Immigrants and Refugees: Hidden Victims

Immigrants and Refugees: Hidden Victims

Immigrant and refugee families can often be hidden victims because they have multiple barriers to getting help for themselves or their children.

Language is a critical barrier to getting help and reaching out to law enforcement.

Corrupt law enforcement in home country. Some immigrants will do anything to avoid being involved with law enforcement, even when crimes occur. In some countries, courts frequently side with husbands/fathers in domestic violence, child abuse, and custody cases, so female immigrants may fear similar outcomes in the U.S.

Fear of U.S. law enforcement. Many people fear that they will be reported to immigration (ICE) or police, which stops them from reaching out for help with abuse or assault.

Lack of understanding. Many people who do not speak English may not make the leap to “this is wrong and I need help.”

Fear of losing children. Families who are in the U.S. without documentation fear their children being removed and family separation.

Community vs. individual well-being. Many Asian immigrant communities are focused on the well-being of the community rather than individual rights. Survivors will often prioritize the well-being of the larger family or community over their own safety. Being judged for that can be embarrassing.

Worry about safety of abuser. Within some communities, victims do not call police because they are worried about the safety of the abuser, or fear that the person will get deported or will be treated unfairly if law enforcement gets involved. This fear increases for families without documentation. Crime victims want to protect themselves and their children, but they are also in a relationship with the abuser.

(Adapted from Shakur-Jamal, 2021)