The term “immigrant women” refers to women who come to one country from another country in order to live there permanently or for an extended period of time. Immigrants are very diverse, from varied socio-cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds. They include women who have lived in the U.S. for a short period of time, as well as women who have lived in the country for many years. They have different histories and biographies, including their experiences in their country of origin, on their journey from their home country, of the immigration process, and of living in the United States. Many immigrant women are U.S. citizens or possess different types of legal immigration status, and some may be undocumented. This diversity among immigrant women also extends to their experiences of domestic violence.
While there are differences in domestic violence experienced by immigrant women, there may be commonalities, such as patterns of abuse tied to the survivors’ experiences as an immigrant, as well as challenges and barriers to seeking help. Similarly, domestic violence service providers may face common challenges in offering services to immigrant women survivors. These challenges and barriers could be linked to a limited understanding of issues related to the survivors’ immigration status, eligibility for public assistance, different cultural practices, English language proficiency, etc. It is also essential to note the importance of using a strengths-based approach, recognizing the courage, strength, resiliency, and perseverance of immigrants who have sought to establish a new life for themselves and their children in the United States. This special collection explores the complex experiences of immigrant survivors and includes resources to support their path to safety and justice. It also includes resources that help service providers respond effectively and appropriately to immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence.
It is important to note here that several documents included in this Special Collection focus on laws and regulations related to maintaining legal immigration status, public assistance, and related matters. These laws and regulations change over time and thus some of the documents included here may be dated or may become dated. For up-to-date resources on laws and regulations, please also consult the expert organizations listed at the end of this collection. This collection will be updated with new resources as they become available, and we welcome your comments and suggestions via VAWnet’s online contact form.
This collection was originally developed in 2009 by Sheetal Rana with the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse, updated by Patty Branco on August 2018 in consultation with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, and complements the parallel collection, Immigrant Women and Sexual Violence. Special thanks to Rosie Hidalgo for her valuable contributions.