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Domestic Violence and Spousal Abuse


Spousal abuse and domestic violence is a crime that affects women, men and children of every race, religion, nationality and sexual preference. Many immigrants may find that the traditional role and responsibilities of women in the United States is very different from their native country. Trying to enjoy the benefits of being an “American women” and maintain traditional culture expectations may create problems within many families. Regardless of race, creed or nationality, domestic violence is a danger to not only adults but the children in an abusive environment.


This Section of PTLIA is devoted entirely to helping women adjust to any problems they may encounter. In the future, PTLIA will talk about many issues that affect women including child support, workplace discrimination, women’s health and more. Visit this section often to find information to improve or possibly save your life.


Abuse of women is a serious problem in every country, including the United States. In the united States everyone has certain legal rights, even if they are not legal residents. 


The information in this Section will help you recognize spousal abuse, understand why it happens, learn how to protect yourself from domestic violence and find sources of assistance.


Types of Abuse


Murder – According to the National Organization for Women, 1,400 women every year in the United States are murdered by their husbands or domestic partners. That’s four women a day. In the following pages you’ll read about ways to protect yourself or get help.


Battering – This is a legal term for “hitting” or “beating up.” An estimated 4 million women are battered by husbands, boyfriends, family members or relatives every year in the United States, NOW (  National Organization for Women ) says. At least 170,000 cases are bad enough to require medical attention or even hospitalization. Pregnant women who are battered are much more likely to suffer miscarriages and stillbirths. Read on to learn ways to protect yourself or get help.


Rape and Other forms of Sexual Abuse – According to NOW, 1.2 million women have been raped by current or former male partners, some more than once. Other forms of sexual abuse occur far more frequently. Remember that there are ways to protect yourself or get help.


Spousal abuse is more likely to occur in low income families and in which the male partner is unemployed.


The effect on children is severe. Children who have witnessed violence at home are five times more likely to commit violence or be victims of violence as adults, NOW says.




Women of all races, ethnic groups and social classes can be victims of abuse. But women who are single, divorced or separated and low-income women have a higher than average risk.


According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, almost one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend sometime in their lives. Almost one-fourth report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former husband, domestic partner or “date.”


Half of the men who frequently assault their wives also frequently abuse their children.


About 20 percent of high school girls have reported being physically and/or sexually abused by a “date.”


Rape and other forms of sexual abuse by husbands or boyfriends are less often reported to police than those committed by strangers.




Understanding Domestic Violence:


In his article “Understanding the Victims of Spousal Abuse,” Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., says that “most spouse abuse happens because men batter and get away with it.”




“Spouse abuse has historic roots,” Ochberg says. “Females have been bought and sold and traded , ritually branded and mutilated, denied education, land ownership, means of travel, and are not yet full partners in owning and controlling the major institutions of this world. . . . Some cultures permit more subjugation and intimidation of women than do others. Some cultures encourage the use of force to preserve the status of the male. . . . Although wife-beating is no longer a publicly accepted behavior, it is privately accepted within many male groups.”


Why don’t women simply leave abusive spouses? Often because they can’t. Their children may need them, or they simply don’t have the resources to leave. Another problem is that they may lack a strong support system. For many women, shame or a feeling that they must keep their family together prevents them from leaving. Women who were raised in an abusive family environment may just except abuse as a way of life or even think they deserve to be abused. Some women may even see abuse as a sign of love or caring.  The truth is, no women should be abused.  An article by Greg Abbot , Texas attorney general, points out that Hispanic women tend to be more unaware than other groups that resources are available to help them. “It is a common tactic for abusers to isolate their victims, but in the Hispanic community, the victim’s isolation may be intensified by a language barrier,” Abbot writes. Also, according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, “abusers often use their partner’s immigration status as a tool of control.”


Victims of abuse are often afraid to call law enforcement authorities. REMEMBER THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REVEAL YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS IN ORDER TO OBTAIN PROTECTION FROM ABUSE.


Ochberg also cites “Stockholm Syndrome,” a psychological condition in which hostages sometimes grow attached to their captors. This “explains why some women love their abusers,” he says. A battered wife also may continue to love her spouse because she was trained as a child to love an abusive parent.”


Prevention and Self-Protection


It’s important to remember, though, that leaving does not always put an end to the violence. In fact, more often it does not. According to, “batterers may, in fact, escalate their violence to force a victim into reconciliation or to get even for the perceived rejection or abandonment.”




Still, believes that staying with the batterer only invites more frequent and severe violence and that “although leaving may pose additional hazards, at least in the short run, the research data demonstrates that ultimately victims can best achieve safety and freedom apart from the batterer.”


Both staying with and leaving an abusive domestic partner require planning. Here are some tips from and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:


If You Stay


Think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs. Avoid rooms without exits and rooms with potential weapons, such as the kitchen.


Look for escape routes. Practice how to get out quickly and safely.


Keep your purse and car keys ready at all times. Always leave them in a certain place so you can leave quickly. Leave a second set of keys with a relative or trusted friend. Make sure to tell them why you are doing so.


Tell trusted neighbors what’s going on so they can call police if they hear anything suspicious.


Teach your children how to use the telephone and how to call 911 for help. Make sure they are able to tell police their full name and address.


Make a list of safe people to contact. Memorize all important phone numbers.


Keep some cash with you at all times.


Establish a code word or other signal so that family members, friends, teachers or co-workers know when to call for help.


Open a savings account using a friend’s address, the address of your place of employment or open an online savings account so no account statements will be sent to you in the mail.


Have originals or photocopies of the following documents ready so you can quickly take them with you:



Birth certificate

Children’s birth certificates

Social Security cards

Medical records for self, children and pets

School and vaccination records

Pet licenses and vaccination records

Welfare papers, work permits, Green Card

Insurance papers


Driver’s license, vehicle registration

Lease or rental agreement or deed to home

Passwords to online accounts

Credit cards

ATM cards

Bank accounts, checkbooks



If You Leave –


If you leave the relationship but remain in the home you shared, change the locks, change your phone number and screen all calls.


Document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.


Vary your routine and avoid being alone. Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.


Meet your partner, if at all, in a public place.


Only use CASH to make phone calls from PAY TELEPHONES. Do NOT use a cell phone, as records can be accessed, PUTTING YOU IN DANGER.


If you have a protective order, give copies to police departments where you live and in communities where you visit family or friends. Make sure your protective order is on record in your county by calling the Clerk of the Court or the Sheriff’s Office. Also make sure your family, friends and employer know about the protective order.


If the protective order is violated, call the police and report it. Also contact your attorney or public advocate, and inform the court of the violation.


If all else fails, go to a shelter for battered women.


But it’s even safer to move. Put distance between yourself and your abuser by moving to another part of the city, state or country. Get an unlisted phone number. Get a box number at the post office to receive mail. Destroy all credit card offers you receive and any other documents that contain our name, address and/or Social Security number. Take ALL of your mail to the post office to be mailed directly from there. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also advises that can you apply to the address confidentiality program in your state. This allows you to receive mail at a confidential address without having to disclose your real address.


Legal Rights and Remedies


If you are a victim of battery, rape or sexual abuse, you are a CRIME VICTIM. The Women’s Justice Center says that regardless of your immigration status, “YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO ALL THE SAME CRIME VICTIM SERVICES AS ANY CRIME VICTIM BORN IN THE UNITED STATES.”


Every human being in this country, including illegal immigrants, has a right to equal protection under the law. This means, among others things, that you have a right to a TRANSLATOR if you do not speak English. Whenever you need the services of public agencies such as police, victim assistance centers and the courts, you have a right to a translator. Do not let police coax a family member or friend into being your interpreter, as this may inhibit what you say. Insist on professional translation.


If you have been a victim of battery, rape or sexual abuse, you are entitled to assistance and victim counseling.


Do not be concerned if your abuser says he will call immigration authorities and have you deported if you report his behavior or try to get help. The Women’s Justice Center says that immigration authorities have never been known to act on such calls.


If you depend on your abuser to petition for a Green Card, and he threatens to halt the petition if you leave him, you have the right to leave and continue the petition on your own.


IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911. Tell the 911 interpreter the situation, what the abuser has done or said and whether he has hurt you before. Try to stay on the line with the 911 interpreter until police arrive. When the police arrive, if they do not speak your language, insist that they get you a professional translator. If police refuse, write out a statement in your own language and give it to them. Your original statement and a translation will be recorded in the police report.


If a family member or friend of yours has been a victim of abuse, the Women’s Justice Center offers the following advice:


Get involved. Remember that an abusive relationship is hard to get out of and the victim needs help.


Talk with the victim in a safe and comfortable place. Make sure you find out exactly what the victim’s fears are and what threats have been made against her. TREAT THESE THREATS SEROUSLY.


Find out whether the safety or well-being of children is threatened in any way.


Make sure the victim’s medical needs are attended to. If she has been raped, ask whether she’s concerned about pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Ask whether she wants counseling.




National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Help is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline workers provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is provided primarily in English and Spanish, but interpreter services are available in more than 140 languages.


The National Sexual Abuse Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). The hotline is operated 24 hours a day by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.





National Domestic Violence Hotline:


United States Department of Justice: Office on Violence Against Women:


American Civil Liberties Union: Women’s Rights:


Women’s Justice Center:


Domestic Violence Shelter:


National Organization for Women:


National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:


Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:


State child support enforcement Web sites:


Office of Child Support Enforcement:


Domestic Violence in Hispanic and Latino Cultures –


National Network To End Violence Against Immigrant Women:


The National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence:


National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute:


National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.:


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