Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

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Domestic Violence


Domestic violence is abuse that occurs between people who know each other. It can happen between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, gay and lesbian partners, even between parents and children. Although statistics indicate that a majority of domestic violence victims are women, both men and women can be victims of abuse. Since it is such a serious and dangerous issue, it is important to understand what domestic violence is, and to know what resources are available to victims of domestic violence.

What is domestic violence? Domestic violence happens when one person, the “abuser”, uses fear and intimidation to control the other person. The fear can be from actual abuse or threats of abuse. Abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse; verbal abuse; emotional abuse/intimidation like property damage and control, threats, or stalking; isolation; financial abuse; neglect; sexual abuse; immigration threats; and threats to or regarding children.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you must understand that you are not alone, and it is not your fault.

Protecting yourself and your children: Your first priority is the safety of yourself and your children. You can protect yourselves by calling the police if you are in immediate danger, finding a safe place to stay, getting counseling and legal assistance, and getting medical treatment if you are physically injured because of domestic violence.

Legal Options: Even if you are undocumented, you have many of the same family law rights. You can ask for a divorce, child custody, support, etc. There are also various immigration remedies for victims of domestic violence.

Restraining Orders: If you are in immediate danger you may need a restraining order—a legal paper that says your abuser cannot contact or come near you. You can get these even if you are undocumented. Sometimes the police can help you get an Emergency Protective Order (EPO), a criminal restraining order that is valid for a few days. There are also civil restraining orders: a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), or a more permanent Restraining Order (RO). Keep in mind that you may have to face your abuser because he/she has the right to come to court and disagree with your request for a restraining order. You can also ask for temporary child custody, support and property protection orders in your civil restraining order case.

What happens to the abuser? If you call the police and your abuser is arrested, he/she may go to jail for a few days. Depending on how serious the abuser’s actions were, he/she may be ordered to attend counseling and batterer’s treatment program, or may be ordered to spend several months or years in prison. Your abuser may be deported if convicted of a serious domestic violence crime. If your immigration status depends on your abuser (for example, you are married to your abuser and he/she is a citizen or green card holder) consult an experienced immigration attorney right away.

Leaving the abusive relationship: If you have decided you want to leave your abusive relationship, and you have time to prepare, think about taking the following: Identification documents of you and the children, such as birth certificates, passports, green cards, social security cards, driver’s license; financial documents, including bank and credit card statements, apartment lease, house deed, work information, car registration; marriage certificate; medical and school records; proof of abuse (such as photographs of injuries, your journal or diary); and money and jewelry.

Supporting yourself after leaving your abuser: Many resources exist to help survivors of domestic violence. Domestic violence shelters provide free temporary housing, food, and social services to help you become more financially independent. United States citizens and certain immigrants can apply for benefits like welfare and food stamps. Even if you are undocumented you may be eligible for certain emergency medical or pregnancy care, and your U.S. born children may qualify for certain benefits. To support your children, the other parent of your children can be ordered to pay child support if you get a court order. You can do this through a divorce or legal separation case, a paternity case if you are not married to the other parent, or through a civil restraining order case.  


Our helplines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: discrimination, family, immigration, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights. 

English: 888.349.9695
中文: 800.520.2356
한글: 800.867.3640
Tagalog: 855.300.2552
ภาษาไทย: 800.914.9583
Tiếng Việt: 714.477.2958


Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.