What Happens To The Abuser VAWA?

by | Mar 4, 2024

You might already know that VAWA is a law that helps protect people from abuse. But, have you ever wondered what happens to the people who do the abusing in these cases? It’s something that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but it’s super important to understand the whole picture.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at what VAWA is and how VAWA not only keeps victims safe but also makes sure that abusers face consequences for their actions. Whether you’re someone going through a tough time, a friend or family member trying to help, or just curious about how this law works, we’ve got you covered. We’ll break everything down in a way that’s easy to understand, so you can get all the info you need. Let’s get started on this important journey together!

What is VAWA?

VAWA stands for the Violence Against Women Act. It’s a law that was made to protect people from abuse. Even though it says “Women” in the name, it’s important to know that it helps everyone, no matter their gender. This law gives special support and protection to victims of abuse, especially when the abuser is a family member or someone they live with.

How does VAWA Protect the Victim?

VAWA offers protection to victims in several ways. First, it lets victims apply for legal status in the United States without needing the abuser to help them. This is huge because it means the victim can seek safety and independence without fear. VAWA also helps victims get connected with services like counseling and legal help, so they’re not alone.

What Happens to the Abuser in VAWA Cases?

In cases under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the focus is primarily on protecting the victim and providing them with a path to legal status and safety without the need for cooperation from the abuser.

However, VAWA also has implications for the abuser, especially when it comes to legal consequences and accountability. Here’s what generally happens to the abuser in VAWA cases:

  1. Confidentiality for the Victim: When a victim files a VAWA self-petition, the process is confidential. This means that the abuser is not notified of the petition. This confidentiality is crucial for the safety and protection of the victim. However, this does not directly affect the abuser until further legal actions are taken based on the abuse.
  2. Investigation and Legal Action: If the abuse reported in the VAWA petition is also part of a criminal investigation, the abuser may face criminal charges. These charges can lead to arrest, prosecution, and, if convicted, penalties that may include fines and imprisonment.
  3. Restraining Orders: Victims of abuse may also seek restraining orders or protective orders against their abusers. These orders can prohibit the abuser from contacting or coming near the victim. Violating a restraining order can result in immediate legal consequences for the abuser, including arrest.
  4. Impact on Immigration Status: If the abuser is a non-citizen, being convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other serious crimes can affect their immigration status. They may face removal proceedings (deportation) and be barred from re-entering the United States.
  5. Loss of Custody or Visitation: In cases where there are children involved, the court may determine that the abuser’s parental rights should be limited. This can result in the loss of custody or visitation rights if the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child’s safety and well-being.
  6. Public Record: If the abuser is convicted of a crime, this becomes part of their public criminal record, which can have long-lasting effects on their employment, housing, and overall reputation.

It’s important to note that the specific outcomes for the abuser can vary significantly based on the details of the case, the evidence available, and the legal jurisdiction. VAWA provides a mechanism for victims to seek safety and legal status independently, but it does not directly punish the abuser. Punitive actions against the abuser would follow the usual legal processes for dealing with the alleged crimes.

How do you qualify for VAWA?

To qualify for VAWA, you need to be the victim of abuse by a family member who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. This can be a spouse, parent, or child. You’ll need to show that you’ve suffered abuse and that you have a relationship with the abuser. You also need to prove that you’ve lived with the abuser at some point and that you are a person of good moral character.

How do you file a VAWA petition?

Filing a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petition allows victims of abuse by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child to seek safety and independence in the United States. Here’s a straightforward guide on how to file a VAWA petition, designed to be understandable at a 9th-grade reading level:

Step 1: Gather Evidence of Abuse

Collect any evidence you have of the abuse. This can include:

  • Police reports or restraining orders
  • Medical records showing injuries from abuse
  • Emails, texts, or letters that show abusive behavior
  • Witness statements from friends, family, or professionals like doctors or counselors

Step 2: Prove Your Relationship

You need to show that you have a qualifying relationship with the abuser. This means providing:

  • Marriage certificates (if the abuser is your spouse)
  • Birth certificates (to prove relationships with parents or children)
  • Any other legal documents that confirm your relationship

Step 3: Prove You Lived Together

Gather documents that show you and the abuser lived together. These can be:

  • Lease agreements with both your names
  • Bills or letters addressed to both of you at the same address
  • Statements from neighbors or friends confirming you lived together

Step 4: Show Good Moral Character

You need to demonstrate that you are a person of good moral character. This usually involves:

  • Background checks or police clearances
  • Letters from friends, employers, or religious leaders vouching for your character
  • Any documentation that shows community involvement or volunteer work

Step 5: Fill Out the Form I-360

The I-360 form is the official VAWA petition form. You can download it from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. Fill out the form carefully, following all instructions. Be honest and provide as much detail as possible about your situation.

Step 6: Write Your Personal Declaration

This is a written statement where you tell your story. Explain:

  • How you met the abuser
  • The nature of the abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.)
  • How the abuse affected you and any children involved
  • Why you are seeking help under VAWA

Step 7: Submit Your Petition

Once you have all your documents and your form filled out, mail your VAWA petition to the address provided by USCIS. There is no filing fee for a VAWA petition.

Step 8: Wait for a Decision

After you submit your petition, USCIS will review it. They may contact you for more information or to schedule an interview. It can take several months to get a decision, so be patient.

We’re Here To Help with your VAWA self-petition

At North County Immigration, we understand how tough and confusing the process can be. That’s why we’re dedicated to helping victims of abuse navigate their VAWA self-petitions. Our lead attorney, Anna Hysell, has the expertise and compassion to guide you through every step of the process. We believe in standing up for the rights of victims and ensuring they receive the protection and respect they deserve.

If you or someone you know is considering a VAWA self-petition, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to offer support, answer your questions, and help you move forward towards a safer and more secure future.

Remember, you’re not alone, and there is help available. Let’s work together to make a difference.

Contact us today!

By Anna M. Hysell

Ms. Hysell is the founding and managing attorney of North County Immigration. After graduating from law school at the University of Wisconsin and getting several years of experience, Ms. Hysell returned to her native Southern California to open an office in North San Diego County to serve clients from the Bay Area to the Mexican Border. She frequently speaks at law conferences, law schools, and workshops providing training to other lawyers. Ms. Hysell is committed to representing individuals with the resolve, compassion, ethics, and values she believes everyone deserves.