Jeff Sessions recently undermined asylum protections for domestic violence survivors. Before he made that call, here’s how one woman pleaded her case.
Terry Lawson BuzzFeed Contributor
Posted on June 22, 2018, at 2:19 p.m. ET
One August morning in 2017, I walk up the staircase to Yoli’s apartment in the North Bronx, the steps creaking beneath me, as I have for the prior three days, not knowing what to expect. Yoli opens the door and smiles, her natural warmth radiating, and my breath catches.
“No,” I blurt out. “You can’t wear that. You have to change,” I say in Spanish.
Beneath her swollen belly, its half-moon covered by an emerald green tank top, Yoli wears deconstructed jeans, which, though on trend, are of the particularly torn variety, with 20 designer rips per leg. Yoli and I stand eye to eye, both at 5 feet tall, her pregnant belly between us. Her red-tinted hair grazes her shoulders. Yoli, in her raspy voice, responds in Spanish, deflated, “But I don’t have anything else to wear.”
“Well, you can’t wear that to court,” I say, my voice lowering an octave. Having worked with abused women for the past 10 years, I know it is wrong to tell her what to wear, and to do it so brazenly. Yoli, a woman who left Honduras to escape her son’s father, does not need someone telling her what to do. She does not need someone telling her how to look, judging her appearance, failing to acknowledge her choices. But the thought of the judge peering down at Yoli from his perch above us, and the weight of our task, to convince him to give Yoli asylum, bears down heavily on me. (Yoli has given me permission to share the details of her story, but I have changed her name, her son’s name, and her abuser’s name, for her protection.)