Research indicates that immigrant women experience higher rates of physical and sexual abuse than non-immigrant women. The effect of domestic and sexual violence on immigrant victims is magnified due to fear of seeking assistance and cultural reasons.
Immigrant women face a number of barriers to safety. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, barriers to seeking help include:
- Language barriers: Language barriers often prevent immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence from seeking legal assistance, emergency shelters or other services.
- Perception of Law Enforcement/Legal System: Often, immigrant victims come from countries where they have negative experience with law enforcement or may distrust the legal system because of misinformation from abusers.
- Fear of Deportation: As a means of power and control, abusers often threaten victims with deportation if they complain about the abuse or threaten to leave or call police.
- Cultural/Religious Issues: Some religions have strict guidelines for gender roles and victims may feel they do not have the right to disobey.
Pathways to Freedom
In response to these barriers, Standpoint launched its Pathways to Freedom Project in 2002. The overall goal of this initiative is to improve the ability of legal advocates and systems professionals to provide effective, complex advocacy and services to immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence. The objectives include:
- Outreach to immigrant communities and education about immigrant rights and services available
- System’s change promoting laws, regulations and practices that most benefit immigrants victims of domestic and sexual violence
- Direct services helping victims/survivors to access immigration relief available in the law, including providing support and representation to victims seeking U and T Visas, Removal of the Condition of Residency, Legal Permanent Residency, Violence Against Women Act Self-Petition and Citizenship, among other petitions.