Dating abuse occurs at similar rates in immigrant and non-immigrant communities. But individuals who don’t have citizenship status (and perhaps no form of documentation like an immigrant visa) face certain risks as a result of possible language barriers, social isolation, lack of information or financial resources, cultural beliefs, or fear of deportation.
Abuse often goes unreported and untreated by immigrant survivors out of fear of possible immigration consequences, and immigration status may interfere with ways of accessing support.
With all these factors in the background, dating as an immigrant teen or young adult — or as a teen or young adult from an immigrant family — can make reporting dating abuse that much harder. Resources from Futures Without Violence and Casa de Esperanza offer helpful information summarizing some of the tactics used by abusive partners to target immigrant victims.
Abusive partners may try to prevent you from learning English or from communicating or interacting with friends, family, or others, especially anyone with a shared cultural background.
Destroying legal documents or papers like passwords, resident cards, health insurance, or driver’s licenses can be particularly damaging to immigrant survivors and thus carries significant leverage for an abusive partner.
Threatening deportation or withdrawal of petitions for legal status is a common abuse tactic capitalizing on fear of immigration consequences. This may be directed at you or at your family members or loved ones without citizenship status.
- Manipulation regarding citizenship or residency
Abusive partners may escalate situations beyond threats by actually withdrawing or not filing papers for residency, or lying by telling you that you’ll lose your citizenship or residency for reporting violence.
- Financial abuse
Some partners may try to get you fired from your job or falsely report that you’re undocumented in order to isolate you financially and socially.
- Leveraging children
Threats to hurt children or take them away are often leveraged against immigrant survivors who may not be familiar with the US legal system or afraid to contact law enforcement.
You may be likely to turn to family members and friends before anyone outside of your community. Always use your best judgement when seeking support and reach out to people who you know and trust. If you have a teacher, school social worker, youth pastor, or community leader that you trust, consider asking them for resources or assistance to support you in your situation.
Remember: domestic violence is against the law regardless of your immigration status.
A specialized immigration attorney should always be your first point of contact when it comes to immigration questions, including concerns about previous contact with the criminal legal system.
WomensLaw provides referrals for immigration attorneys and extensive information on the subject of legal options for immigrant survivors — please consult with a lawyer before proceeding with any course of action that could impact your immigration status.