Approximately 38 percent of women of South Asian origin living in the United States will experience domestic abuse by a spouse or partner. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate and any victim — whether a woman or man — can face immense personal hurtles in getting help. Additional challenges for victims of South Asian origin often include cultural, linguistic and economic barriers.
Hurtles are meant to be overcome, and all victims of domestic abuse deserve to leave an abusive situation. In this blog, we take a closer look at the unique challenges experienced by members of the South Asian community and the steps victims can take to get help.
Please note: This is a culturally sensitive blog. There is no implied judgment against any person from any culture. The purpose of this blog is to help people obtain assistance and leave a dangerous situation.
Cultural Challenges for South Asian Victims of Domestic Violence
Marriage practices: In India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and other South Asian countries, arranged marriage remains a traditional practice in some regions. For South Asian immigrants now living in the United States, it is not uncommon for their marriage to be arranged with someone from their same home region. Given this long-distance arrangement, spouses often do not meet or know each other well before their marriage.
Like any marriage, arranged nuptials may work out wonderfully or make for an average marriage — or be marred by the abusive control of domestic violence. Research indicates that South Asian women who immigrate to the U.S. to marry can be at higher risk for experiencing domestic abuse in their marriage, including financial abuse.
Among victims in this situation, there can be extreme reluctance to get help. Reasons for this include:
- Language barriers: Immigrant spouses who do not speak English may feel uncomfortable or self-conscious calling the police or feel unprepared to file for a temporary restraining order.
- Immigration Concerns: Victims may worry that protective rights do not extend to them because their green card is not final or they are undocumented. In today’s political climate, victims may be uncomfortable seeking help due to fears that making themselves known to the courts will put them at risk for deportation.
- Financial Concerns: Victims do not have access to bank accounts or other financial resources.
It is important to note that in situations in which marriage was not arranged, or spouses married in their home country and moved to the U.S., or spouses are from mixed cultures or are unmarried partners, the abusive control of domestic violence can still be present — and there can still be reluctance to get help.
Steps to Safety
Are you a victim of domestic abuse?
Call the police or 911 if you or your children are in danger. Under U.S. law, any victim of domestic violence, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, may report a crime of domestic abuse or violence to the police. You should tell the police about any abuse that has happened, even in the past, and show any injuries. The police may arrest your fiancé, spouse, or partner.
You CAN get a restraining order: Likewise, any victim of domestic violence, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, can file to obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO). You have the right to be safe. A court-issued protection order or restraining order may tell your abuser not to call, contact or hurt you, your children, or other family members. If your abuser violates the restraining order, you can call the police. Applications for temporary restraining orders are available at your local courthouse or police station.
Get help in the language you speak. Translations of restraining orders may be available at your court house or police station. If not, contact a friend or supportive family member to help you fill out the forms. You can also contact Manavi, a domestic violence support agency for South Asian women based in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Among their services, Manavi volunteers are available to serve as court companions to help with language issues in navigating the restraining order process. Manavi also provides transitional housing for victims and their children.
You have the right to keep your immigration status private. You do not have to tell the police or shelter whether or not you are a documented or undocumented “illegal” immigrant. The form you fill out for a temporary restraining order in New Jersey does not require disclosure of immigration status. A court generally will not ask about your immigration status when you ask for a restraining order. With this said, it is in your best interests to discuss your situation with a family law attorney for help preparing for court.
You can get money to live: Victims with limited or no outside source of income, or who have been the victims of financial abuse in which money has been purposely withheld, may fear not being able to support themselves or their children should they leave their situation. To obtain money to live, speak with a family law attorney about applying for temporary spousal support (alimony) and temporary child support. These can be put in place immediately and give you and your children enough to pay for housing, food and other basics. If you ultimately decide to divorce, these temporary forms of support can become a final part of your settlement.
Your secure future
Our skilled and compassionate family law attorneys understand the culturally sensitive matters that can be present in domestic violence matters. We can help you. Let us guide you through the court process to ensure a secure future for you and your children. Contact us to schedule an INITIAL attorney consultation. You can be safe. Call today: 888-888-0919.