Undocumented Latinas who are abused by their spouses or boyfriends remain largely unaware of their rights to protection and avoid contacting police out of fear of deportation and splitting up their families. A bill in Congress to help them is languishing.
As first reported in a Huffington Post article, President Bill Clinton first signed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 with bipartisan support. The act was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 but it expired last year. Now it languishes, waiting for another approval from Congress. Victim protection measures in the act, however, could be weakened by Republican-driven proposed changes.
Lawmakers are weighing two versions of the act. One adds provisions to offer visas to undocumented victims of domestic abuse, extends protection to victims in the gay community, and grants more authority for American Indian victims to denounce and go after non-Indian perpetrators.
The second allows the immigration officials to interview the accused abuser. Domestic violence specialists believe that calling the abuser to courts might cause the abuser to punish the victim further.This House version also limits the number of temporary visas offered to women who testify.
The FBI has reported that a woman is physically abused by her partner every nine seconds in the United States. Immigrant women face a language barrier, a lack of legal knowledge and resources, and religious and cultural beliefs that make women pledge allegiance to their men and sacrifice to keep families together, according to the article.
Non-profit organizations that shelter women in danger are not always aware that they are explicitly exempt from verifying immigration status as a condition for providing services and may deny services to the victims. Services “necessary for the protection of life and safety” be provided without regard to immigration status, according to the article.
The Connecticut Commission on Children recommends if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help or would like to speak with someone about services and options, call the Connecticut Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 888.774.2900. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
Image courtesy of Violence Against Women Prevention