How does immigration status effect women’s opportunities for pathways out of family violence?
According to the ABS (2018), 42% of murders documented nationwide in 2016 were in relation to family violence (95 victims) and of all female murder victims 65% were due to family violence (52 victims). Therefore, one women is murdered in Australia every week as a result of family violence.
Australia is deficient in research that relates to the vulnerability of immigrant women and how immigration effects family violence due to social and cultural displacements which weaken immigrant women’s ability to navigate family violence. Women face complexities around practical, cultural and legal elements which decrease their potential to leave potentially fatal situations. It is therefore necessary to understand the impacts of immigration status on family violence and how these social phenomena correlate. (Gharfounia, 2011)
It is far more convoluted to recognise answers that combat family violence in immigrant and refugee communities when minority groups are part a progressively varied society (Taft, Small & Hoang , 2008).
Colucci and Heredia Montesino (2013) argue family violence is a major contributing factor for suicide and women from immigrant, refugee and ethnic minority communities are at increased risk
The rational for researching how immigration status effects family violence is so service providers can tailor services to be culturally appropriate and develop an awareness that women with unresolved visa status’ experience additional stressors in relation to family violence and are at increased risk of suicide.
In Victoria, the Family Violence Protection Act (2008) describes family violence as
(a) behaviour towards a member of the family that is
Sexually or physically abusive
Psychologically or emotionally abusive
(i) any way that dominates and controls family members causing fear of safety and well-being of that family member or another person; or
(ii) children being exposed to behaviour that causes them to witness, hear or be exposed to the effects of the behaviours referred to in (a).
The Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and recommendations (2016) refers to data from Safe Steps, a family violence service provider which illustrates experiences of family violence were similar amongst individuals with or without permanent visa status, however death threats and economic abuse were comparably higher.
Research by Rees and Pease (2007) suggests that the isolation experienced by some women leads to a lack of knowledge about services leaving women more at risk when in Australia due to the lack of family presence, notions of betraying their own culture and reduced trust in services that provide assistance to women experiencing family violence.