"I didn't think I had anywhere to go," Ortega said in Spanish. "I didn't know about the services. The hospital had never asked about my injuries before, and no place wants to help an 'illegal.' I asked myself: 'What am I going to do now?'"
A pool of blood formed on the floor of Ortega's bedroom. Tepoxtecatl tore the phone out of the wall, threw the clock radio in the trash, and left Ortega lying there. It was 3 a.m. and Ortega stumbled outside into the chilly North Las Vegas air, disoriented and unsure of where to turn.
Perfect environment for abuse
Like a petri dish for bacteria, Ortega's circumstances made for the perfect environment for domestic violence to develop unabated.
Lawyers, law enforcement, researchers and advocates all agree on certain patterns seen with domestic violence. The abuser will attempt to control the victim, often through threats, isolation from others and by reigning over family finances.
It typically takes several attempts for a victim to leave an abuser, and physical violence is frequently not reported until after it has escalated over time.
All of these factors are amplified in varying degrees for Hispanics and immigrants, those who offer services to domestic abuse victims agree.
"If the abuser is here legally and the victim is undocumented, the abuser will use the fear that they will be deported against them," said Marlene Richter, executive director of Shade Tree, another agency that offers crisis services to abused women and children in the valley. "They may threaten to call immigration services on the victim or their children. These are all ways they can intimidate the victim and gain compliance. If the victim is here legally, there still can be language and cultural barriers to them seeking help."
Fear of losing child custody could also play a part. In 2005 the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that immigration status can be used against a parent in a custody battle.
For Ortega, the abuse started when she was 22. The father of her first child, who was born in 2001 in Morelia, Mexico, beat Ortega in fits of drunken jealousy, she said.
She went to the police, but they did nothing.
"He was worthless," Ortega said, "a drunk, rude womanizer. But he had family in the police department, and they ignored me."
Many victims' advocates say a distrust of law enforcement in an immigrant's home country often prevents them from contacting authorities in the United States. The same holds true for nongovernmental organizations in their home countries, the advocates say.
"When we start talking about the immigrant population, many of them came from countries where the authorities can't be trusted," Chapman said. "In fact, in many cases the NGOs in those countries may be working with, and reporting back to, the government. Trust is in short supply."
When Ortega arrived in Las Vegas in 2004, she was entirely alone. It was a new beginning, and she figured she would find work in the booming economy. She would send money home to her mother, who was suffering from diabetes and caring for her daughter. Yet, Ortega had no family or friends in Las Vegas, did not speak English and was illegally in the country.
She met Tepoxtecatl at a general store where they both worked, and they started dating.
By the end of 2006 she was pregnant and living with him. A pattern started to emerge, Ortega said. She worked, Tepoxtecatl sometimes worked and mostly drank with his buddies. They would fight and he would disappear. He would come back, and, lacking help from any corner, Ortega would open the door.
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