The Silencing of Immigrant Domestic Violence Vicitms

Immigrant women are often at higher risk for domestic violence than other women in America. This is due to the fact that there are often huge differences in cultural norms when it comes to the treatment of women. Many of the cultures that these women come from view domestic abuse as the norm. This often leads immigrant women to be afraid to speak out about their abuse, as their cultural norm is one of silence in the face of mistreatment. Even if an immigrant woman is bold enough to speak out, there is often a lack of access between herself and any sort of help. Immigrant women are often not even aware of their rights within the American legal system. This is largely the result of something as simple as a language barrier. There are very few multi-lingual sources of information about domestic violence rights for immigrants to access. Even if an immigrant woman has gotten a firm grasp on her rights, the language barrier continues to be an issue at every step in the process of her seeking help; from making a 911 call to getting a certified legal interpreter to help her in any court proceedings. This means that even under the best of circumstances, immigrant women are far less likely to be able to leave an abusive situation than their non-immigrant counterparts. (Futures Without Violence).

To make the situation even worse, circumstances for immigrants in this country are anything but ideal at this point in history. During the first year of his presidency, Trump has not made life easy for immigrants in America. His resolve to deport illegal immigrants was made quite clear when the first act of his presidency was to sign two executive orders expanding the list of deportable offenses. While Trump has claimed that only illegal criminals are at risk for deportation, the actions of ICE have not supported this claim. There was a huge surge during the last year of non-criminal ICE arrests. In El Paso, for example, a woman was arrested for deportation while seeking an order of protection at the local courthouse.  This fact left the entire female immigrant community feeling like they are at risk for deportation and has led many immigrant women to now feel like they must choose between deportation or continued abuse. (Time). In addition, the recent focus on DACA by the President has furthered the distrust some immigrants have felt towards the United States’ immigration system.

Trump’s policies have affected the Latino community the most. There has been a notable behavioral shift in how the Latino community, especially immigrants, respond to crime in general. There has been a sharp decline in the reporting of domestic abuse among Latino women. In the city of Los Angles alone, there has been 18% drop in the last year of Latino domestic violence reports. Compare this to a less than 1% drop in domestic violence reports from Non-Latinos during the same period, and it is easy to see that there has been a huge increase in silence among Latino domestic violence victims (Los Angeles Times).

This “silencing” of Latino domestic violence victims is seen in almost all immigrant groups and reaches across the nation. Domestic violence advocacy groups everywhere are seeing a state of panic erupting within the female immigrant community. The chief of policy and programs at The Tahirih Justice Center, an immigrant women’s advocacy group, was reported by Mother Jones as saying that “[A] climate of fear has erupted across the country and among our clients. They are very scared to engage in everyday activities for fear they could be arrested and deported, even though they are working with attorneys to regularize their status.” If immigrant women are afraid to just engage in their everyday activities, imagine the fear they must feel seeking out engagement with law enforcement to seek escape from an abusive situation. It’s no wonder immigrant women are choosing to stay in abusive situations rather than seek help when they feel doing so puts them at risk of being thrown out of the country.  We must find a way to support these immigrant women. Write or call your local Congressional representative and share your outrage over this huge mistreatment of immigrant victims of domestic violence. YES, VICTIMS!!! Support or donate to immigrant advocacy groups as well as domestic violence prevention and intervention groups like PetsEmpower in Boston, Massachusetts. Let’s find a way to let immigrant women know that they are just as deserving of help and escape as any domestic violence victim. Let’s find a way to help them become survivors rather than statistics.

Photos from: The LA Times and TIME