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The Facts on Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence

By: Family Violence Prevention Fund

Currently in the United States, women and children constitute approximately two-thirds of all legal immigrants. Because of their gender, race, and immigration status, immigrant women often suffer a triple burden of discrimination. Increasing evidence indicates that there are large numbers of immigrant women trapped in violent relationships. These women may not be able to leave an abusive relationship because of immigration laws, language barriers, social isolation, and lack of financial resources.
  • Domestic violence is thought to be more prevalent among immigrant women than among U.S. citizens.
  • A recent study in New York City found that foreign-born women are significantly more likely to be killed by their intimate partners than women born in the United States – 51 percent of intimate partner homicide victims were foreign-born, while 45 percent were born in the United States.
  • Forty-eight percent of Latinas in one study reported that their partner’s violence against them had increased since they immigrated to the United States.
  • A survey of immigrant Korean women found that 60 percent had been battered by their husbands.
  • Married immigrant women experience higher levels of physical and sexual abuse than unmarried immigrant women, 59.5 percent compared to 49.8 percent, respectively.
  • Abusers often use their partner’s immigration status as a tool of control. Although a victim may be in the country legally by virtue of her marriage to the batterer, her status may be conditional. In such situations, it is common for a batterer to exert control over his partner’s immigration status in order to force her to remain in the relationship.
  • Immigrant women often suffer higher rates of battering than U.S. citizens because they may come from cultures that accept domestic violence or because they have less access to legal and social services than U.S. citizens. Additionally, immigrant batterers and victims may believe that the penalties and protections of the U.S. legal system do not apply to them.
  • Battered immigrant women who attempt to flee may not have access to bilingual shelters, financial assistance, or food. It is also unlikely that they will have the assistance of a certified interpreter in court, when reporting complaints to the police or a 911 operator, or even in acquiring information about their rights and the legal system.

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