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Domestic and Sexual Violence



Immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other violent crimes, especially when they are undocumented. Abusers often use immigration status to intimidate and control victims, ensuring that they will be too afraid to seek help or call police. Congress recognized this acute vulnerability in the early 1990s, and created much needed life-lines for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence through the Violence Against Women Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Despite historically broad bipartisan support, these vital legal protections for immigrant survivors often come under public and legislative attack, while still more could be done to ensure safety and justice for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence.


To escape violence and rebuild their lives in safety, immigrant survivors need more than just special legal protections under immigration law. They need access to police, protection orders, hotlines, legal and social services, shelters, and other resources. Tahirih Justice Center has supported efforts to improve laws and systemic responses to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in the United States, including through bridge-building leadership in the fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, as well as the reauthorization or passage of other critical federal legislation to address domestic and sexual violence in the United States.


Since VAWA’s initial passage in 1994, yearly domestic violence rates have dropped by 64%. But more protections are needed to prevent violence against women and girls. For example, Tahirih advocates to keep local law enforcement from becoming immigration enforcers and to ensure that immigrant women can call for help when they are facing abuse. We try to reduce waiting time, help reunite families to avoid further trauma, and increase consistency and understanding among adjudicators. And we advocate for thoughtful immigration reform to promote sound, fair, and humane immigration policies to help bring immigrant women out of the shadows and reduce their vulnerability to violence.