Saleha Elias is the board trustee and a volunteer for Muslim Community Support Services, an Austin-based non-profit that provides resources and support for muslim refugees. Elias has worked primarily with women recovering from domestic abuse.
“I work with these women because I can understand them, from a cultural and religious point of view,” Elias says.
Elias’ first case involved a woman married to a Bangladeshi man who decided he wanted a second wife.
“But bigamy is a crime here. In our religion you can marry, but not here,” Elias says. “He was putting her down so much that she lost any self-esteem, any self respect. He started hitting her. One time, he tried to choke her.”
Elias was able to support the woman, who reported him to the police. He was deported and the woman was taken into a shelter.
“She got a lot of self confidence there,” Elias says. “When I visited her once, I asked her to start learning how to drive. She said, ‘Me? I do not drive.’ I said, ‘If I can drive, you can drive. We are both human.’”
Elias says she is focused on helping women her own age dealing with domestic abuse.
“A new generation is coming up,” she says, “but older people probably still won’t confide in the new generation. So I am still needed.”
Written by Haley Butler.