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CCRT News – Spring 2013


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 Spring 2013

What’s New?

Happy spring!  So what’s new with the Kent County Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team (CCRT)?  Other than a few changes in leadership, CCRT continues to meet and collaborate among representatives from a variety of agencies and professions in Kent County, Michigan to raise awareness around domestic violence and hold abusers accountable.  We have kept the community informed of domestic violence-related events and training opportunities, and we have maintained an active presence on the CCRT Facebook page.  More recently, we have prioritized aspects of membership, including discussions on how best to utilize the diverse range of members’ expertise as well as strategies for recruitment.  In addition, CCRT is in the process of expanding its subcommittee work.

On March 8th, CCRT recognized International Women’s Day, when events across the globe honored women and directed attention to the 2013 theme established by the United Nations: “Time for action to end violence against women.”  Keeping in line with this international endeavor and in response to increased coverage of immigration issues, CCRT would like to highlight the intersection of domestic violence and immigration in this issue of CCRT News.  While this discourse is but a brief introduction to the unique issues experienced by battered immigrant women, the dialogue will continue on August 22, 2013 at a CCRT-sponsored Brown Bag Luncheon, where we’ll hear perspectives from immigration attorneys, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Join us at the Kent County Courthouse at noon!


The Intersection: Domestic
Violence and Immigration

Kent County is home to a growing population of immigrants from diverse backgrounds.  While they have immigrated through a variety of channels and have unique cultural identities,  there are often similarities in the ways that domestic violence is experienced by immigrant women.  According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence, rape, or stalking in her lifetime.  Although the prevalence of abuse against immigrant women specifically has been difficult to document, certain cultural beliefs, the context of immigration, and one’s immigrant status can significantly increase vulnerability to intimate partner violence, shape the types of abuse committed, and create barriers to seeking and receiving help.

Cultural Beliefs

One factor that may intensify immigrants’ vulnerability to abuse is through certain cultural beliefs or practices.  Traditional gender roles, for instance, have been cited to reinforce abuse in immigrant populations (Raj & Silverman, 2002).  As they become more acculturated, ideologies may change to reflect the more egalitarian gender roles of the U.S.  Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have shown that this change in ideology occurs more rapidly in women than men, possibly resulting in enhanced efforts by the male to control and abuse his partner (Raj & Silverman, 2002).  The widespread acceptance of gender-based violence also plays a role in the perpetration of violence against women.  Many immigrants, including batterers, may not be aware of or accepting of domestic violence as a crime.  Furthermore, culturally-based gender roles sometimes restrict women’s ability to speak out against the abuse, leaving some to accept the abuse as “normal” or their “fate.”   In cases where the extended family learned of the abuse, family members in some cultures may warn of how separation or divorce would prevent her prospect of remarrying or even reduce a younger sister’s prospects of marrying (Erez, Adelman, & Gregory, 2009)

Immigrant Context

Similarly, the immigrant context serves to increase women’s susceptibility to domestic violence, especially due to the social isolation that sometimes accompanies immigration.  Relocation or resettlement to the U.S. seems to have an adverse effect on men’s level of violence and control: In one study, the violence increased for half of battered immigrant women following arrival and began for almost one quarter (Erez, Adelman, & Gregory, 2009)Interestingly, while they may not have their own families living nearby, immigrant women often live in close proximity to their husband’s family as a result of cultural norms or economic necessity.  Depending on the culture, this issue could give rise to not only support of intimate partner violence but also the possibility of abuse from in-laws (Morash, Bui, & Santiago, 2000).  Isolation is frequently endured by immigrant military wives of U.S. servicemen whom they met overseas and brought to the U.S (Raj & Silverman, 2002).  The economic insecurity, language barriers, issues related to education or job skills, and racial/ethnic/immigrant discrimination experienced by some immigrants compounds family stress and the likelihood of batterers turning to alcohol or drugs.  While these factors are not direct causes of intimate partner violence, individuals are more likely to abuse under such situations.

Immigrant Status

Immigrant Status is another area which intersects with domestic violence to generate marked vulnerability.  Hundreds of thousands of women enter the U.S. each year as spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  These women are completely reliant on their husbands to maintain their legal right to be in the country.  The citizen or permanent resident spouse is responsible for filing for permanent residence for their noncitizen partner once conditional status expires, which can be three years.  If the marriage dissolves prior to their conditional status being removed, the spouse becomes undocumented and subject to deportation.  One study indicated that 72% of citizen or permanent resident spouses in abusive relationships do not file the immigration paperwork for their wives, leaving them to feel trapped (Dutton, Orloff, & Hass, 2000).  According to Erez, Adelman, & Gregory (2009), 75% of battered immigrant women described how spouses used their immigrant status to force them into compliance.

Forms of Abuse

In addition to the types of abuse experienced by battered women of all backgrounds, men who abuse immigrant women have access to unique forms of power and control.  Batterers may further isolate their partners from family in the U.S. or communicating with family abroad.  They may restrict the woman’s ability to function in the U.S. by making her dependent on him: prohibiting her from attending English classes or job training, preventing her from obtaining jobs, withholding money, forbidding her to befriend “Americans” or explore new ideas or styles.  Batterers may threaten to have their spouses or their children deported, or they may hide or destroy important immigration documentation.  If women try to leave the relationship, their abusers could use their fear or lack of knowledge pertaining to the U.S. justice system to prevent them from seeking legal help.  Batterers could start deportation proceedings, sometimes accusing their wives of immigration fraud, in order to evade prosecution for abuse or to gain the upper hand in divorce or custody cases (Erez, Adelman, & Gregory, 2009; Raj & Silverman, 2002).  

Barriers to Help Seeking

Research has demonstrated that immigrant battered women are less likely than nonimmigrant battered women to seek help formally (medical and legal) and informally (social) (Dutton, Orloff, & Hass, 2000; Raj & Silverman, 2002).  Sometimes, the extended family or community of certain cultural groups encourage the battered woman to place family or community first, to be self-sacrificing.  Community or religious leaders may oblige her to stay and not speak publicly of the abuse.  Women may fear that their immigrant communities would alienate or blame them for the divorce.  Immigrant women may also lack English language skills or knowledge of services or legal options.  Service agencies may not have engaged sufficiently in community outreach.   Access to interpreters may be a barrier, including female interpreters with knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence.  Since the crime of domestic violence is grounds for removal from the country, immigrant women may fear the loss of their economic support or children’s ability to see their father if he is deported.   Women who are undocumented may be less likely to leave their partner or report him to authorities due to fear of their own deportation.

Although there are unique ways in which domestic violence could be experienced by immigrant women, there are certainly differences between and within cultural groups.  Therefore, generalizations about a specific culture or immigrants in general should be firmly avoided.  While most abusers are men, most men, regardless of immigrant status, are NOT abusers.


Immigrants who are either undocumented or rely on their partner for legal status face tremendous barriers to exiting an abusive relationship.  Depending on their situation, if the battered partner chooses to leave the relationship, options may be available to remain in the U.S. legally.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), for example, allows for victims of domestic violence who are the child, parent, current or former spouse of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) to petition for a green card on their own without the abuser needing to file on their behalf, which is the requirement otherwise.  In this case, self-petitioners may file Form I-360 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if they are able to establish that they have or had a qualifying relationship, lived with the abuser, have good moral character (as determined by U.S. Immigration standards), and have been a victim of battery or extreme cruelty.

Another option for an immigrant victim of intimate partner violence may be to apply for a U Visa (through Form I-918), which grants the individual legal status but must be certified by law enforcement.  There is a multitude of qualifying criminal activities which would make a victim eligible to apply for protection under a U Visa.  In addition to a conviction of domestic violence, other crimes include abduction or kidnapping, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, incest, involuntary servitude, manslaughter or murder, rape, sexual assault or exploitation, slave trade, torture, or trafficking, among others.  Specifically, the immigrant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse resulting from the crime, have credible information about the incident/s, and be helpful to the investigation and/or persecution of the abuser’s criminal activity.

Immigrants in the U.S. who are victims of human trafficking may also be afforded immigration protection through what is known as the T Visa.  While trafficking differs from what is commonly recognized as domestic violence, it is certainly related.  Individuals, particularly women, could be trafficked into the sex industry through such venues as residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs or street prostitution.  

(Photo courtesy of United Methodist Women)  

Immigrants could also be trafficked for labor, forced to work in homes as domestic servants, as farm workers harvesting crops, or factory workers for little or no pay.  Traffickers use violence, rape, threats, lies, and other forms of coercion to maintain power and control over their victims.

To be eligible for the T Visa (through Form I-914), immigrant victims must be willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution against their traffickers (unless they are under age 18).  Additionally, the victim’s presence in the U.S. has to be a result of being trafficked, and if removed from the U.S., he or she would suffer extreme hardship or severe harm.  Certain family members, whether in or outside the U.S., may qualify for immigration benefits as well.  

Besides adults, immigrant youth who have endured abuse, neglect, or abandonment are eligible to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status.  This type of relief involves collaboration between federal immigration law and state child welfare law.  Unaccompanied minors who are apprehended by immigration authorities are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services for custody and services.  Those granted SIJ participate in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) Program through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the largest of which is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan through Bethany Christian Services.

Even with immigration options, however, many survivors are unable or unwilling to pursue these protections for numerous reasons, including fear of retaliation from their abuser, fear or mistrust in the legal system or law enforcement, and fear of deportation.  Other barriers to self-petitioning or applying for special immigrant visas stem from isolation, lack of information, illiteracy, or limited English skills.  Moreover, even when these factors are favorable, the evidence may not be credible enough or the abuse severe enough to warrant approval, leaving the victim vulnerable to continued abuse, psychological trauma, or even death.

Sources: USCIS Immigrant Relief, USCIS Immigration Options 


Webinar: Going Forward Without the Victim- Evidence Based Prosecutions in DV Cases
This workshop will examine evidence-based prosecution and enable prosecutors to try domestic violence cases where the victim is absent.
Friday, May 31 from 2-3:30pm
Location: Online- For more info and to register, visit AEquitas.

Save RAVE Campaign

Resources Against Violent Encounters (RAVE) stops the cycle of violence by empowering teens with the skills and
confidence to avoid or escape abusive relationships.  For more info and to RSVP, visit Family Futures.

Thursday, June 13 from 5:30-7:30pm
Location: Women’s City Club (254 Fulton St East, Grand Rapids)

Women Lawyers vs. Judges Charity Soft Game (YWCA of West Central Michigan)

Annual event to benefit the YWCA of West Central Michigan.  For more info and to purchase tickets, visit the website or call 459-4681.

Saturday, June 15 at 5:00pm
Location: Fifth Third Ballpark (4500 West River Dr, Comstock Park)

MCEDSV 2013 Conference: “Inspired”
Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is holding their annual conference.
Wednesday through Friday, June 26-28
Location: Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (187 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids)
  Click here for more info and to register.

Domestic Violence Orientation
Tuesday, July 16 OR
Tuesday, September 24 from 6-9:00pm
Location: Safe Haven Ministries (3501 Lake Eastbrook Blvd, Grand Rapids)
  Click here for more info and to register.

Webinar: Developing a Survivor Speakers Bureau 
Coordinated by MCEDSV, the workshop will provide participants the tools to create a survivor speakers bureau in their community.
Tuesday, July 30 from 2-3:30pm
Location: Online- For more info and to register, visit MCEDSV.

Brown Bag Luncheon: Intersection of Domestic Violence and Immigration
Organized by the Kent County DVCCRT, perspectives will include the Hispanic Center, a local immigration attorney, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  This event is free.  No need to register.
Thursday, August 22 from 12-1:30pm
Location: Kent County Courthouse (180 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids)

Check out CCRT’s online calendar!


CCRT Meeting Schedule

June 27, 2013:
Regular meeting
July 25, 2013:
August 22, 2013:
Brown Bag Luncheon

Meetings are typically held monthly in the Kent County Courthouse (180 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids- 5th floor Conference Room) from 12-1:30pm.  They are open to the public.

Mission of CCRT: 
The mission of Kent County DVCCRT is to cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate on all community efforts and levels to eliminate domestic violence.

Co-Chairs: Eileen McKeever, YWCA of West Central Michigan and Pete Kemme, Grand Rapids Police Department
Secretaries: Justine Kibet, Bethany Christian Services and Theresa Rowland, GVSU Women’s Center
Treasurer: Susan Vogelzang, Safe Haven Ministries.

Kent County DVCCRT: www.stopkentviolence.org

Newsletter Writer:
Justine Kibet, Bethany Christian Services

RESOURCES: Immigrants, Refugees, and Immigration Information

Immigration Resources and Legal Services in Michigan:
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC)
Michigan Immigrant Service Provider Reference Guide
Immigration Legal Services (Diocese of Grand Rapids)
Justice for Our Neighbors
Migrant Legal Aid
Advocate Resource Library (MIRC)
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Federal Protections for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes (USCIS)
Immigration Relief for Vulnerable Populations (USCIS)
U.S. Department of Justice- Office of Violence Against Women
U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)

Refugee and Immigrant Social Service Providers in Kent County:
Hispanic Center of Western Michigan
Bethany Christian Services- Refugee Services Center
Lutheran Social Services- Refugee Services
West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center
Thrive: A Refugee Support Program

Copyright 2012
CCRT News, Spring 2013
Kent County Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team
For newsletter submissions or general inquiries,
Contact info@stopkentviolence.org




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