Katherine Hanlon

Solutions to help immigrant women protect themselves against abuse

Catch this W.A.V.E with us 🌊

What is W.A.V.E.?

The Women Against Violence Experiment (W.A.V.E.) is the product of a yearlong investigation about information gaps in the New York’s Latina immigrant community by Brazilian journalist Isadora Varejão. She found that women have little or no knowledge about the different forms of abuse to which they are vulnerable (by a partner, a boss, a landlord) or the available resources to protect them against abuse, such as free services and U.S. legislation.

Two solutions: online and offline

W.A.V.E. has two ongoing engagement projects: a chatbot and a forum play. The chatbot Chicabot (beta) gives information about the U.S. legislation and resources available for immigrant women in abusive relationships. The forum play "What If It Happened To You?" (from the Portuguese "E Se Fosse Com Você?") follows the Theater of the Oppressed methodology, in which the audience is invited to join actors onstage to try to change the outcome of the scenes.

What If It Happened To You?

This 15-minute forum play portrays a Brazilian immigrant in an abusive relationship, and it was developed in collaboration with ten members of the Brazilian community following the Theater of the Oppressed methodology. Scenes and dialogs were created during improvisation exercises and theater games led by Varejao and theater director Becca Kenisgberg. The play debuted on Friday, December 6, 2019, at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. We had 60 attendees, 15 of them men. The play was in Portuguese, but Varejao did the facilitation in both Portuguese and English. There were four interventions from the audience.

Screenshot of small App

The plot

In "What if It Happened To You?" a highly educated Brazilian immigrant (Fay Vera) finds herself in an abusive relationship with Brazilian-American musician (Victor Fontoura.) While she is in denial, her friends (played by Yasmin Santana, Suzane Senna and Ana Moioli) can’t agree if he is abusive or just the typical hot blooded Latino boyfriend. In the cast are also Juliana Rosa, Vanessa Grecco, Bernardo Melo and Patricia Marjorie.

Screenshot of application

Covid-19: In-person events on pause

Due to the pandemic, in-person performances have been paused until further notice. We are currently working on an online version of this forum. If you want to know about our online events in the future, subscribe at the top.

Feb 10, 2020 at 6:30pm.

Mantena Global Care. 294 Ferry St, Newark, NJ. The performance and facilitation will be in Portuguese.

Feb 20, 2020 at 10am.

Consulate General of Brazil in New York. 225 E 41st St, New York. The performance will be in Portuguese. *No facilitation.

Screenshot of small App
“It’s an incredibly transformative tool; people were shy at first but in the end so many were participating, sharing their own experiences, and thinking together…”

Heloisa Vilela

“I realize now I can be surrounded by women in abusive relationships. I want to take action and I know my approach must be respectful and humble…”

Aline Viana

“As someone who has been in an abusive relationship, I felt welcomed and supported here. A play like this is important for any community, not just ours.”

Luiza Tojer


Do you think you or a friend may be in an abusive relationship? Talk to Chicabot, a know-it-all bot who loves to share information about the tools available to immigrant women who are in abusive relationships in the U.S. The chatbot script includes information about the Violence Against Women Act and the U visa, both tools that allow abused women to adjust their immigration status. The information was collected from the U.S. government’s official channels, and rewritten in a much more accessible way. GIFs, memes and small talk are intentionally built into the conversation, and give the user extra breathing room before new information as it is introduced.

Screenshot of iPhone App


95% of users said they learned something new ∙ 52% know at least one immigrant woman who has been in an abusive relationship ∙ 86% would definitely recommend Chicabot to a friend.

Next steps

The content is currently being expanded to accommodate the information in the Cartilha da Mulher (Women's Brochure,) developed by the Grupo Mulheres do Brasil (Women of Brazil Group).

"Nice tool, the GIFs and memes are a good addition"

Anonymous feedback

"You can get information without exposing yourself"

Anonymous feedback

"The language was up to date with Millennials/Gen Z culture"

Anonymous feedback

Chat with Chicabot!

This is a beta version, which works best on Apple devices. Please leave your feedback.

Screenshot of App inside a laptop

Stats don't lie.

There are more things in common between the U.S. and Brazil than are dreamt of in your philosophy

W.A.V.E. is a harbor for immigrant women navigating the choppy waters of the U.S. immigration system

Team W.A.V.E.

Isadora Varejão

Journalist and actress 🇧🇷

New York-based engagement reporter and audience development specialist with a Master's in social journalism from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. In hometown Rio de Janeiro, covered environment, public health, and City Hall. Holds a degree in Drama Arts from Martins Pena theater school, in Rio, and performed in more than 15 plays from 2004 to 2014.

Rebecca Kenigsberg

Theater director and educator 🇺🇸

New York-based, California-bred artist focused on reframing the socio-political discourse and narrative through theater. Holds a B.A. in Theater from UCLA, a M.A. in Arts Politics from NYU, and has done extensive training in Theater of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro.


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