Fall 2004 Newsletter
In the past year, KCSDV has made considerable efforts to help advocates meet the needs of foreign-born women. KCSDV sponsored two trainings on serving immigrant victims of violence, developing a statewide immigration network, and incorporated training on foreign-born women into every entry-level domestic violence and sexual violence advocacy course.
In April, KCSDV conducted its first Immigration Network meeting. The Immigration Network was developed to provide opportunities for advocates, immigration attorneys and immigration specialist to communicate and share ideas with one another. The network meets face-to-face on an annual basis and communicates regularly via an email list.
The network, still in the development stages, has plans to host regular conference calls for members to discuss challenges and provide information on specific immigration-related topics. The members also receive information about upcoming trainings, legislation, or articles related to issues facing immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or trafficking.
In June, KCSDV’s Underserved Advocacy Coordinator Angelica Lopez and Attorney Joyce Grover hosted a day-long immigration training in Dodge City. Thirty participants, including advocates, social services workers, social workers from the meat-packing industry and community members, received training on topics ranging from domestic violence dynamics in immigrant communities, legal remedies for battered immigrants to public benefit eligibility and interpreting skills.
In the next year, KCSDV will continue to offer trainings and other educational opportunities for those who serve immigrant survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Please check for up-coming trainings on our website at www.kcsdv.org.
For decades, survivors fleeing domestic and sexual violence have come to the welfare system for help. Economic support is often the crucial element for people living with, escaping, or healing from violence. Welfare services such as cash assistance, food stamps, transportation, childcare and healthcare have been a vital lifeline for survivors and their children.
Five years ago, KCSDV partnered with Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) to create the Orientation Assessment Referral Safety (OARS) Program to serve the needs of survivors receiving cash assistance.
In 1999, the Battered Women Task Force of Topeka hired the first OARS advocate. Since that time, OARS has steadily grown. This year, 31 OARS advocates will provide unique and specialized advocacy to survivors in 26 SRS offices across Kansas. The OARS program not only provides flexibility within the welfare system for those who are fleeing violence, but also provides on-site domestic and sexual violence crisis support services within welfare offices. In addition to SRS services, OARS participants can access services such as: safety planning, support groups, counseling, medical, legal and housing advocacy, parenting support and family activities. Resources are also available to help with transportation, childcare, moving costs and other expenses related to fleeing violence.
The collaboration between SRS and domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy agencies has led to more than 6,500 survivors utilizing the OARS program. With economic support from SRS and advocacy from local programs, survivors have been able to focus on their immediate needs related to the violence, such as getting through the next court hearing or finding new housing.
The collaboration and distinctive services of the Kansas OARS program have been recognized nationwide. In 2004, OARS was cited as a model program and asked to participate in the National Resource Center’s Family Violence Option Best Practices workgroup to assist other states in their Family Violence Option implementation.
Thanks to the hard work and effort from SRS employees, advocates and legislators, the OARS program has helped thousands of sexual and domestic violence survivors and their children.
This is the first installment of a 2-part series examining the barriers for battered immigrant women. The 2nd installment, in the Winter 2005 issue,will look at the immigrant woman’s basic rights and the legal options for immigrant women who are victims of sexual or domestic violence.
A battered immigrant woman experiences some unique power dynamics in an abusive relationship. Often times the woman’s immigration status is dependent on the abusive spouse and therefore unstable. The abuser who has a stable immigration status can and does use this privilege to his advantage. Battered immigrant women report their abusers have threatened to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to have them deported, or have threatened to report the woman’s undocumented status to her employer. Batterers also withhold access to the woman’s own immigration papers such as passports, I-94 cards, birth certificates etc. Some batterers lie to the women about filing immigration applications for them or threaten to revoke an application.
The threat of being deported is a very real fear for battered immigrant women. Many are not aware of their immigration rights and lack confidence in the legal system. This fear keeps women from fleeing and adds to the ways in which a batterer may control her.
Another unique barrier for immigrant women is language access. Many immigrant women do not speak English or have limited English proficiency. Most domestic violence services including the courts, the police, and shelters are not equipped to provide services in the woman’s native language. This poses a real barrier for women interested in seeking help. Some women get frustrated from several failed attempts at getting help and conclude there is no help for them.
While the threat of losing their children is a universal concern for battered women, immigrant women must also face the threat of international kidnapping. If the father flees to his native country with the children, then the woman is further burdened with finding them and may then be subjected to that country’s custody laws. The custody laws in the woman’s home country may favor fathers over mothers. She may not have rights to her children. Additionally, fear of disclosure of the mother’s legal status may prevent her from any action to locate her children.
These are a few examples of how the power and control dynamics differ for battered immigrant women. They are important points to recognize when serving immigrant women and when strategizing solutions.
Immigrant women are also more susceptible to sexual violence. They may be sexually assaulted in their home, at work, or during their migration to the U.S. Due to language and cultural barriers, they may become easy prey for traffickers and for exploitation. Employers who hire undocumented workers know they are undocumented and may take advantage of the women’s fears of deportation and their vulnerability. Many women have experienced rape and sexual assault by their employers, supervisors, or co-workers. However, immigrant women are reluctant to report these crimes for fear of losing their jobs or being deported.
Immigrant women may not be aware of the laws that protect them, the services available to them, or how the criminal system works. All these factors contribute to their vulnerability. Additionally, the criminal justice system is often unaware of the immigration remedies that may be available to victims of violent crimes.
Anyone working with immigrant victims of sexual or domestic violence must provide very basic information about laws, systems, and support networks, as well as the rights immigrants have to protection. Sexual harassment, crimes, civil remedies, and immigration remedies are all areas an immigrant victim may not be familiar with and would need information about in order to make decisions about her future. The following information addresses more recent immigration remedies available to victims of sexual and domestic violence, as well as some basic rights available to all.
When discussing safety concerns with immigrant women, it’s important to remember all the barriers she faces including legal, cultural and language. These barriers will pose specific challenges as she is accessing services. She may discover after fleeing her home that the important paperwork she needs for her immigration case was left behind. She may discover after accessing services that she’s not able to communicate her needs to the police or advocates.
If possible, if a woman is forced to leave her home, she should take with her all immigration documents, including her passport, I-94 card, green card, work permit, visa and social security card. She should also take her birth certificate, marriage license or divorce papers, and the birth certificates and social security cards for her children. Whether she is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, these documents can be extremely difficult to retrieve and can delay the woman’s ability to gain immigration or other relief.
Although immigrant women may be reluctant to call the police or use the court system, it is important they know these options are available to them. Regardless of her immigration status, she can apply for a protection order against her abuser. She can also call on the police to enforce that protection order. Protection orders can be valuable to immigrant women by reducing the violence in their lives and providing legal protection. Having a protection order helps to increase the likelihood the batterer will be arrested for further abuse. A protection order may also prove valuable to her immigration case by showing evidence of the battering.
An immigrant woman will face many challenges. Since language may pose the primary problem, it’s important to know what resources are available in her language. If none exist, then it’s important to discuss other more feasible options, for example, contacting a friend, family member or neighbor in times of crisis who can assist her in getting help by calling the crisis center or shelter or police for her.
Even when these resources exist in the community, the woman may still be reluctant to call. She may have no concept of how the system works. Therefore it’s important to let immigrant women know that emergency and crisis services are free and do not require her to reveal her identity, her immigration status, or to make any specific decisions about her future. She may need to know that the crisis line is available 24 hours a day and that she can call anytime for support.
Immigrant Women Project
1522 K St., NW Suite 550
Washington, DC 20005
14 Beacon Street, Suite 602
Boston, MA 02108
383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94103
1730 North Lynn, Dr., Suite 502
Arlington, VA 22209
Angelica Lopez or Joyce Grover
220 SW 33rd, Suite 100
Topeka, KS 66611
Parts of this article were taken from the Legal Rights of Immigrant Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence training materials, conducted by Lesley Orloff of Legal Momentum. To get copies of these materials contact Legal Momentum, Immigrant Women Project at 202-326-0040 or at www.legalmomentum.org
"It's Time to Talk" Day
Marie Claire and Liz Claiborne Inc. have declared October 14, 2004 the first ever “It’s Time to Talk Day” – a day on which Americans nationwide will be urged to talk in classrooms, offices, homes, and coffeehouses, about the fact that one in three women will be abused in her lifetime.
How can we hope to accomplish such a lofty goal? By encouraging the media – electronic and print – to talk about this issue as they rarely do: in terms of prevention. With influential media outlets on our side, we hope to create an environment in which people of all walks of life start to feel safe discussing violence against women. Please join us in this effort by spreading the word within your realm of influence that on October 14th “It’s Time to Talk” as a society about domestic violence.
Some suggestions for bringing the message to your supporters and local markets include:
- Distributing educational materials in offices, on the street, in schools, etc.;
- Encouraging people to discuss the issue by adding language about it and “It’s Time to Talk Day” into any speeches that you are giving in the weeks leading up to and on October 14th;
- Suggesting your constituents declare a “Moment of Talk” on October 14th during which people around town take a moment to discuss the issue with someone near them; or
- Working with your local government to hold a Town Hall meeting for members of the community to get together and determine ways to address the issue as a group.
In our pitching of local and national media across the country, we may be looking for expert spokespeople. If your organization is interested in being part of these interviews, please let us know who we should contact if an opportunity arises.
Let’s get the whole country talking-at last. Join us in our October 14th “It’s Time to Talk” campaign and help us make our dream of a day when we won’t need to talk about domestic violence ever again a reality.
To download posters and materials for Its Time To Talk, please visit www.loveisnotabuse.com.
For more information, please contact Jane Randel, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Liz Claiborne at 212-626-3408.
Reprinted with permission from Liz Claiborne, Inc.
For further information and registration for KCSDV and other trainings, visit our Trainings page.
This newsletter and KCSDV brochures are available online at: www.kcsdv.org/learn-more/resources/newsletters/
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