For Eldest Immigrant Daughters who Contemplate Leaving

Whenever I disclose to people that I’m a domestic violence survivor, they instinctively assume the perpetrator is a male intimate partner. I have to correct them because the definition of domestic violence encompasses more than intimate partner violence. Domestic violence is violence that happens within the home. It can happen between siblings, parents vs adult children, grandparents vs grandchildren, etc. Domestic violence can also be financial (i.e. keeping you from working, sabotaging your career, monitoring your bank account).  I am sharing my personal testimony because I wish someone would’ve told me that it doesn’t get better. Either your outlook becomes maladaptive or you walk away.

Being the eldest immigrant daughter is synonymous with martyrdom. I’ve turned down multiple opportunities that could’ve propelled my career forward. I was responsible for buying school supplies, pick-up/drop-off, parent/teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments, childcare, and financially maintaining a household. To be the eldest immigrant daughter is to be exploited, overworked, depleted and unappreciated. I had all of the responsibilities without any of the perks. It was assumed my dreams and goals would take a backseat indefinitely. I was appointed a surrogate parental role without my consent and despite its detrimental impact.

Being the eldest immigrant daughter complicated my DV situation because of the financial exploitation, racist immigration laws and the gender/racial wage gap I experience. Much to my surprise, it’s harder to save money when you earn 38% less than men. Shocker. Please stop telling DV survivors, “just leave!” It’s reductive and overlooks the intersections we have to navigate to secure a better life. I had to quit my job and find a new one because they knew where I worked. I had to drive Lyft full-time in-between jobs to survive. I went without health insurance for 3 months while I waited for my new employer’s insurance to kick into effect. Telling people to leave is insulting, cruel and dangerous. Would you tell someone to quit their job and go without health insurance for an indefinite amount of time yet not offer any alternatives? The most dangerous time for us is when we try to leave.

Leaving wouldn’t have been possible for me if I didn’t work two jobs. It’s not uncommon to work multiple jobs in the US due to low wages, lack of collective bargaining, the rising cost of living and wealth disparities. Also, safety is very expensive if you’re by yourself. Having to buy a car, pay for moving expenses, medical debt and an emergency savings account was overwhelming, to say the least. Now, I understand why people don’t leave. The uncertainty, cost of living, lack of affordable childcare, transportation, and low wages contribute to ongoing oppression and violence against women. Working two jobs and being childfree is ultimately how I was able to escape. I’m grateful I did. I now have 100% control over my money, decision-making power, and career choices. I can post photos without having to worry about threats. I can wear whatever I want, date whomever and practice the faith of my own choosing. I can finally live a self-determined, autonomous and financially stable life. My only regret? I wish I would’ve left sooner.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 


One thought on “For Eldest Immigrant Daughters who Contemplate Leaving

  1. sara

    I’m happy for you abaya. Yeah most people dont understand that forcing your kids to basically give up their dreams so they can act as a second parents to kids they didnt have a choice in making in the first place. When I told my parents I was leaving i got so much bullshit from everywhere. From “do you just want to whore around?” to “you’re end up in hell for disobeying your parents.” Not to mention my parents refused to help me in any way and I ended sleeping in my car and doing uber inbetween jobs in the middle of Minnesotan winter. I was alone and cried alot, and i couldnt let the rest of the family know what was up. My only saving grace was honestly I was a bit savvy. I would park my car behind the library so I could use their internet after hours and libraries dont really have security guards so no one to really bother you or tell you to move your car. Getting a place, saving up fora down payment, buying groceries, furniture, honestly everything is up to you. This at first honestly broke me. As someone who was used to living with alot family members i couldnt believe i was alone. But what they say is true: better to be alone and happy than miserable and in company. This was a also a fundamental look into myself and what i wanted out life. I DIDNT want to be a YES woman who basically gave up everything to say yes, I’ll raise your kids. YES, i’ll let you abuse me mental, physically, etc. YES, my dreams aren’t as important as your. That is ridiculous. Does our society want dogs or people. If its people, perhaps start treating your women with a degree of respect.

    This experience also showed me what was important. I NEVER NEVER NEVER WANT my kids to go through that. I will never sacrifice the relationship with my future kids over ANYTHING AND THAT INCLUDES ISLAM.

    Liked by 1 person

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