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Experiences of Immigrant Women Who Applied for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self- Petition in the United States: Analysis of Legal Affidavits

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant human rights and public health issue. In particular, immigrant woman may face more challenges than non-immigrant woman when trying to leave an abusive partner. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States (U.S.) allows spouse-sponsored immigrant women who have experienced IPV to self-petition for legal status without assistance from their abusive partner. The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of abused immigrant women and their interaction with VAWA. Seventy affidavits from the victims’ legal immigration selfpetitions were qualitatively analyzed. Results showed that women who applied for VAWA feared being in a worse position if they did leave and as such often delayed their leaving from an abusive relationship. Some women were unaware of available resources for securing safety and leaving an abusive relationship. Additionally, community resources were not always beneficial for these women. Because of the added complication surrounding their documentation status for immigrant female victims of IPV, this study suggests that more care and resources should be dedicated to this vulnerable population of women. Educational opportunities for immigrant women and community organizations are essential so immigrant women experiencing IPV can escape their harmful situation and achieve positive health outcomes.


Monica Scott, Shannon Weaver and Akiko Kamimura

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