Latina/Immigrant Women



Domestic violence crosses all racial, class, economic and cultural lines. You probably share many of the same feelings, experiences and frustrations as anyone who is trying to cope with abuse. As an immigrant you may also be dealing with some additional challenges, unique to your situation. You may be trying to adjust to being in a new country and learning about a new community. You may be feeling the loss of the family, friends and way of life you left behind. Please remember that you are not alone.

We have found that many Latina and immigrant women experiencing abuse at home may be misinformed about their legal rights and the resources available in the community. It can be difficult to know what your rights are - and what remedies are available. If English is not a language you are comfortable with it can be difficult to even find someone you are able to communicate with in order to seek help.

As an immigrant who is dealing with domestic violence you may be juggling many challenges: adjusting to life in a new country and culture, homesickness, health issues, housing and employment issues, legal immigration status, concerns about children who are struggling themselves to adjust... sometimes it may feel like there is so much to deal with you don't know where to start.

  • You try to find help through the courts, the police or social service agencies but you can't find anyone who speaks your language well enough to really help.
  • Anyone you would usually turn to - family, friends are all back in your home country.
  • People you meet here do things so differently - or don't seem to understand your situation or perspective.
  • Your abuser keeps you from doing things that might make adjusting easier. For example he won't let you make friends, join activities or take classes.
  • You feel confused about your legal rights.
  • Your abuser has told you that you have no rights, that he will have you deported or that he will take your children.
  • You feel that people look down on you, treat you badly or don't take you seriously because you are an immigrant.
  • You are having a difficult time coping with memories of war, violence or trauma that you experienced in your home country or on your way to the United States.
  • You are worried that you will lose the support of your community if you leave the abusive relationship.
  • You are not alone. We are here to help. In this section you can find information and resources that specifically address many of the issues you may be facing.
  • Are you being abused by your partner?

Maybe you are not sure if you are being abused. Sometimes it can feel hard to figure out if what is going on in your relationship is abusive or not. The questions below can help with figuring out whether what is happening to you is abuse. They list many of the things that other immigrant women who were being abused have told us happened to them. Remember - no one deserves to be abused.

  • Does your partner control your activities and friendships?
  • Does you partner call you stupid, worthless, or accuses you of being a "mail order bride", a prostitute or marrying him just to get a green card?
  • Does your partner call you racist names or make demeaning comments about your country, your family, your values or your traditions?
  • Does your partner prevent you from leaving the house or taking English classes?
  • Does your partner belittle your efforts to speak English and tell you that you will never be able to speak the language?
  • Does your partner force you to work without papers and later threaten to report you to immigration?
  • Does your partner force you to sign documents in English you cannot read?
  • Does your partner make you feel inferior because he is a citizen and you are not?
  • Does your partner threaten you he will obtain custody of the children if you leave him because the courts would not give custody to an immigrant?
  • Does your partner prevent you from speaking on the phone with your family?
  • Does your partner threaten he will hurt you or your family if you ever leave him?
  • Does you partner call your family and say lies about you?
  • Does your partner take and hide your important documents such as you passport or green card?
  • Does your partner say he owns you because he brought you from another country?
  • Does your partner take all your money and possessions and make you feel you are still in debt because he brought you to the United States?
  • Does your partner tell you "you have no rights because you are just an immigrant"?
  • Does your partner tell you he can call the police or immigration authorities and have you deported anytime?
  • Or does your partner tell you that if you call the police after an assault he will be deported? Are you afraid that if he is deported both your families will shame you? Is he the person responsible for sending funds to support your families in your country? Do you feel you have to sacrifice for your family's sake?
  • Does your partner push you, hit you, beat you, strangle you, lock you in or outside the house, or force distasteful sexual acts on you? Are you afraid of your partner?
  • Do you find that not making him angry has become a major part in your life?
  • Do you feel there is no way out?
  • Do you feel you are going crazy?
  • Do you feel alone and hopeless?

If you answered yes to just one question, you may be in an abusive relationship. Call our free, 24-Hour confidential helpline: 216-391-4357

The Latina Domestic Violence Project

Latina women face some specific challenges. Battered Latina women suffer the same emotional trauma than any other woman in a domestic violence situation. However, Latina women face some unique challenges that can complicate the situation and limit their access to social services. If she only speaks Spanish, that can be a barrier to seeking help. If immigration status or legal rights are unknown, she may not want to call the authorities. Typically, the abuser threatens to deport their partner to maintain control over them. Perhaps she feels isolated, dependent on their partner financially, and perhaps not aware of the services available in the community.
Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center offers culturally-sensitive services that take into consideration the realities of Latino life, including cultural diversity and specific values (importance of family unity, religious beliefs, family privacy and confidentiality). The purpose of the Latina Project is to offer services to facilitate safe options and stability for Latina victims of domestic violence and their children.

All services are bilingual, free and confidential:

  • Justice System Advocacy for victims involved in criminal or civil proceedings (assistance obtaining protection orders, escorts to court, information about court process and victims' rights...)
  • Personal advocacy and escorts to police departments and hospitals
  • Emotional support, information, assistance developing a safety plan, information about legal resources, referrals, etc.
  • Information about legal remedies for battered immigrants and referrals
  • 24-hour HelpLine (interpreting services available)
  • Shelter for women and their children (Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers available)Spanish Support Group: weekly meetings in Espanol that offer a safe place to share experiences, learn about domestic violence and consider options.

The Latina Project also provides educational services in the community and public awareness work on issues related to domestic violence through partnerships with Hispanic organizations, presentations at schools, churches, various associations and other initiatives.

For more information about the Latina Project services or outreach, please contact:
Vanessa Rivera (Spanish), Latina Project Coordinator
Phone: 216-229-2420

Legal Remedies for Battered Immigrants

If you are an immigrant who is being abused by an intimate partner it is crucial that you speak with an immigration attorney or an advocate experienced in immigration issues about your rights, especially before going to an immigration hearing or interview. Click here for a list of referrals or call the DVCAC Helpline at 216-391-4357.


Many immigrant women do not know there are legal remedies that could help them resolve their immigration status. If you are an immigrant married to an abusive US citizen or permanent resident you may be able to qualify for a VAWA Self-petition. VAWA enables battered spouses and their children to obtain lawful immigration status without the abuser's knowledge or permission since it is a confidential petition.


If you are an unmarried abused woman or you are married to an undocumented person, there are also options for you. The U Visa was created to assist immigrant crime victims. This legal remedy is for noncitizens who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse resulting from a wide range of criminal activity (domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, kidnapping and other crimes). The victims must collaborate with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The U Visa provides eligible immigrants with authorized stay in the United States and employment authorization.


The T Visa is specifically for immigrants trafficked into the United States for commercial sex or labor. The perpetrator's status and relationship to the victim are irrelevant in the U Visa and T Visa, however both visas require cooperation with the criminal system.