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Intimate partner violence against illegal immigrants is a steadily rising problem in the US. Previous studies have shown that illegal immigrants would prefer to stay in abusive relationships and this is mainly because their status is often tied to their partners. Hence, walking out of the relationship would increase the likelihood of them being deported.
The study will investigate reasons why Illegal immigrants stay in abusive relationships and whether there are any sources of relief for the abused persons.
A volunteer sample of 350 illegal immigrants between 19 and 58 years will be interviewed using semi-structured interviews.
The study will use semi structured interviews and reports from organizations that deal with intimate partner abuse among immigrant populations and from advocate groups.
Intimate partner violence against immigrant women has been rising steadily, and has now reached unimaginable proportions, however, it is only recently that studies exposed the grave situation of the matter. Studies have further revealed that although immigrant women suffer abuse from their spouses, many of them prefer to continue staying in such relationships, and as a result, continue to face an unending spate of violence. A review of literature shows that the main reason these women still stay in abusive relationships stems from the women’s legal status. These women’s immigration status is often tied to their abusive partners and this restrains them from seeking legal assistance. The abuser is often a legitimate US citizen who refuses to apply for legal status for their partners to keep them secluded.
Figures pertaining to the number of illegal immigrants in abusive relationships are damning. A report by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that nearly 20 per cent of all females who do not have legal status are abused by their partners but A 2002 joint Boston and Harvard University study shows that this figure could rise to 40 per cent (Raj and Silverman 2002). Analysts say that undocumented immigrant women are more apt to stay in abusive relationships longer than their counterparts with legal status due to economic factors. Many illegal immigrants do not have a stable source of income and depend on their partners for upkeep. These women are normally sheltered by their abusive partners and almost wholly depend on them for financial assistance and other basic requirements because their immigrant status lowers their chances of getting a job and becoming economically independent. State organs, mainly the criminal and immigration departments, have aided the situation by forcefully evicting undocumented persons (Erez & Globokar, 2009). Consequently, abused persons who report their plight to authorities are normally deported back to their countries and this deters then from making reports to authorities and opt to stay in an abusive relationship.
An undocumented person’s status is often tied to their abusive partners and this restrains them from seeking legal assistance. It is common for their abusive partners to threaten to report them to immigration authorities should they walk out of the relationship, or threaten to take their children away. Unfortunately, a greater proportion of abused persons are normally women.
A study by Raj and Silverman (2002) reports that these women face violence in different forms, the most common of which are physical, psychological, sexual, financial, and emotional. The report further states that the difficulty in accessing legal assistance increases their vulnerability for abuse. A study conducted by Bui and Morash (1999) focusing on the Vietnamese community in the US reports that abuse against undocumented women also stems from alterations in socioeconomic structure and cultural practices.
Men’s belief on their dominant position as head of family comes under sharp opposition due to changes in norms and this spurs violence. Immigrant women may also come from traditions that allow domestic violence, thereby deterring them from seeking assistance when abused by their partners (Orloff et al., 1995). Analysts say that domestic violence against undocumented persons is likely to increase as the number of illegal immigrants swells (Vidales, 2010). But on a positive note, a number of organizations have recognized the current situation and have been fighting against the abuse of women without legal status, further, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), enacted in 1994, has also been used to fight this form of violence without placing the women at a risk of being deported.
The study will use a comparative study methodology. The main method of data collection will be use of semi-structured interviews of abused persons in shelters and from professional bodies that keep statistics of violence on illegal immigrants by their partners and legal advocates. The study will use questionnaires that detail demographic and ease of access of assistance by battered women. This research methodology will allow the researcher to explore several variables relating to the research question. Furthermore, the researcher will be able to design questionnaires according to the variables to be investigated.
A volunteer sample of 350 illegal immigrants between 19 and 58 years will be interviewed using semi-structured interviews. In order to generate a sample that can be generalized for the whole immigrant population, samples will be drawn from the major immigrant communities. The sample will be recruited from help centers, health institutions, and ESL educational centers, and will consist of both married and unmarried persons. Additional information will be obtained from notable organizations that keep statistics on intimate partner abuse among immigrant populations such as health institutions and advocate groups.
The main method of data collection will be through semi-structured interviews as they are flexible and will allow new questions to be brought as the interview progresses with respect to what the interviewee says. The questions to be explored during the interviews will be deliberated in advance to ensure they focus on IPV among the target population, and written in questionnaire form. During each interview, the researcher will make brief notes on reasons put forward on why illegal immigrants do not easily move out of abusive relationships, their ease of access to assistance and demographic patterns relating to this form of abuse. The researcher will also collect data on the number of years the abused person has been in the US, legal status of their partners, whether they had any jobs of any stable source of income and the monthly income (if any), education levels and professional skills of both partners, and the socio-economic status of the family back home.
Additional information provided by the mentioned bodies and advocate groups will indicate prevalence of partner abuse, ease of access of assistance for battered partners, measures that have been taken to curb partner abuse among immigrant populations, sources of help abused persons without placing the at risk of deportation, and other vital statistics.
One of the concerns of the research methodology chosen (Semi-structured interviews) is that it will require a highly skilled research team to ask appropriate questions during interviews. To increase the accuracy of the study, the whole team will undergo an intensive training so they can learn how to relate to the sample population, and win their confidence so that they can freely give information without any fear of being reported to immigration authorities.
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An ethical issue arising from this study is that it may seem too intrusive to ask respondents about private family matters that should otherwise be kept private. However, since the outcome of the study will highlight the plight of illegal immigrants, the benefits of the study will outweigh privacy concerns. Besides, interviewees will be identified by number tags and not by their real names. Overall, the methodology is ideal for this research, as it will allow us to gain in-depth knowledge of our research topic.
Bui, H. N., and Morash, M. (1999). Domestic Violence in the Vietnamese Immigrant Community: An Exploratory Study. Violence Against Women vol. 5 no. 7: 769-795.
Erez, E., and Globokar, J. (2009). Compounding vulnerabilities: the impact of immigration status and circumstances on battered immigrant women. Sociology of Crime Law and Deviance, Vol.5, Iss: 13, pp.129 – 145.
Orloff, J. et al. (1995). With No Place to Turn: Improving Advocacy for Battered Immigrant Women. Family Law Quarterly. 29(2):313.
Raj, A., & Silverman, J. (2002). Violence against immigrant women: The roles of culture, context, and legal immigrant status on intimate partner violence. Violence against women, 8(3), 367-398.
Vidales, G. F. (2010). Arrested Justice: The Multifaceted Plight of Immigrant Latinas who Faced Domestic Violence. Journal of Family Violence Volume, 25, Number 6, 533-544.