This is a very special time. We find ourselves in the first week of Lent, recalling that Christ suffered for our sins and arose on the third day. We also find ourselves marking the one year anniversary of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on March 7th, and International Women’s Day on March 8th.
Unfortunately, Lent, and every liturgical season, people suffer from domestic abuse and violence. Domestic abuse is “any type of behavior a person uses to control an intimate partner through fear and intimidation. It includes physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, and economic abuse.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, one out of four women and one of ten men report being abused by a current or former partner.
For immigrants in the United States, domestic abuse can be complicated when the abuser withholds documents, does not file documents and when the person being abused is unfamiliar with U.S. laws. Cultural and linguistic barriers, coupled with lack of status, leave many immigrant women, in particular, unable to legally work and gain economic independence from abusive relationships.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long encouraged people in abusive situations to seek help to end this immoral condition. They state, “The person being assaulted needs to know that acting to end the abuse does not violate the marriage promise.” The Bishops also encourage parishes and Catholic organizations to be prepared to help people reach safety.
CLINIC, their affiliates, and partners have risen to this call. Offering program management resources and legal trainings, CLINIC’s VAWA Immigration Program supports network agencies directly assisting and representing immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Furthermore, CLINIC is currently providing space to the lay ministry, Catholics for Family Peace. Catholics for Family Peace promotes the Bishops’ teaching by providing faith-based resources on their website, consulting services, and educational programs.
For more information on CLINIC’s VAWA Immigration Program and the legal options available to immigrant victims of domestic abuse, visit https://cliniclegal.org/programs/center-citizenship-and-immigrant-communities/vawa-immigration-project. To learn more about the ministry of Catholics for Family Peace, please visit www.catholicsforfamilypeace.org or contact Sharon A. O’Brien at email@example.com.
*Sharon O’Brien, Ph.D., is Co-Organizer of Catholics for Family Peace