Issues Faced by Immigrant
Victims of Domestic Violence
What barriers do immigrant domestic violence victims faces when reporting abuse?
The signs and symptoms of domestic violence for immigrant victims are similar to the signs and symptoms of all domestic violence victims. They may include physical violence, sexual assault, and emotional and/or psychological abuse.
Domestic violence is a complex problem in general, but undocumented survivors may face additional barriers:
The victim may:
- Not be aware that domestic violence is against the law in the United States.
- Not realize they have rights in the U.S. or that police and other service agencies will provide help regardless of immigration status.
- Not be aware that services are available in their own language or know how to access services.
Fear of Authorities
The victim may:
- Fear deportation because spouse threatens to expose status even though, as a domestic violence victim, s/he may be protected from deportation.
- Fear police, based upon negative experiences with police in their country of origin.
- Fear losing custody of children upon separation from the spouse.
- Fear losing support or being outcast from his/her cultural community.
- Fear loss of financial stability because spouse controls access to finances.
Note: The Violence Against Women Act allows some battered immigrants to obtain lawful permanent residence without their husband’s cooperation. All domestic violence victims who rely on the abusers for immigration status should consult with an immigration attorney specializing in domestic violence remedies.
This information is taken from http://www.nyc.gov/html/ocdv/html/issues/immigrants.shtml. Although this website is designed specifically for immigrants living in New York City, this information is helpful for immigrant victims of domestic violence regardless of location.
Lakeshore Success for
ImmigrantVictims of Domestic Violence:
Natalie* was a Russian immigrant who met her American born husband through the internet. A whirlwind courtship followed and the two were married in Russia. Natalie, who had a Master’s Degree in Russian Art History immigrated to the United States with her eleven year old daughter. Natalie spoke very little English but was very excited to marry her new husband, who was also well educated. Within a month of her arrival to the United States, her husband became physically and sexually violent and abusive. He advised Natalie that she was his property. Natalie left when she discovered that her husband was making sexual advances to her eleven year old daughter.
Natalie’s husband filed for an annulment of the marriage and sought to change her immigration status because he claimed that she entered into the marriage in bad faith. Since Natalie sold her all of her property and gave the money to her new husband, she had no mean to return to Russia. After a lengthy trial, Lakeshore was able to have the annulment dismissed; obtain a divorce for Natalie and ensure she received the property that she owned when she entered the marriage. Natalie chose to stay in the United States and Lakeshore was also able to secure immigration status for Natalie. Natalie recently sent Lakeshore a Thank You card indicating that she and her daughter were doing well and that she was teaching Russian literature at a local community college.
*Name has been changed to protect client privacy.
- www.accesscommunity.org/site/...: The Domestic Violence Prevention program aims at changing
social attitudes toward domestic violence, empowering individuals at risk for domestic violence, and decreasing the incidence of domestic violence in the Arab American community.
- www.justicewomen.com/tips_immigrant_women.html: Tips for immigrant woman who have been victims of domestic violence.
- www.4woman.gov/violence/groups/immigrant.cfm: Information for immigrant women on the legal process of reporting abuse and leaving an abusive relationship.
- www.rewa.org/services/domestic-violence/: Seattle based advocacy group that provides, for a fee, informational videos on domestic violence in multiple languages (Cambodian, Russian, Somali, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Amharic).
- www.hope-eci.org/_documents/immigrantvictims.pdf: Fact sheet about barriers for immigrant victims of domestic violence. Links to national organizations focusing on helping these victims. Also provides details on how immigrant women may obtain status without their spouse, pursuant to the Violence Against Women Act.
- Farmworker Legal Services of Michigan
Because Justice for Some is No Justice at All.