Working to End Domestic Violence

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Refugee & Immigrant Communities

Entering the U.S. as an immigrant or refugee can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. Unfortunately this process can leave many new Americans, especially women, vulnerable to abusive partners and family members. The risk associated with immigrant and refugee populations is two-fold: legal systems and cultural backgrounds are often used against victims to prevent them from leaving or keep them from disclosing the abuse.

Immigrant Control Wheel

Tactics of Abuse

Legal Systems – Abusers may use the legal system in the following ways:

  • Threatening to get the person deported
  • Hiding or destroying legal documents (passports, identification cards, etc.)
  • Refusing to file the necessary paperwork

Cultural Backgrounds – A person’s culture can be a source of comfort during a challenging transition, but in an abusive relationship, it can be used to further manipulate the victim. An abuser may:

  • Prevent the victim from learning English
  • Accuse them of going back on their culture / acting “American”
  • Using racist slurs
  • Denying access to education and work

Accessing Resources

New Americans often create small communities within a larger town or city. As a result, some victims fear that if they come forward, the entire community will know about the abuse. Gossip and rejection can isolate the victim further. Also, some service providers are biased against immigrants and refugees, while others simply do not have the knowledge or resources to help these victims. Prejudice, language barriers, and confusing social service procedures can discourage immigrant or refugee victims from seeking support.

Safe Voices seeks to be inclusive of all people, regardless of background or immigration status. We also frequently partner with local organizations who serve new Americans. If you or someone you know is a new American in need of support, contact our 24-hour helpline (1-800-559-2927) or contact the United Somali Women of Maine: 207-753-0061.

Additional Resources