advocacy with immigrant survivors toolkit

Escape

Safety Alert: If you believe your computer activities are being monitored, please access this site from a safer computer. To immediately exit this site, click the escape button. If you are in immediate danger, contact 911, a local crisis line, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Safety Alert: If you believe your computer activities are being monitored, please access this site from a safer computer. To immediately exit this site, click the escape button. If you are in immediate danger, contact 911, a local crisis line, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Prepare for Intake: Practice Guidance

When conducting an intake with a survivor,

it’s generally a good idea to start by introducing yourself, your role, any limits on your ability to maintain confidentiality for the survivor (e.g. your mandatory reporting status), and the purpose and process of the intake meeting.

For example,

“Hi, I’m Cecilia. I’m an advocate here at Casa de Esperanza. I have some questions I would like to ask you about your situation and what support you are looking for. I ask them so that I can understand how we can best help you today. If you don’t want to answer any of the questions, that is fine—you are not required to share anything you don’t want to share. Some of my questions will be about members of your family, and others will be about some details of your relationship.  Everything you tell me today will be completely confidential, which means I will not disclose it to anyone.  [If advocates are mandatory reporters—explain what this means and confirm that the survivor understands]. If you have any questions at any time, please let me know. Are you okay to get started right now?

Make a practice also of

addressing survivors’ potential immigration concerns at the start of your first conversation, regardless of whether or not you know their status.

When you begin that first conversation – intake, assessment, screening, etc. – consider telling everyone that:

  • All abused persons can seek services to help end sexual and domestic violence, regardless of their immigration status. (More broadly, it is recommended that you use this moment to clearly establish that you serve all persons, including those who are LGBTQ, who have a disability, or who have committed a crime.)
  • The support you can provide is free of charge and available now and at any time in the future, regardless of whether or not another incident of abuse occurs.</div>

Information for survivors: Enhance your practice

For survivors who express interest in immigration-specific information and services, let them know:

NOTE: Do not use survivors’ children, family, friends, or other untrained persons as interpreters, as this places survivors’ confidentiality and safety at risk and often inhibits their ability to fully describe and process their experiences and needs.

  • The abuse the survivor has experienced is illegal and because of that, they are eligible for protection under US law.
  • Survivors do not need to disclose their immigration status to access some community services, for example, food banks, Red Cross emergency funds, primary health care services at Federally Qualified Health Centers, police protection, shelter, protection orders, custody, child support, hospitals, emergency medical care, or criminal prosecution of the aggressor. Let survivors know you can help them navigate these services. You may also need to inform survivors regarding:

o   the role of these different systems, as they may have had different experiences in their countries of origin, may not have interacted with these systems in the US, and/or may have been misled by the aggressor, and intersections of these systems with immigration law enforcement.

  • You will ask questions to see if they are eligible for resources under the Violence Against Women Act and other laws that include specific supports for immigrant victims of crime (generally, sexual and domestic violence, and also workplace violence).
  • Some supports are available to immigrant survivors regardless of whether they stay with, leave, or communicate with the aggressor. For example, full-contact orders of protection may greatly enhance safety, and applications to VAWA-related immigration relief can be filed without the aggressor’s knowledge or assistance.

Like many survivors, immigrant survivors may have concerns about whether the aggressor will be arrested or incarcerated. If the aggressors are also immigrants, survivors may carry an additional fear that the aggressors will be federally detained and deported.  Given that sexual and domestic violence are crimes, deportation of immigrant aggressors is a viable risk and, to a survivor, may be a barrier to seeking services and support.[3] Validate survivors’ concerns, help evaluate options that will increase safety as they define it, and, ultimately, respect their decisions. As with all survivors, is as important to continue to offer meaningful support and help to those who choose to stay with or protect the aggressors, as it is to offer support to those who choose to leave.



[1]See page 11.

[2] See page 11.

[3]See, for example, Rodríguez, R., La Voz Juvenil de Caminar Latino, Nunan, J. & Perilla, J. (2013). Participatory action research with Latin@ youth: Exploring immigration and domestic violence. National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, Casa de Esperanza.