Fox v. Encounters International

Read a recent press release on this case

Group Led by International Marriage Broker Agency Owner Falsely Accuses Battered Woman of Fraud in an Effort to Undo VAWA Protections

Nataliya and her attorneysNataliya Fox, a Ukrainian woman, suffered brutal abuse by a husband with a past history of domestic violence with whom she was matched through the Maryland-based IMB, Encounters International (EI). EI falsely represented to Nataliya that they screened their male clients, when they did not. Nataliya’s efforts to seek help from EI’s owner were futile—the owner downplayed the abuse and assured Nataliya that such behavior was a “normal” part of American culture. She also withheld from Nataliya critical information regarding her legal rights, misleading her into thinking that she had no choice but to endure the abuse or risk deportation and separation from her newborn daughter.

Nataliya escaped with her daughter to a domestic violence shelter, where she found safety and was referred to Tahirih. Tahirih successfully represented Nataliya’s case and on May 29, 2001, Nataliya’s petition under the Violence Against Women Act was approved.

Nataliya’s experience led Tahirih to recognize that the role of the IMB agency in facilitating the abuse was part of a larger problem. Tahirih partnered with Arnold & Porter LLP and brought the first lawsuit in the United States against an IMB. In November 2004, after a two-week federal jury trial, Nataliya won, marking the first time an IMB was held responsible for its role in enabling the abuse of a foreign bride. A Maryland jury awarded Nataliya $430,500 in compensatory and punitive damages. In April 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the jury’s verdict, characterizing Encounters International’s behavior as “highly reprehensible.” Read Tahirih’s press releases on the lower court victory (PDF) and on theFourth Circuit decision (PDF).