Residency issues play increasing role in domestic violence

Immigration status is being used as a tool to control women in abusive relationships, an advocacy group says.

Immigration status is being used as a tool to control women in abusive relationships, an advocacy group says.
Men are increasingly using residency threats to control partners in abusive relationships, an ethnic women’s refuge says.Women the refuge had supported had endured slapping, strangulation and punching. In one case, a woman had a burning clothes iron placed on her thigh.

They are told if they complain to authorities, they will be deported, advocates say.

From January to June this year, Christchurch’s Shakti Ethnic Women’s Support Group recorded 24 cases of immigration violence involving ethnic women and men – one third of its cases for the year.

In 2014, the refuge saw 35 ethnic women in the same situation, from a total of 136 clients.

Shakti service delivery co-ordinator Masako Ritchie said immigration status was increasingly being used as a tool to control women.

“Women may think that because they don’t have residency they have no rights here. This can be a very good tool for men to control those women.”

Men abused their ethnic partner physically, financially, sexually and spiritually and in some cases threatened to take children away, she said.

Eleven cases, reported between April 1 and June 15, involved ethnic women in a relationship with European/Pakeha men.

Women moving to New Zealand from countries including China, Thailand, Fiji or the Philippines after meeting a Kiwi man online were particularly vulnerable, Ritchie said.

These women often found the relationship and circumstances were different from what they were expecting.

If relationships fell apart, Kiwi men tended to return to the same country to find a new partner, Ritchie said.

Shakti’s administration and community development co-ordinator Ambika Kohli said she had seen a gradual rise in the number of immigration violence cases in Christchurch in the last three years as immigrant numbers increased with the rebuild.

Some women did not even know if they were over-stayers, on visiting visas or permanent residents, because partners controlled their access to passports and they were unaware of the law, she said.

“There is always a threat that ‘immigration will deport you’, ‘you will be arrested, deported’ – this and that. They don’t know what can happen.”

Problems also arose through arranged marriages, sometimes involving parents and an upset daughter, and in cases when both partners were non-residents.

Christchurch Resettlement Services general manager Shirley Wright said it was another form of abuse for women not born in New Zealand.

Some 60 per cent of its clients were migrants. While being resettled into communities, some clients disclosed domestic violence issues or they were referred to the organisation for help.

Opening up about the abuse and managing the issue was not without its barriers, she said.

“It’s always up to the women in these cases to bear the burden of carrying these abusive relationships,” Kohli said.

Neighbours, family and friends were encouraged to reach out and make connections with women to reduce the isolation of them in these circumstances.

Domestic Violence Contacts: For information about family violence, what it is and where to get help, visit the Are You OK? website or phone 0800 SHAKTI and 0800 REFUGE for support.

– The Press

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