N. Boutuern came to the United States, met a man and fell in love but soon found herself the victim of a brutal beating last year. Now, thanks to the assistance of the Family Justice Center in Kew Gardens, she has taken her life back and is looking to the future.
When Boutuern, a native of Morocco, came to the United States she was taking a vacation and learning English. Through a classmate, she met the man who would become her husband after two weeks of dating. At first, she said he was “so nice” and everything was okay.
“I was always a good wife,” Boutuern said.
Things began to change when Boutuern returned from a trip to Morocco.
“When I [came] back, he had somebody else,” she said, noting that she saw email exchanges between her husband and the woman.
After things ended between her husband and the other woman, the problems started, Boutuern said. She also said that “he was a different person” after losing his father.
When Boutuern tried to talk to her husband about their problems, he hit her. She said she didn’t call the police that time because he said he was sorry.
Things grew even worse after he lost his business. Boutuern said he had stolen money, and she found out he hadn’t paid their rent for a year. Their electricity was turned off the day before Boutuern’s mother came for a visit.
As her mother was visiting, Boutuern received a letter from the courts about the unpaid rent. This was how her mother first found out that there were problems in the marriage. Boutuern said that she hadn’t told anyone else about her problems because she thought no one would be able to help solve them.
During this time, Boutuern’s husband was out of the country. He was supposed to be gone for two weeks, but instead was there two months. He had only left her with $30 so relatives had to help her with finances.
Once he was back, the two went to court over the unpaid rent and were eventually evicted.
As things progressed, Boutuern’s husband would scream and swear at her. One day he slapped her in the presence of her mother, which is when she decided she had enough.
“I said I cannot take it, and I called the cops,” she recalled.
Boutuern got an order of protection. By then, her mother had gone back to Morocco and Boutuern said she decided to try to fix her problems by herself.
Although her husband was no longer supposed to come around her because of the order of protection, he one day showed up at her house while she was talking to her mom on the computer using a webcam. When he got there, Boutuern said he told her he came special that day to kill her.
Boutuern’s mom began screaming as she watched him begin to kick her until he turned off the computer. He also took Boutuern’s cell phone to prevent her from calling the police.
She escaped from her first-floor apartment to try to get to a friend’s house on the second floor, but no one was home. He caught up to her and pulled her back down the stairs by her hair, and then hit her head on a metal door and the corner of a kitchen cabinet.
Boutuern told her husband she was pregnant in an attempt to get him to stop, but to no avail.
A neighbor eventually heard her screams, got into the apartment and was able to take Boutuern away. By then, she said she was black and blue all over.
“I try to forget this day but I cannot,” she said.
Her husband was arrested the next day. She moved from the apartment and stayed with a friend, spending a couple days recovering from what happened.
The DA’s office told Boutuern about the Family Justice Center in Kew Gardens.
“I came here and they were so, so nice with me,” she said. “They helped me a lot. They helped me to figure out everything.”
Some of the things Boutuern was able to get assistance with were food stamps, public benefits, immigration papers, a work permit, learning English and even a MetroCard.
Had it not been for the people at the Family Justice Center, Boutuern said she doesn’t know where she’d be today. She said she has “found a lot of nice people who helped me.” And, although her husband used to tell her no one would listen to her since she was not a citizen, she said that is not the case at the Family Justice Center.
“They are the best,” Boutuern said. “God bless them.”
She added that she hopes the center just continues to grow and said if any woman has a problem they should go there.
Boutuern is now working and has recently received her divorce. She is working on finishing her diploma and then wants to continue her studies. She said that she still gets scared when talking to other sometimes, out of fear that something similar will happen to her again.
“I still have a future,” Boutuern said. “I try to be strong.”
For more on Part III of our domestic violence series:
Orders of protection and other laws