Once Trapped Now She’s Free

With the blade of her husband’s butcher knife at her throat, Amara* pressed 911 but did not speak.

Minutes later, the police came to investigate the suspicious call, but nobody, not Amara, not her young daughter who witnessed everything, talked. The officer said to her “you can tell me what happened,” but Amara was afraid if she spoke her husband would “cut her into pieces” or worse, harm their child.

For many years, Amara’s husband inflicted physical assaults, intimidation and death threats upon her. He used money as a weapon, too. She was trapped by his charge that he could have her citizenship revoked and by the marital expectations of their shared South Asian culture. He secreted their funds in various bank accounts and forged her name on credit cards, loans and
tax returns. She tried to work and go to school, but most days it was all she could do to survive and take care of her daughter. She felt that “this is my life. I have to make it work. I have no choice.”

As the final punishment, her husband forcibly took their daughter to live with his relative and tossed Amara out of their home. Banished, penniless and panic-stricken, Amara moved into a shelter. Although she was more alone and isolated than ever, she was determined to get her daughter back and start a new life together. After futilely searching for a lawyer, Amara found the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law. She cried when she learned the Center would help her and that she would have an attorney in court.

Her volunteer lawyer persuaded the judge to give Amara a restraining order and full custody of their daughter. She successfully sought an order limiting her husband to supervised short visits with their daughter. Many legal hours later, owing to the efforts of the Center’s pro bono attorney, Amara received nearly $50,000 from his bank accounts for unpaid support, some treasury notes and half of her husband’s pension.

Amara and her daughter now live in their own apartment, free from fear. Amara has a decent job and her daughter is thriving as an AP student on her way to college. “I am so grateful” says Amara, “my daughter will have what I never did, thanks to the Center and my attorney.”

*Client’s name and photo have been changed to protect her privacy.