By: Tessa Winkler
As many of us celebrate the start of the holiday season with loved ones this Thanksgiving, too many women silently suffer from a seasonal spike in domestic abuse. A University of California at Berkley and UC San Diego study found a 22% increase in partner violence on Thanksgiving and a 17% increase in domestic violence on Christmas. These statistics are especially staggering when considering that immigrant women run a significantly higher risk of being abused by a spouse than U.S. born women.
November 25th, designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, invites each of us to bear in mind the plight of marginalized women around the globe. Furthermore, this day calls governments, international organizations and NGOs to bring attention to the economic, cultural and legal hardships that prevent women from escaping abuse.
Higher rates of domestic violence are recorded for immigrant women, often due to culturally engrained gender inequalities. For these women, a fear of physical abuse is coupled with the fear of deportation from the United States. With limited access to legal counsel and social services, many immigrant women remain in abusive relationships without access to medical or financial assistance--let alone, information about immigration remedies for which they may be eligible.
For these reasons, CLINIC’s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Immigration Project aims to meet the needs of foreign-born victims of domestic violence and victims of trafficking and enslavement year-round. The Project bridges the gap between family court-based legal service providers and immigration system providers while conducting outreach and providing technical assistance to advocates of immigrant women and children.
Although “the elimination of domestic violence” is an ongoing effort, CLINIC manuals, advocacy, trainings and legal technical support provide critical resources toward assisting vulnerable immigrant women. Field Support Coordinator, Helen Chen describes recent achievements in building the capacity of a shelter for battered women:
Cherokee Family Violence Center, a domestic violence organization in Canton, Georgia is expanding their outreach to include services to immigrant survivors of domestic violence. This past year, CLINIC worked with the organization to achieve agency recognition and staff accreditation before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to be authorized to practice immigration law. This is a major milestone toward their goal of assisting immigrant survivors in the community.
In observation of this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, find more information on the VAWA Immigration Project and CLINIC’s work to expand the availability of professional, low-cost immigration services here.
*Tessa is the Communications Officer/Web Content Coordinator for CLINIC