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Frequently Asked Questions
- What is domestic violence?
- What is the difference between fighting and domestic violence?
- What can I do if I'm being abused?
- What can I do to change my batterer?
- Should I leave my home if I am in danger?
- What is shelter?
- I have heard of protective orders. What do they do?
- Can I get protection even if I am not a U.S. citizen?
- My husband sponsored my visa. What will happen to my immigration status if I decide to leave?
- My husband is threatening to take my children away if I leave. What can I do?
- How can Asian Family Support Services of Austin, or AFSSA (formerly Saheli) help me with my legal problems?
- How can I contact you? Can I be sure of confidentiality?
- Do you charge any fees for your services?
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is characterized by a pattern of behavior used by the abuser against their partner in order to gain or keep power and control. The abuse can be in the form of physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse. The actions or threats of action taken by the abuser can include behavior that frightens, intimidates, terrorizes, manipulates, hurts, humiliates, or injures their partner.
What is the difference between fighting and domestic violence?
Arguments, disagreements, and differences of opinion will likely occur in a normal relationship. What distinguishes a normal relationship from an abusive relationship is an ongoing pattern of disproportionate control and coercion. The “fight” is not between people of equal power, but occurs within a relationship in which there is an imbalance of power and the use of abusive control tactics by one party.
What can I do if I am being abused?
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. The police are here to protect us and make sure we are safe. You do not have to call the police only if you have been physically hurt. If your abuser threatens to hurt you or your family you have the right to call the police. Here in the US, domestic violence is against the law. The police can help you and they will take what you say seriously. If you do not feel comfortable talking to the police in English, you have the right to request an interpreter and to have one provided to you as soon as possible.
Should I leave my home if I am in danger?
YES. Go to a friend's house or a battered women's shelter. Shelters are usually free and often will have information about other services available in your community. If you stay with a friend or a family member, keep your location secret if possible. You have the right to keep your immigration status private.
What is shelter? Shelter is a place where you and your children can go to be safe. Shelters can provide you safety, support, and resource information that may be helpful to your specific situation. See our page on what to expect when seeking emergency shelter.
I have heard of protective orders. What do they do?
A protective order can keep the abuser from coming near you, attacking, sexually assaulting or contacting you, your children, or other family members.
Along with this protective order, in most states you also can ask for custody of your children and child support. In most states, you also can ask that the batterer be removed from your home and that the batterer not interfere with your immigration status.
You do not need to be a citizen or legal resident to get a protection order. For a protective order to be effective, you must be willing to call the police to enforce the order.
Can I get protection even if I am not a U.S. citizen?
YES. You do not need to be a citizen or legal permanent resident to get a protective order. A lawyer may be helpful, but it is not necessary to have one in order to get a protective order.
My husband sponsored my visa. What happens to my immigration status if I decide to leave?
If you are a citizen or have a ten year green card you do not have to be concerned. He cannot do anything to take it away from you.
A law passed by the U.S. government called Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) creates two ways for women who are married to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to get their residency.
If your spouse is not a US citizen or a Permanent Resident you have other options:
If you are on H-4 and your spouse is on H-1 you could apply for H-1 based on VAWA’s battered spouse waiver. This does not guarantee a green card, unless you find an employer who is willing to sponsor you. You could also transfer to F-1 if you are interested in going back to school to study.
If you came on a fiancé visa, K-1, you are eligible to apply for a battered spouse waiver.
There is also something called U-visa. It is a visa for victims of crime. Domestic violence is a crime and if you are a victim willing to cooperate with the police to prosecute your batterer (you don’t have to be married), you could be eligible for a U-visa.
If your partner is threatening to take your children away or take them to his home country, you should:
- Immediately get a custody order. This order can include an order to prohibit your husband/intimate partner from removing the children from the country in which you live.
- If the children are U.S. citizens, send a copy of this order to the embassy of your partner's home country and a copy to the U.S. Department of State to prevent the issuance of passports and visas for the children.
- Give a copy of the order to the children's schools and tell the schools not to release the children to anyone but yourself.
- Make sure that you have recent photos, passports and birth certificates for the children. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers of your husband's/intimate partner's friends and relatives in his home country.
How can Asian Support Services of Austin, or AFSSA (formerly Saheli) help me with my legal problems?
We do not have attorneys on staff at AFSSA, but we do provide legal advocacy. Legal advocacy can be accompanying a client to court, helping a client apply for a Protective Order, or simply sitting down with a client to explain various court processes. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for free legal assistance or we can help you find an attorney.
Maintaining confidentiality is very important to AFSSA. All information about you as our client is kept confidential. If we need to talk to other community agencies about resources available for you, we will need to have your permission first.