If you are based outside the US, you can find more information on our main Domestic Violence page. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence in USA and need help, the following information may be useful for you.
Domestic Violence Victim?
If you or someone you know is in need of emergency assistance as a victim of Domestic Violence, you have a number of options available to you.
- In the first instance, it is recommended that you call The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also lists a number of state specific help centers for domestic violence victims. Click here to access the list.
- If you are looking for a place to stay, most states have shelters for domestic violence victims. This website lists state shelters by state. You can also search for crisis centers and local programs here.
- There are also a number of other domestic violence help services listed on the Help Resources page of this website.
- AARDVARC – An Abuse, Rape, Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection website also provides comprehensive state-specific information for victims.
Informational Brochures and Pamphlets
- For an in-depth explanation of how immigration law and family law protect abused immigrant women, see the brochure at Legal Momentum
- Futures Without Violence provides downloadable brochures with information for Immigrant and Refugee Women. Foreign language brochures are also available in:
- The USCIS pamphlet provides detailed information on the Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States and Facts about Immigrating on a Marriage-Based Visa. Foreign language brochures are also available in:
STATE LAWS AND FEDERAL LAWS
State and federal laws in the US clearly define the rights of a domestic violence victim and what options are available to you. Have a look at the Women’s Law website for state specific legal statutes as well as federal laws outlining not only your rights but also other related issues such as child custody or immigration related concerns.
While some states specifically outline Domestic Violence as a crime, others do not. However, as the Women’s Law website points out, there may be other crimes the abuser may have committed such as Assault or Stalking and you may be able to get your abuser arrested for these crimes. For more information, we recommend checking out the Crimes section of the Women’s Law website.
- If you are a victim of domestic violence in California, the California Courts Self-Help Center provides some valuable information on domestic violence as does the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. You may qualify for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) which will compel your abuser to stay away from you. The Women’s Law website also serves as an excellent resource for civil and criminal law information.
- If you are in Maryland and have been subjected to domestic abuse, Maryland’s People’s Law Library provides plenty of information for victims including a civil and legal solutions section and list of shelters and programs across the state. The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence also provides help and information for victims. Even if you don’t qualify for a protective order, you may still be the victim of other crimes your abuser has committed. You can find more information on crimes and a list of helpful resources here.
- If you are in Minnesota, the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse is a valuable information resource for domestic violence victims. For legal information, check out the Law Help Minnesota website. If you need information about an order of protection or harassment restraining order, click here.
- If you are in Missouri, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence works hard to eliminate violence against women in the state. You can find Missouri state domestic violence legal information here. Women’s Law also provides some additional information and help resources.
- If you are in New York, the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence should be your first stop for more information. Legal information is very well explained on Women’s Law. For those who do not qualify for an order of protection as per New York state law, you might still be the victim of a crime. To find out more about New York state’s legal statutes regarding crimes, click here.
- If you are a victim of domestic violence in Texas, you are likely to qualify for a family violence protective order or a sexual assault protective order. Click here for more information on family law and domestic violence. You can also find more legal information here. Additional help resources for victims are also listed here. The Texas Council on Family Violence also has lots of information.
- If you are a domestic violence victim in Washington State, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a good place to start looking for more information. Washington Law Help provides all the legal information you may need as a domestic violence victim. Other information about crimes and how to get help can be found here.
- Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was introduced in 1994 and is considered a landmark legislation, enhancing the possibilities of criminal justice in cases of stalking, dating violence, sexual assault and domestic violence. The law was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 and has made a big difference to abuse victims who previously suffered in silence.The US Department of Justice Office On Violence Against Women (OVW) was created in 1995 to ensure this law is appropriately implemented. As per the website, “By forging state, local, and tribal partnerships among police, prosecutors, victim advocates, health care providers, faith leaders, and others, OVW grant programs help provide victims with the protection and services they need to pursue safe and healthy lives, while simultaneously enabling communities to hold offenders accountable for their violence.”Since the introduction of the VAWA, over 15 years ago, there has been much progress, with several states introducing domestic violence statutes. Immigrant women are also specifically addressed in the VAWA as their situations are often complicated and previous legislation had failed to address it comprehensively. Most importantly, a larger number of victims have started coming forward and reporting their abusers. If you are a victim, the VAWA was created to protect you.Read more here.
- Protection Orders & Restraining Orders
If you leave your abuser but still feel threatened by him and are concerned for your safety, you might want to consider a restraining order. Some states refer to a restraining order as a protective order.Laws concerning restraining orders and protective orders in the USA vary from state to state. This is not governed by federal law. The Women’s Law website comprehensively explains restraining orders and also provides information on legal statutes in each state. Click here to access this information.
- Gun Laws
As part of the restraining order, some courts can also order your abuser to turn over his guns and other weapons. In addition, there are specific federal gun laws and state laws governing the possession of guns as well. In brief, these laws make it illegal for an abuser to possess firearms if he has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or any other crime. Get in touch with an experienced lawyer if you are concerned about your abuser’s possession of firearms.The National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith and Credit (NCPOFFC) is a project of the Battered Women’s Justice Project and its “mission is to facilitate implementation of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in all states, tribes, and territories by raising public awareness of the statute’s requirements and by providing problem-solving technical assistance and support to individuals and jurisdictions.” The NCPOFFC can help you understand federal firearm laws better so if you are confused, contact them on 1-800-903-0111.The NCPOFFC is made up of almost 2000 members including but not limited to judges, commissioners, referees and other experts in the field of family and juvenile law and other related issues.
If you are an immigrant woman in the USA and are dependent on your spouse to remain in the country lawfully, your abuser might make you believe you cannot report the abuse. This is not true and even non-citizens have basic rights and you definitely do not have to tolerate abuse. The VAWA makes special provisions for immigrant women in the USA and can help you escape the abuse. The Women’s Law website gives you plenty of information on how you can maintain your legal status if you were to report your abuser.
For a list of organizations that might be able to help you with your US immigration queries and concerns, click here.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
As part of the United Nations General Assembly, the USA adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 and values the rights set out by the Declaration. This is particularly important for immigrant women who are sometimes not aware of their basic rights when they move to USA. Domestic violence violates a number of basic human rights that the United States attempts to guarantee all its citizens.The Declaration outlines human rights in 30 articles. To read the full version of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), click here. As the focus here is Domestic Violence, we have picked specific Articles from the Declaration that we believe every victim should be aware of, as being subjected to abuse goes against these basic human rights.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7 All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
- International Marriage Broker Regulation Act
The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) was introduced by the United States as a federal statute in 2005. It is an attempt to legally regulate marriages to foreign nationals and exercise stricter control over repeated fiancé/spouse visa applications. The idea is to protect immigrant women in the long term, from cases of trafficking as well as domestic violence.In keeping with the IMBRA, many states have also introduced their own version of the IMBRA as state law, covering various relevant issues such as sexual assault and domestic violence. Residents of these states are required to comply with both federal and state law if they are considering a foreign marriage.As an immigrant woman, married to an American resident or citizen, if you are a victim of domestic violence, the IMBRA was created to protect women like you. You are legally entitled to protection and justice under United States federal law.
If you are based in the USA and are a domestic violence victim, you have a number of help resources available to you. Whatever your situation, don’t be afraid to report your abuser but always ensure your safety first.