli safety plan requires a woman to collect her most important legal documents, certificates,
- her valuables and sentimental possessions and put them in a safe place in case she has to leave home quickly.
- To seek psychological counseling to deal with the abuse, referring her to a culturally-sensitive mental health professional, and,
- To call 911 if she feared for her life.
Soon, Fatima’s abuse became unbearable, and knowing that she had Sahelis to support her, she called 911. When the police arrived, they observed first-hand the physical abuse this young woman had endured. Fatima was taken to a women’s emergency shelter. Working many hours with her, Saheli volunteers helped her to obtain a legal U Visa and work permit. Saheli board members provided funds for Fatima to start on a degree program established by the Sujana Chalasani Fund. Today, we’re proud to share that Fatima works part time legally, she has almost completed her Master’s degree and lives in a women’s shelter.