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VAWA: Not Just for Victims of Physical Abuse

| Apr 24, 2020 | Immigration Law

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was created to provide protections for victims of abuse. Along with providing access to helpful services, VAWA also makes it possible for those who have been abused by U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members to get their own green cards and stay in the United States legally.

There are a couple of things you might not realize about VAWA if you only know it by its name.

#1. Although it’s called the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA actually protects all victims of abuse, regardless of their gender.

As long as the abuse you experienced was carried out by your spouse, parent, or adult child, and as long as that person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you are protected.

#2. VAWA doesn’t just protect victims of physical abuse. Those who have experienced emotional abuse and other extreme cruelty are also eligible.

Admittedly, the phrase “extreme cruelty” is quite broad. Not sure if your situation qualifies you for protection under VAWA? Federal law states that “the phrase ‘was battered by or was the subject of extreme cruelty’ includes, but is not limited to, being the victim of any act or threatened act of violence, including any forceful detention, which results or threatens to result in physical or mental injury. Psychological or sexual abuse or exploitation, including rape, molestation, incest (if the victim is a minor), or forced prostitution shall be considered acts of violence. Other abusive actions may also be acts of violence under certain circumstances, including acts that, in and of themselves, may not initially appear violent but that are a part of an overall pattern of violence. The qualifying abuse must have been committed by the citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, must have been perpetrated against the self-petitioner or the self-petitioner’s child, and must have taken place during the self-petitioner’s marriage to the abuser.” (8 C.F.R. Section 204.2(c)(vi))

If you’re still not sure if what you have experienced qualifies as extreme cruelty, an immigration attorney can help you assess your situation and decide how to proceed.

If I qualify for protection under VAWA, how do I go about getting a green card?

To become a lawful permanent resident under VAWA, you will need to self-petition with the help of an immigration attorney. Your abuser does not have to give you permission and your information is kept private, so they will not be aware that you are petitioning under VAWA. If you’re ready to get started, contact Rotella & Hernandez. We can help you with your paperwork and ensure that you have the best possible chance at success. Give us a call at (786) 571-8472.