Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

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Domestic Violence: Finding Safety and Support - Specific - Populations

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Older Victims of Domestic Violence

Older people can be victims of different types of "elder abuse," including domestic violence. Some women have been with the same abusive partner for many years. The abuse may have started while they were dating, first married, living together, or during pregnancy. Some have been in relationships with non-violent partners for many years, with abuse starting in later life. Others are starting new relationships following a death or divorce.

As with victims of domestic violence of all ages, separating from the abuser is not always the safest or best option. There are many factors to consider when deciding what to do. Older victims of domestic violence have these additional barriers:

As with victims of all ages, separating from the abuser is not always the safest or best option.

Some older people are abused by other family members - often their children or grandchildren. In these cases, many of the same issues exist as with partner violence. These factors can be even worse if the older person is becoming less able to take care of themselves.

Be aware that the law has changed so that you can now get an order of protection from Family Court if you are (or have been) in an intimate relationship with the abuser. See The Police and Courts section of Finding Safety & Support for more information on this and all of your legal options.

Resources are available for older victims of all crimes, including domestic violence. The New York State Office for the Aging Senior Citizens Hotline number is: 1-800-342-9871. You may also visit the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) website.

Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Bisexual Victims

Domestic violence happens to women and men in same sex relationships as well. Women abused by female partners or men abused by male partners may face additional barriers in getting help. Getting an order of protection or calling the police may mean "coming out" each time help is sought. Police, court personnel, and others who an abused lesbian or gay man may go to for help may not have had specific training in same-sex domestic violence.

No matter what your relationship, if your partner has used emotional, sexual, economic abuse, or physical violence to control you, you are being abused. Your partner may try to blame you or give reasons other than her/his own behavior for the abuse. In addition to using any or all of the things heterosexual abusers do, some things lesbian or gay abusers do may include:

threatening to tell your family, co-workers, or government agencies about your sexual preference or orientation;

A domestic violence advocate can tell you about support groups and other services in your community for battered lesbians or gay men.

Be aware that the law has changed so that you can now get an order of protection from Family Court if you are (or have been) in an intimate relationship with the abuser. See The Police and Courts section of Finding Safety & Support for more information on this and all of your legal options.

For more information and a statewide listing of services specifically for lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual victims of domestic violence, visit the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project website .

Teens

Teen dating violence is basically the same as adult domestic violence: it's a pattern of behavior that one partner uses over the other to establish and maintain power and control. This abusive behavior can be emotional, physical or sexual. The abuser will often isolate the victim from friends and family, making her more dependent on him.

Many teens, both boys and girls, use violence. Not all of this violence is teen dating violence. As stated above, when we talk about dating violence, we are not only talking about physical violence. We are also talking about the use of power and control in a dating relationship.

Teens have a unique set of factors affecting their choices regarding dating relationships, including peer pressure, the desire to be popular, lack of dating experience, and mistaking jealous and controlling behavior as "love." Movies, music and video games support the belief that a girl belongs to a guy and that he is the one in charge.

Teens might mistake jealous and controlling behavior as "love."

Parents and concerned others can keep an eye out for teens showing these warning signs:

Be aware that the law has changed so that you can now get an order of protection from Family Court if you are (or have been) in an intimate relationship with the abuser. See The Police and Courts section of Finding Safety & Support for more information on this and all of your legal options.

For advice and more information about teen dating violence, visit the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline website.

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People with Disabilities

The nature of abuse does not change much for an abused woman with a disability. What is different is that the abuser may use the disability as a way to control her. Also, some women with disabilities who are abused may depend upon the abuser or others to help meet their basic needs. Help may be needed with food preparation, medication, finances, personal care, or with adaptive equipment.

An abuser may use his partner's disability as a way to cause physical harm, such as:

The abuser may also use the disability to mislead police and others. Examples include:

When women with disabilities try to escape abuse, there are a number of risks.

Some of the major risks may include:

Some women may be threatened with losing their caregiver if they get help or end the relationship. These women may fear that this loss could result in them being placed in an institution or nursing home.

In some cases, women who are abused become disabled as a result of the domestic violence they experience. In these cases, the victim will face several traumatic things - the domestic violence incidents and the onset of a disability. There will be many challenges and changes that she will have to deal with. Disabilities resulting from abuse can range from actual physical disabilities to more hidden problems, like head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

For more information, visit the Barrier Free Living website.

Immigrant Women

An immigrant is someone who has moved to the United States from another country. The terms "documented" and "undocumented" refer to documents (papers) saying whether someone has the legal right to be in this country or not. Undocumented immigrants are sometimes called "illegal aliens."

Some immigrant women are brought to this country by people who lie to them and promise a good job or an arranged marriage once they get to the United States. When they arrive, however, their money and documents are taken from them and they are forced to work as prostitutes or in other jobs that demean them sexually and put them in danger. This is sometimes called "trafficking."

You have the right to live free from violence in the home whether you are documented or undocumented.

Your abuser may have told you that getting help would get you in trouble but really, there is a possibility that the abuser could be deported if he is arrested and is undocumented. Also, it may be possible for you to get legal status in the United States without the help of the abuser.

If you have a legal status in this country, but do not speak English well, you should know that people are there to help you. For example, the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline can help people in up to 120 languages. Some organizations and services may be able to provide interpretation for non-English-speaking people.

The agency that handles immigration is United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They used to be called Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). As an immigrant woman, you should never call USCIS directly. You should get an attorney who specializes in immigration to help you figure things out. Your attorney can help you contact USCIS if necessary. Try to get an attorney through your domestic violence program.

You have the right to live free from violence in the home whether you are documented or undocumented. If you have been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, help is available. Please do not let threats to have you removed from this country stop you from getting help.

Even if you are currently undocumented, here are some things you can do to get safe:

For more information, visit the Legal Momentum website and the Resources section of this publication.