Missouri Safe House taking in 'mail-order brides'

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | 10:30 a.m. CST; updated 11:52 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CAPE GIRARDEAU — The 27-year-old woman from Morocco arrived at Safe House for Women in Cape Girardeau with no money, no means of support.

It marked the third time in 18 months the southeast Missouri facility has taken in a woman from a foreign land who met her husband on the Internet, only to be abandoned in America. In one case, the woman was severely abused, said Theresa Lumos, a counselor at Safe House.

Debi Oliver, domestic violence investigator for the Cape Girardeau Police Department, said there is little police can do for women in these types of situations unless there is actual abuse.

The first incident occurred about a year and a half ago, when Safe House took in a woman who had been a "mail-order bride" from Bangladesh, Lumos said.

The second time, police took a 36-year-old Turkish foreign bride to Safe House after she was allegedly abused, sexually and physically, by her new husband, Lumos said. When the woman's family learned of her plight, they sent her money to get a work visa, but her husband confiscated the cash before she could use it. She eventually fled to the East Coast.

In the most recent case, a man from Cape Girardeau County met his future bride online and received permission from her family for marriage, Lumos said. He went to Morocco for the wedding in 2007, accepted the woman's dowry, and returned home without her but promising to send for her.

By November 2008, he was still telling her to wait. Her father sent her to the U.S. to be with her husband. She lived with a cousin in another state for a while, but eventually ended up in Cape Girardeau to find her husband.

She tracked him down, but he told her he was no longer interested and left her by the side of the road at the city limits. She flagged down a police car, Lumos said.

She has been staying at Safe House, and might face punishment or even death by "honor killing" for having displeased her husband if she returns to Morocco, Lumos said.

"We don't know what would happen to her, but we know it wouldn't be good," Lumos said.

Safe House has contacted legal aid on her behalf, hoping she is entitled to some manner of support.

Colleen Coble, executive director of Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said there are several factors contributing to "mail-order brides" being abandoned in the U.S. Those factors include an increase in Internet advertising marriage brokers — some of which might be unregulated — and more international travel.

Lumos didn't have any answers.

"We're living in a society that's really into whatever feels good you should be allowed to do, and there's not a lot of regard for other people," she said.

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Bernadette Waters February 17, 2009 | 1:39 p.m.

This article is interesting. For one, in Moroccan culture women RECEIVE a dowry when they wed from the groom. This is part of the culture, it is something the culture adopted from Islam. What dowry did this husband receive? It's completely unheard of for a man to receive a dowry there.

"Honor Killings" are not a part of Islam and not a part of Moroccan culture. Does it mean nobody ever kills in the name of their family's honor? Of course not, there are crazies everywhere. Really, the media has squeezed ever last ounce out of the term "honor killing" to sensationalize stories all over the place. In Moroccan culture and in Islam the parents and male family members are to take care of this woman divorced, or not. She may be ashamed of what happened to her. Her family may feel shame too and be disappointed but the whole notion of this girl being too scared to go back to Morocco sounds like a lie to me. It makes much more sense to me that this girl will CLAIM to be scared and worried of being killed so that she will be allowed to remain in America and build a life for herself here (even if it takes time and is difficult at first). Many people from different cultures claim to even by gay just to get asylum, so it's not different in this girls case.

The fact that her father sent her to America and sent her to a cousin is another thing that needs to be taken into account. Did her husband even do the paperwork for her to come to America yet? If not then this family must have had enough money to send her here and get the visa to begin with. It sounds more like they were trying to get rid of her and perhaps get her to send them some more money (once she is employed) than anything else.

(Report Comment)
Matt Y February 17, 2009 | 3:27 p.m.

I have to agree with Bernadette. I've spent some time in Morocco and keep up on news from the region and have never encountered or heard of any "honor killings".

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