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.