Characteristics of immigrant abused women who apply for legal status




Nava, Angeles
McFarlane, Judith M.
Maddoux, John
Montalvo-Liendo, Nora
Gilroy, Heidi
Cesario, Sandra

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Background: Intimate partner violence and undocumented migration are social and health global issues affecting the wellbeing of women.

Purpose: To document the characteristics of undocumented abused women associated with application for legal status and provide evidence for programs to enable abused, immigrant women to obtain legal status.

Methods: This study is part of a 7 year prospective study investigating outcomes of 300 abused women who seek help for the first time from safe shelters or the justice system. After informed consent was obtained, women who were English or Spanish speaking, at least 18 year of age, had at least one child between 18 months and 15 years, and who were seeking help for abuse for the first time were entered in the study. For this paper, entry and 16 month follow up data of a subsample of 107 women who reported to be undocumented immigrants and experiencing intimate partner abuse is presented. In addition to demographic information, the interview included the Severity of Violence Against Women Scale, Danger Assessment, Brief Symptom Inventory, Safety Behavior Checklist, Acculturation for Hispanics instrument, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, General Self-Efficacy, Koci Marginality Index, and Norbeck Social Support measures.

Results: There was a significant relationship between acculturation and whether or not a woman had applied for legal status, U = 257, z = -2.61, p = .009. No significant differences were found in the remaining demographic and outcome measures as a function of having applied for legal status

Conclusion: It is important to improve paths and eliminate barriers for undocumented women living with violence to facilitate their legal status. In conclusion, understanding the needs of abused immigrant women will help to develop programs and implement policies to ensure the safety and well-being of these women.


Article originally published in Arts and Social Sciences Journal, S(1), 1–6. English. Published online 2014.


Legal status, Intimate partner violence, Abused women, Immigrant women, Undocumented, Acculturation


This is a published version of an article that is available at Recommended citation: Nava, A., McFarlane, J., Maddoux, J., Montalvo-Liendo, N., Gilroy, H., & Cesario, S. (2014). Characteristics of immigrant abused women who apply for legal status. Arts and Social Sciences Journal, S(1), 1–6. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.