Virginia Domestic Violence Information Resources Attorney Immigration

Global Women Entrepreneur Conference – Capitol Hill

My name is Atchuthan Sriskandarajah. I am licensed to practice in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C., and the owner of Law Offices of SRIS, P.C. As someone who frequently advocates for women’s rights, I believe that women have contributed to the past and present accomplishments of our nation.

Domestic violence is defined as an aggressive and assaultive behavior towards one’s family member. The victims usually are women, children and elderly people. The aggression involves physical attacks, pushing, shoving, throwing objects at someone, hitting someone with an object, punching, slapping, choking, raping or sexually assaulting the victim. Frequently, the victims who are dealing with domestic violence are often sharing a home with their abuser or have normalized or rationalized the abusive behavior done on them. Furthermore, women can still love their abuser preventing them from acknowledging the abusive behavior. In our society, some women may still not be aware of the seriousness about domestic violence. They might have grown up in a home or community where it is rampant or expected. Domestic violence is never okay. Our society has intelligent, strong, and independent women who can protect themselves against abusers if they are aware of their rights. Domestic violence is a serious crime that needs to be reported to help victims overcome it.

These are several reasons why domestic violence occurs. The need to feel in control of the relationship or the idea that women are inferior to men. The oppressor has the urgency to be empowered over women physically or emotionally. The abusers may have a negative attitude which results in hurting others. Women start believing they are worthless and lack the traits to be in a loving and reliable relationship. Domestic violence is a harm that occurs frequently and while resources exist to help the victims of domestic violence, often they are not used as much as they are needed. These victims are afraid to confront their abusers because revealing their personal issues may well lead to major consequences. For these women it takes courage to empower themselves to share their problems. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury”. A significant number of women are suffering silently allowing their partner to have authority over their will. We need to increase the percentage of incidents that are being reported to break the cycle of violence. Speaking about it will help women to leave the shadow of fear. Our responsibility as decent human beings is to listen and support these individuals who are suffering.

However, we as a society need to understand that women are not the only victims. We cannot ignore that men are exposed to domestic abuse as well. The Waterford Group Men’s Development Network launched a National Helpline for male victims by providing a safe and confidential space to speak about their struggles. The men who have or still are victims of domestic violence need to understand that they are victims. Some common indicators of male domestic abuse include; verbal abuse and belittling, possessiveness and jealousy, on-going accusations of being unfaithful, trying to control where you go and who you see, trying to control how you spend money or deliberate default on joint financial obligations, making false allegations about you to your friends, or threatening to leave you and preventing you from seeing your children.

The National Crime Council reported that up to 88,000 men have been severely abused by a partner at some point in their lives. According to Men’s Development Network more women are affected by domestic abuse than men; however, only about 5% of men report these incidents, indicating that the majority of men suffer alone. As society we need to be open to supporting victims of both genders because no individual in general should be exposed to abuse from someone else. Unfortunately, society has created false stereotypes for men which should not be validated. The stereotype suggests that a man should be physically and emotionally strong, successful, and confident. All individuals have feelings, emotions and needs to be fulfilled by their partner. Speaking to a professional can help the victims of domestic violence have a better understanding of their situation as well as developing a plan to overcome the abuse.

The highest rate of violence against a victim occurs when the victim tries to leave the relationship, so let’s talk about how a victim of domestic violence can leave the relationship. When victims of domestic violence are planning to leave a violent relationship, it is important to make a safety plan first. They need to speak to a close friend, adviser, or the authorities. These are people who will help and advocate for you. Sometimes an attorney can help victims by filing for a protective order which prevents the abuser from contacting the victim. Protective orders in Virginia are a very expansive concept that prevents the abuser from making phone calls, seeing someone in person, sending a text, sending an email, and sending a letter. It also includes indirect contact, so that means that it is actually a violation of the order for the accused to tell a friend to give the victim a message or a family member to give the victim a message. Any attempt to violate a protective order can cause a person to be charged with violating a protective order. If the order is violated, there are criminal penalties including jail time. Also, filing a domestic violence complaint allows a victim of domestic violence to recover for any medical expenses, financial loss, or pain and suffering caused by the domestic violence. For women who are not citizens and their legal status creates a barrier they should not be intimidated by their fear of losing temporary status or facing deportation. They have rights under the law and the police take care of victims regardless of their legal status. Authorities acknowledge that safety cannot be denied to anyone. Immigrants of domestic violence survivors should consult an immigration attorney who has experience working with similar matter. The attorney will help you identify possible forms of immigration relief. Victims can request a U visa which is granted for individuals who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime. The U visa allows victims to remain in the United States legally. If victims are married, having your attorney file a divorce is a way of ending the relationship legally. Additionally, if there are children born from this relationship, the mother can request the physical and primary custody of her children because they cannot be under the responsibility of an abusive parent.

Speaking about personal issues is hard. However, when victims speak about their feelings it can help them feel better about themselves. In order for low income women to have access to affordable counseling sessions, they can get help from public healthcare facilities such as department of social services. The purpose is to allow financially challenged women to leave the current situation and to find a better life. If women are afraid or cannot leave the house, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance has a hotline and confidential instant messaging to speak with a professional. This organization after receiving the victim’s consent will soon after notify the police in cases of extreme danger. Low income victims of domestic violence often feel trapped in the situation because of the presence of children. Women often have a financial dependency on their abusive partner. Struggling to make ends meet creates the idea that it is impossible for them to leave the relationship. Break the Cycle provides free legal services to young survivors of dating abuse in Washington, DC. Their services are available to young people who are 12 to 24 years old, women living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and for victims seeking help because of dating abuse, domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Attorneys also work closely with clients to ensure that their non-legal needs are met through safety planning and referrals to local domestic violence and social services.

Every woman is special, beautiful, and capable of achieving her goals. We should not allow a partner to define a woman’s worth, set limits or to make decisions. You are all hard-working and resilient ladies, no men should tell you otherwise. The law will support victims. Valuable information needs to be distributed to all victims of domestic violence. I hope that by describing the complexity of domestic violence, existing solutions and resources we will be have less victims suffering silently. Women have the power to stop domestic violence from continuing when they decide to report it. Hope still remains and success can be reach as a united community who supports one another. C

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