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Culture and Domestic Violence
The United States is a very diverse country and home to many different groups of people with differing ideas about domestic violence. It is important to understand how and in what ways culture shapes individuals, families and communities to ensure that victims of domestic violence are able to make decisions for the best outcomes in their attempts to live violence free lives.

Culture cannot and should not be used as an excuse for domestic violence. As is the case with most domestic violence cases, abused refugees and immigrants experience physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, destruction of important documents or possessions, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse.

LifeWire's multi-lingual and multi-cultural staff has been trained to understand the barriers created by cultural influences. If you would like to speak with someone about domestic violence, confidential help is available 24 hours a day by calling our crisis line at 425-746-1940.

Power and Control
In an abusive or violent relationship, immigration related threats are often used to assert power and control against a spouse or partner. The experiences of individual victims will vary from case to case and tactics that may be used include:

  1. Keeping their partner isolated from family, friends, community and religious leaders or people that speak their language.

  2. Not allowing their partner to learn English.

  1. Threatening to report their partner to INS or threatening to withdraw a petition to legalize their partner's immigration status.

  2. Threatening to seek sole custody of any children if their partner reports the abuse or attempts to leave.

  1. Hiding or destroying important papers such as passports and green cards or documentation for the children.

  2. Destroying their partner’s only property from their country of origin such as mementos or photographs.

Citizenship or Residency Privilege
  1. Failing to file papers to legalize immigration status.

  2. Lying to their partner that their immigration is legal and/or withdrawing such papers altogether.

Economic Abuse
  1. Not letting their partner obtain job training, work or schooling.

  2. Taking money they want to send abroad to family.

Emotional Abuse
  1. Lying about their partner’s immigration status.

  2. Threatening to harm the children or other family members.

  3. Calling their partner abusive names.

In an Emergency
You should always keep the safety of you and your children in mind above everything else. Regardless of your immigration status you have the right to be protected from the person hurting or threatening you and you have the right to keep your immigration status private. If you are in danger CALL 9-1-1. Tell the dispatcher that your life is in danger and you need immediate help. You may also want to view the Get Help pages of our web site for more information.

More Info
The Immigrant Women Program is the nation’s expert on the rights and services available to immigrant victims of domestic and other violence. It shares this expertise through comprehensive materials and trainings for lawyers and advocates nationwide, and leads advocacy for legal protections, social services, and economic justice for immigrant women.

Legal Momentum Immigrant Women Program
1101 14th Street, NW
Suite 550
Washington DC, 20005
Phone: 202-326-0040
Fax: 202-589-0511
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