Family Violence

Health Promotion Disease Prevention

Instructor: Gregory M. Chase, MS Emergency Medicine, MSHED, PA-C, RN

Imigrants at Risk for Domestic Violence, Community Health Introductory Program: Principles of Instructional Design

Author: Gregory M. Chase, MS, MSHED, PA-C, RN.
Dr. David Sellen, PhD precepting

Abuse in America and our Immigrant, population

On average, than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.

One in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

Questions & Answers for Immigrant and Refugee Women Dealing with Domestic Violence

If you need help, advocates with the National Domestic Violence Hotline understand immigration issues and can talk with you about your situation. The Hotline has Spanish speakers available, as well as translators for more than 140 languages, 24-hours a day. For help, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Information for Victims of Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labor Describes acts which may constitute trafficking in persons and forced labor and encourages victims of trafficking to report their situation. Information about governmental and non-governmental resources for victims is provided. Read more about forced or slave labor.

What is "domestic violence"?

Please see the definition of domestic violence on our Get Help page. If you are an immigrant or refugee in an abusive relationship, you may face unique issues that make it hard to reach out for help. This page will help you to better understand your situation and the resources available to you or someone you know. Click on the questions below for more information.

What can I do?

There are a variety of services available to assist you. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to take advantage of many resources in your area. Some services available to you include: domestic violence shelters, hospitals, police, legal aid and counseling and support groups. The other sections on this page provide information about accessing services for immigrants.

Can I call the police?

Domestic violence is against the law.
The police can:

  • Respond to an emergency call for help.
  • Escort you and your children out of the house and help you locate a safe place to stay if you want to leave.
  • Arrest your partner if they believe a crime has been committed.

If you call the Police:

  • Find someone other than your child or abuser to interpret for you.
  • Ask the police to complete a report about the incident and get an incident report number so that you can get a copy of the report.
  • Ask for and write down the name and badge number of the officer making the report.
  • Important: If your partner is taken into custody, he may be released in as soon as two hours. You may use this time to find a safe place to go.
    The police generally will not turn in a woman reporting domestic violence to immigration authorities.

Can I leave my home if I am in danger?

You can go to a friend or family member’s house or a women's shelter if you are in danger. If you stay with a friend or family member, keep your location a secret if possible. Shelters are usually free and will likely have information about other services available in your community. You have the right to keep your immigration status private.

If you leave your home, it is also helpful to bring documents such as:
  • driver's license
  • identification
  • passports
  • visas for yourself and your children
  • birth certificates
  • documents from any public assistance programs
  • rent agreements
  • checkbooks
  • credit cards
  • paycheck stubs
  • marriage license
  • copies of tax returns for yourself and your partner.
  • Copy of your husband’s resident alien card/certificate
  • If you think you may need to leave in the future, pack these items in a bag or take them to a friend's home so you can find them quickly.

I have heard of protection orders. What do they do?

A protection order can prevent the abuser from:

  • Coming near you
  • Attacking you or sexually assaulting you
  • Contacting you, your children or other family members
In most states, you can also ask for custody of your children and child support. You may also be able to ask that the batterer be removed from your home and that the batterer not interfere with your immigration status.

Can I get a protection order even if I am not a U.S. citizen?

You do not need to be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident to get a protection order. A lawyer may be helpful, but one is not necessary to get a protection or restraining order.

You may obtain an application for a protection order at: courthouses, women's shelters, legal services offices and some police stations.
A court generally will not ask about your immigration status when you ask for a protection order, a child custody order or dissolution of marriage.
o Ask a legal services attorney (attorneys who provide free legal services to low-income individuals) or an immigrant advocacy group in your area about the policy in your court.

My husband is threatening to take my children away if I leave him. What can I do?


If your partner is threatening to kidnap your children or flee to his home country with them, you can: <
  1. Get a custody order. This order may include an order to prohibit your husband or intimate partner from removing the children from the country in which you live.
  2. Give a copy of the order to your children's school and tell the school staff not to release the children to anyone but you.
  3. If the children are U.S. citizens, send a copy of the order to the embassy in your partner's home country and a copy to the U.S. Department of State to prevent them from issuing passports and visas for the children.
    Make sure that you have recent photos, passports and birth certificates for the children. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers of your husband's or intimate partner's friends and relatives in his home country.

Will I be deported if I take any of the above actions?

If you are now a U.S. citizen, or you are a lawful permanent resident or you possess a valid visa, you cannot be deported unless you entered the United States with fraudulent documents, violated conditions of your visa or have committed certain crimes.

If you are undocumented or are unsure about your immigration status, you should seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to see if you can legalize your status. Until then, you should do what you need to do to make yourself safe.

How can I get lawful permanent residency without my husband's help?

Women who are married to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents have two ways to get their residency independently (Important: You should first consult a shelter advocate, immigration attorney or domestic violence agency for assistance before applying for either of these options).

  1. “Self-petitioning" - You can apply on your own for yourself and your children. Your husband plays no role in the process and does not have to know that you are applying for residency.
  2. “Cancellation of Removal” - This is available to you only if you are in, or can be placed into, deportation proceedings. If you qualify for cancellation, the court may waive your deportation and grant you residency.

If you don't qualify for either of these, don't despair. The best thing to do is to discuss your situation with an immigration or domestic violence advocate.

How can I support myself and my children if I leave my husband?

The law requires that the father of your children support them, even if you are living apart or were never married to him and regardless of immigration status. Contact a family lawyer or a domestic violence advocate to find out how to obtain child support in your state.

Other considerations for support:

  • Some married women may also be eligible to receive spousal support or alimony.
  • Lawful permanent residents may use their "green cards" or resident alien cards to demonstrate their eligibility to work.
  • Refugees and other immigrants must apply for authorization to work.

An immigration attorney will be able to tell you whether you are eligible for work authorization.

Will my husband or intimate partner be deported if I take action?

If you seek assistance from a shelter or lawyer, it is extremely unlikely that your partner will be deported.

If you contact the police and your partner is convicted of a crime, he may be deported, depending on his immigration status and the seriousness of the crime.

It is important to remember that you must keep yourself and your children safe. It is your partner’s actions that have put him at risk.

Do I need to see an immigration attorney even if I cannot afford one?

Do not go to the INS without a lawyer or without consulting with a lawyer. Your conversation with the attorney will be confidential, and he or she cannot report you to the INS. If you cannot afford to pay an attorney, contact the nearest legal services office or immigration organization or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help.

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