VAWA stands for Violence Against Women Act. But don’t let the name fool you. VAWA can be an option for men.
I had a consultation recently for a man from West Africa. He and his wife had filed for him to get his green card several times and had always been denied. It looked like they were about to be denied yet again.
He explained to me how they had been denied for avoidable reasons: something hadn’t been filed correctly, he didn’t respond to a Request for Evidence, or she didn’t show up for their interview at the Atlanta Field Office.
He also told me that they weren’t currently living together. She would stay at their home for a few weeks, but she’d go away for a few weeks and he wasn’t sure where she was.
Since she also wasn’t there for the consultation, I was honestly a little worried about their relationship. Were they truly husband and wife or had they gotten married for the green card?
I told him that USCIS would need to see a lot of proof that they were living together and that they truly knew one another as husband and wife, and I wasn’t sure that they could do that with how their relationship currently was.
Then he told me more about their history – they’d been together for five years – and I started to think about his case in a new way.
He told me how she overdrew their bank account on a regular basis, how she treated him like an inferior because he wasn’t educated in the United States, how she threatened to call the authorities and have him deported, how she called him demeaning names and insulted him how he looked and acted.
As he opened up, I could see the genuine hurt and despair come to the surface. It was clear that his wife had put him through misery. He’d been afraid to talk about it because he thought he needed to show that he and his wife were in a strong relationship in order to win their case with immigration.
I told him that I thought we had the foundations for a Violence Against Women Act case. VAWA doesn’t require physical abuse – it requires a showing of extreme cruelty, which includes emotional and mental abuse. In his case, this involved immigration threats, financial ruin, manipulation, and control. What he was telling me met the basic criteria for VAWA.
Unfortunately, experience has shown me that VAWA for men can be harder to win because of the bias we have in society. We don’t generally think of men as “victims.” But they certainly can be. Just because they may not always be able to show physical scars doesn’t mean they don’t have deep emotional and mental scars. It’s harder to show, harder to document, and it’s certainly hard to talk about, but that kind of damage to a person is just as real as any broken bone or bruise.
VAWA can be an option for men. Don’t let the name fool you.
Extreme cruelty takes on many different forms and if you are being threatened, treated like a slave, or forced to do things you don’t want to, it may be time to talk with an immigration attorney to see if you have options.