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Domestic Violence: Beyond Physical Abuse

Victims of domestic violence at the hands of an abuser who is a permanent resident have the ability to petition for permanent residence for themselves. This is offered through the visa known as VAWA for its acronym in English. Self petition is acceptable since there is intimidation of victims by their abusers, who are usually their spouses or parents.

The VAWA visa requires proof that there was physical assault or extreme cruelty against the person petitioning for permanent residence during the marriage, which needs to have been carried out in good faith. The self-petition period is a period of up to two years after the divorce or the victim is no longer with the abuser.

Immigrants are vulnerable to domestic violence and by not wanting to report abuse as they do not speak English, are separated from family and friends, and do not understand the laws of the United States.

Domestic violence is identified as threats or mistreatment by an intimate partner or spouse against their partner. Abuse can take different forms since the root of this type of violence is that the abuser wants to maintain control and power over the victim. It is generally understood that domestic violence develops through physical harm or forced sexual intercourse, but it actually covers emotional and economic aspects as well.

An immigrant person is eligible for the VAWA visa not only if they suffered physical abuse or forced sexual relations, but also if they were the victim of extreme cruelty. It is under extreme cruelty that protection is given to immigrants who have been abused with emotional manipulation through isolation or intimidation or through economic or immigration threats.

Manipulation and emotional abuse may include your partner or spouse constantly criticizing your intelligence, appearance, or abilities, damaging your relationship with your children, or humiliating you in front of other people. Threats or financial abuse may include the withholding of money or theft of money from the victim. Immigration threats include constantly mentioning that they will call you to immigration to be deported or that they will stop being petitioners in your immigration cases.

It is important to emphasize that immigrants in the United States are guaranteed the fundamental protections by civil and criminal law. The non-profit organization Mil Mujeres provides counseling for victims of domestic violence, visit their website today.

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