Anastasia was a mail-order bride. This is what happened to her.
Anastasia Solovieva was hoping for a better life in America. She moved to Washington State at the age of 18. She was a mail order bride. The attractive Kyrgyzstan teenager was matched with Idle King Jr., a man more than twice her age and far from the picture of attraction. More Danny Devito than Brad Pitt, he was more deadly than their cruelest characters.
Anastasia was Idle’s second mail order bride. His first wife had gotten a restraining order against him, testifying in court that he had beaten her regularly. Anastasia was in the dark. She had never been told about Idle’s past. Nor was she aware that King was already allegedly shopping for his third bride. And she definitely didn’t know what was in store for her.
Just two years after their September 2000 marriage, at the age of 20, Anastasia was dead and her husband stood accused of her murder. She had been strangled and buried in a junkyard. Idle King Jr. was convicted in the murder of his wife and jailed for 29 years in 2002.
The murder of an attractive young woman, in her prime, often works as a catalyst to an improvement in society. This case was no different. Responding to the murder, two Washington state politicians introduced a bill into the House and Senate seeking greater protection for the women who come to the United States in search of love and a better life.
The business of international marriage is booming. There are around 300 introduction agencies that operate in the U.S. alone, and 4000 to 6000 “fiancées” arrive annually in American airports. Worldwide, clients can peruse the information of some 150,000 would-be brides on the Internet or in the pages of monthly catalogs. Although many women are enticed with image of wealthy American men and a better life in the U.S., some women use the services to gain citizenship in the U.S. and then seek to get out of their marriages.
The grooms are generally from North America (USA) and Western Europe, while most brides are Eastern European, Asian or South American. The process is fairly straight-forward. The men choose a number of women from photographs and brief bios that include a few superficial statistics like their age, height and weight. The prospects addresses are then sold to the seekers and a series of letter exchanges then occurs; in the Philippines the process is known as “pen-palling.” The men will then visit the women and propose to the one he likes the best.
Some agencies are more hands-on. Encounters International’s owner Natasha Spivack plays matchmaker to her clients, making her service more personal. For ten years Spivack has been matching American men with Russian women and her website boasts that she will find you a wife in a year or else her services will be free of charge–which may not be a bad thing, since EI’s services start at $1,850. EI boasts of a 95% success rate. Spivack says “I guarantee success to all my male clients provided that they are serious, motivated, positive and patient about the entire process.” She describes her male clients as “35-50 years, educated, successful and open minded.”
She says that the men who seek to get a mail order bride are generally white, politically conservative and successful, both professionally and economically.
A general perception seems to be that mail order brides are more submissive partners. A study by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service concludes, “The foreign woman is happy to be the homemaker and asks for nothing more than husband, home and family.” A CBS news report after the announcement of the new legislation said the Chance for Love matchmaking service website stated this: “The Russian woman has not been exposed to the world of rampant feminism that asserts its rights in America. She is the weaker gender and knows it. The foreign woman is happy to be the homemaker and asks for nothing more than husband, home and family.”
No studies have been done to track abuse in these marriages, but women’s groups are convinced that the problem is growing. Issues like language barriers and ignorance of their rights may play a role in women not seeking help in the appropriate places. Immigration advocates and women’s groups are hoping the proposed bill can stop the problem before it begins. Legislation would have men go through security checks; right now only women are subject to checks before they can move to the U.S. Under the new bill, male clients would also have to answer questions about their marital history–and disclose any past abuse.
While all of these may be coming a little too late for Anastasia Solovieva, the hope remains that another life can be saved. Despite her misfortune, many successful marriages have been, and will continue to be, arranged through international marriage brokers. After all, marriage, whether arranged or based on true love, is always a gamble.