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 


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