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Domestic Violence and Immigrants

Posted by Christopher Martens | Jan 31, 2024 | 0 Comments

Domestic violence is an enormous and grueling problem for the immigrants living in the U.S. There is a very small percentage of immigrants who inflict domestic violence on their U.S. citizen partners or spouses, but mostly the immigrants living in the country are the ones victimized by this heinous problem.

Both immigrant men and women are subjected to domestic violence, but immigrant women experience this problem more frequently. Immigrant women feel completely trapped in such abusive relationships because of immigration rules, social isolation, language barriers, and shortage of funds. Recently, a study carried out in NYC {New York City) on the issue of immigrant domestic violence, reported that about 51 percent of the victims of intimate-partner homicide cases were born in foreign countries and 45 percent originated from the U.S.

Another study revealed that 48 percent of Latinx suffered from increased domestic abuse from the time they had migrated to the U.S. A survey pertinent to immigrant women from Korea discovered that around 60 percent of these women underwent physical abuse inflicted on them by their spouses. It was seen in another research study that 59.5 percent of married women - who were immigrants - experienced domestic violence compared to 49.8 percent of unmarried immigrant women. The studies also reported that most of the abusers in the different domestic violence cases used the immigration status of their partner as a means of gaining control over them. In addition, immigrant women tend to suffer more battering, due to their cultural values, than U.S. citizens do. Most of these women belong to cultures where domestic violence is openly accepted or isn't considered as heinous as other crimes.

Additionally, both immigrant victims and batterers often aren't aware that the social and legal services of the country also apply to them, which is why they continue suffering and inflicting harm, respectively. Battered women do try to flee at times, but they often don't have easy access to bilingual shelters, food, or proper financial assistance. This makes them return to their abuser. Mostly, they also don't get the help of a qualified interpreter during their trial in court, or when reporting a complaint to an operator at 911 or to an officer of the law.

Immigrants are quite vulnerable when it comes to the issue of domestic violence because most of them cannot speak English at all. This causes hindrance in their understanding of the laws and regulations of the country and prevents them from comprehending as well as exercising their rights as immigrants living in the U.S. In addition to that, they are separated from their friends and families and seldom have someone who looks out for them, living close. This prohibits them from bringing up their problems in the limelight or sharing them with someone who could help them out. Moreover, their abusive partners or spouses are fully aware of their vulnerability, which is why they continue to threaten and harm them in numerous ways.

Look at the different ways and techniques used by batterers to harass their better half or partner to gain complete dominance over them.

Threats: Abusive partners or spouses who are citizens of the country understand the status of their immigrant counterparts and often use it to threaten them. In case, the victim tries to stand up for their rights or voice their thoughts, the abusive partner threatens to deport them or withdraw their petitions for obtaining legal status. This threat is often sufficient to keep them bound in the abusive relationship and forbid them from seeking any kind of help

  • Isolation: Batterers often use isolation as a useful tactic for abusing their partners/spouses. They prevent the victim from communicating with their loved ones or their family or relatives back home. In addition to that, they try their best to stop them from learning the English language via any means, so they cannot communicate with the helpful
  • Manipulation Regarding Residency or Citizenship: The abuser also threatens the victim by either not filling out their residency papers or withdrawing their application They also lie that if the victim tried reporting the violence, they would end up losing their residency or citizenship. As the victim do not want to go back for any reason, they stay quiet and continue to bear all the harms and struggles thrown their way.
  • Intimidation: Abusers also make the victims feel intimidated by destroying their legal papers or documents that are required for living in the country. These include resident cards, driver's licenses, passports, and health insurance. When the victims have no legitimate documents that could show them as residents or immigrants living in the country, they fear they might be deported and drop the idea of reporting their abuse or their
  • Children: If the abuser and victim have children together, the abuser, being the dominant one in the relationship, can use their kids as leverage for gaining complete supremacy over them They threaten that they would take the kids away or even go as far as hurting them, if the victim reported them.
  • Economic Abuse: The batterers often go to extreme lengths to prevent their victims from leaving their relationship. They do this by falsely reporting to their employers, that the victims are undocumented and have no right to live in the country, or even get them fired. This makes the victims dependent on their abusers and forces them to continue living with

To live a comfortable life in the U.S., the immigrants need to be aware of the following things, so they can quit an abusive relationship.

  • Basic Rights: Every person living in the U.S. is entitled to certain rights. These rights are bestowed on them regardless of their legal or immigration status and are given to ensure their fundamental protection in the country. The laws that govern families offer you with the following rights:
  • Right to obtain a protection order for your kids and yourself
  • Right to get legally separated or divorced from your spouse without their consent
  • Right to get a share in any marital property. If a divorce takes place, the court is responsible for dividing the financial assets or properties shared by the two spouses in that abusive relationship
  • Right to request custody of the kids you have with your abuser and to ask for financial assistance for them. Parents of kids below the age of 21 are normally required to give child support and assistance for children who don't live with

To get these rights or to understand how they work, the victim must seek the help of a professional lawyer. They should try to get in touch with a lawyer who is either their friend or acquaintance and has experience of working with immigrants. In addition to the aforementioned rights, a victim has the right to consult a lawyer whenever they want, to not answer any questions asked by the abuser or their lawyer in case the lawyer of the victim isn't present and the right to defend themselves. It is wise that the victim consults both a criminal lawyer and a qualified immigration lawyer for their case.

  • Call Police: Any person suffering from any harm, be they a victim of domestic violence or of any other crime, always has the right of calling the police to get their This right is applicable to all the immigrants as well. If an immigrant victim is suffering from any kind of domestic violence, they must get in contact with the police for getting a protection order as soon as possible. They should also call the police if they feel their kids are suffering from their relationship. The police will arrest your abuser if they have reasonable proof of believing that they were involved in domestic violence. You should inform the police of all the abuse that has taken place previously or recently, and should show them your injuries, if there are any. 
  • Get a Restraining Order: If you have been victimized by domestic violence, you have the complete right of applying for a restraining or a protection order from the This order will prevent your abuser from contacting, calling, meeting and hurting you and your kids in any way. In case, the abuser violates the order, you can get the police's help to have them arrested. Applications for filing protection orders can be easily found in police stations, legal and civil service offices, NGOs working for women's rights, women's shelters and courthouses.
  • Immigration Options: Immigrants who have fallen prey to domestic violence can file an application for legitimate immigration status in the following three ways:
  • Cancellation of their removal under the VAWA {Violence Against Women Act)
  • Self-petitions to get legal status as per the VAWA
  • U-nonimmigrant status {crime victims)

To understand these ways, the victim needs to talk to a seasoned immigration lawyer.

  • Services Available to the Victims: The victims of domestic abuse in the U.S. can get the help offered by non-governmental or governmental agencies that include interpreters, counseling, emergency housing, monetary help and safety They can get connected with any of the following hotlines given below to get 24-hour free of cost assistance.
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network {RAINN) - 1-800-656-HOPE {1-800-656-4673)
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime - 1-800-FYI-CALL {1-800-394-2255) or 1-800- 211-7996 {TTY)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE {1-800-799-7233) or 1-800-787- 3224 {TTY)
  • National center for Missing and Exploited Children - 1-800-THE-LOST {1-800-843-5678)

About the Author

Christopher Martens

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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