Domestic Violence and Immigration

Imagine you are Maria.

After years of being abused by your husband, you finally found the opportunity to leave. On your way to your very first support group at LifeWire, you look over to the car next to you. All of a sudden a woman starts screaming at you, “Do you even speak English? Go back to where you came from.”

Imagine you are Maryam.

You and your 9-year-old daughter are both fully-veiled Muslims. The verbal threats you receive each time you take public transit have become too much to bear. Instead of coming to LifeWire to meet with your advocate, you stay home instead.

Imagine you are Nadia.

The man you married back home in Eastern Europe forced you to move to the U.S. on a visa when your boys were just babies. When his violence and abuse became too much for you to take, you left him. He went back home, leaving you stranded with your two sons, no documentation and no money. Now, your oldest son works full-time at a local drugstore under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to support you and your younger son, whose disabilities require around the clock care.

Maria, Maryam and Nadia are all immigrants. They are all survivors of domestic violence.

Their stories are unique, but they are representative of the barriers many immigrant survivors of domestic violence face: isolation, cultural and language barriers and – if undocumented – fear of deportation or separation from their children. Like many immigrant survivors, these women came to the U.S. because their abusive partners coerced them here with threats and intimidation or with promises of citizenship.

Recently, a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment and policy changes have spread the threats to immigrant survivors’ safety beyond their homes. Protections afforded to these survivors and their children are being rolled back almost daily.

Across Washington State:

  • 65% of domestic violence advocates report an increase in requests for immigration related help;
  • 73% said that survivors have expressed increased concerns about contacting police for help due to immigration concerns;
  • 81% report survivors have expressed concerns about going to court for a matter related to domestic violence due to immigration concerns; and
  • 45% report survivors have conveyed they want to drop either a civil matter or criminal case because they fear continuing contact with the court because of immigration concerns.

Survivors of domestic violence have already faced more barriers and greater trauma than most of us can even imagine. When compounded by fears of how they will be treated because of their immigration status, yet another barrier is placed between them and LifeWire’s vision: a world where every person lives in a safe environment, free from oppression and with the opportunity to thrive.