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Mail Order Brides In West Virginia Vulnerable To Domestic Violence

December 27, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Advocates in one part of West Virginia say they are seeing shocking numbers of Internet mail-order brides becoming victims of domestic violence. Catherine Adams, supervising attorney for the Parkersburg office of Legal Aid of West Virginia, says she now has five of these cases of battered immigrants on her desk. She says the women are especially vulnerable because they are essentially alone in a strange place.

"Once there's been an incident where they've been beaten, and removed from the presence of the abuser, they don't have any way to support themselves. And no support system, because their support system may be back in their home country."

Adams says one of these cases can typically take a good deal of extra work to resolve because of translation and immigration issues. And often, she says, there are cultural barriers as well. She cites the case of one woman who came from a background where women are often beaten, whose husband beat her and her child.

"She routinely offered herself up for abuse, so that the child would not be beaten, and thought nothing of it."

Adams says although most of these women are in the country legally, their abusers may use the threat of deportation against them. And she says bystanders are often not sympathetic, believing incorrectly that the women are taking jobs or government benefits that should be going to those born in America.

"Most of the immigrants that we see can't use public benefits. That's often a perception that just isn't true."

Adams says many of those mail-order relationships work out well. But she says an abusive partner will use things like the language barrier and employment issues to keep the women isolated and under control.

Help is available at the National Domestic Violence hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV