A man is awaiting trial in Ohio. He is charged with murdering his ex-wife. The woman had emigrated from the Mideast to the United States. Here she pursued an education and worked at a skilled nursing facility. At one point she sought help from a domestic violence shelter.

In 2018 she was reported missing, and her body was eventually found in an isolated field. We don’t know all the details, or what her immigration status was. But we know how very sad it is that such terrible things can happen.

The key part of her story is that the victim had few other confidants in the area and no other family members here. This shows us how important it is for a battered spouse to seek help. When a person is isolated, he or she is especially vulnerable to abuse.

How to escape an immediate harmful situation

If you are facing immediate harm you should call 911 to contact the police. A law enforcement officer should be able to advise you about getting an emergency domestic violence restraining order.

Laws vary from state to state. In some areas police can issue a protective order (restraining order) at the site of the domestic violence situation. An officer takes a statement from the victim and phones the on-call judge to give them the statement. The judge decides to approve the protective order or not.

Some examples of what a restraining order might do are:

  • Prohibit the person from contacting you
  • Require the person move out of your home
  • Mandate that the person keep a certain amount of distance from you at all times
  • Award sole custody of children to you

What are the procedures for changing your immigration status due to spousal abuse?

A specialized immigration attorney should always be your first point of contact when it comes to immigration questions and concerns.  Be aware, however, that domestic violence is against the law regardless of your immigration status.

The U.S. Department of State website says: “We want you to know, under all circumstances, domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse are illegal in the United States and that all people in the United States are guaranteed protection under law from abuse. All victims of domestic violence, regardless of their immigration status, may seek and receive help.“

An abuser may try to control you by saying you could lose your immigration status or lose your children if you left the abuser. Sometimes an immigrant woman who is battered by her spouse feels she has no options.

Finding shelter

A domestic violence shelter can provide a safe, hidden place for the battered woman and her children to live temporarily. The shelter can offer support in helping to create a plan for the future, finding you a long-term place to live, finding legal assistance and helping to navigate immigration laws so that the battered spouse will not be deported if you have left your sponsor. Go to www.thehotline.org to learn how to prepare your move to safety and find a nearby shelter. If you are concerned that your spouse will monitor a phone call, you can chat silently online with the hotline counselor.

What is considered abuse?

Most people think physical violence is the only kind of domestic abuse. But a person can be abused in many ways – physically, psychologically, sexually, economically or psychologically.

  • Physical abuse. Physical abuse may or may not result in external wounds or bruises. Slapping, hitting  and grabbing are all considered forms of physical abuse.
  • Emotional abuse. The emotional abuser might use a pattern of criticism, belittling, or name-calling with the purpose of diminishing the victim’s self-esteem.
  • Psychological abuse. The psychological abuser tries to intimidate the person or threaten them, for instance with taking their children, or threatening to tell others information that would cause  embarrassment or humiliation.
  • Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse could mean coercing the person to perform sexual acts or treating them in a sexually humiliating way.
  • Economic abuse. The economic abuser withholds money or resources that the person needs or makes the person completely financially dependent on the abuser.

How spousal abuse can affect your immigration status

Let us repeat that a specialized immigration attorney should always be your first point of contact when it comes to immigration questions and concerns.  Know however that domestic violence is against the law regardless of your immigration status, and if you are abused you have rights that can help you to stay in the United States.

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