Body Evidence: Intimate Violence against South Asian Women in America

By Shamita Das Dasgupta | Go to book overview

14
Middle Class, Documented,
and Helpless
The H-4 Visa Bind

SHIVALI SHAH

Janice knew John for thirteen years before they married.1 After college,
Janice had been an accountant for several years in a large corporation. Their
romance began after he moved to the United States to join a high-tech com-
pany. John was in the United States on H-iB visa; she joined him on an H-4
visa. Within two weeks of landing in the States, John's personality seemed
to change. He scolded her for the slightest mistake, became increasingly
suspicious of her, and would not let her leave the house alone. At least once
a week he would sneak home during the day to hide in a closet to make sure
she was not inviting men over while he was at work. John's verbal abuse
escalated to physical abuse and almost daily threats of violence. He pulled
her hair and made her do outrageous and embarrassing things in front of
their friends. During her first trimester of pregnancy, he grabbed her head
and forced her to drink four bottles of beer. Janice was at a loss as to what
to do. She could not get a job legally or even pay for a plane ticket to return
to India. Even if she did return, her family would not be able to support her
and a young infant. Her own income as a junior accountant in Delhi would
not be enough and, in any case, she would need time to take care of a
newborn.

Unfortunately, Janice's situation is not unique. Well-educated, English-speaking South Asian women who come to the United States to join their H-iB visa holding husbands find that the American women's movement has no place for them. The legal strides that have been made on behalf of battered immigrant women in the United States have primarily favored those married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. However, an unnoticed, yet substantial segment of battered immigrant women are dependent spouses of foreign nationals working in specialty occupations such as computer technology, health care, and academics. These

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