A phenomenological study of undocumented Latina survivors of intimate partner violence

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This study undertakes a phenomenological examination of the lived experience of undocumented Latina survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). This study served two purposes. First, to provide a greater understanding of this experience through the lens of the survivors, drawing on feminist and empowerment theories. Second, to explore why underreporting is more prevalent among undocumented women versus U.S. women citizens, especially during a time of heightened fear of deportation. To answer this, several questions were used as probes. These included: how the lived experience of IPV had impacted women’s decisions to leave or not leave an abuser; what motivators influenced their decision to report their IPV to law enforcement; what barriers prevented them from reporting to law enforcement; and how women navigate social support systems. Fifteen undocumented survivors of IPV were recruited using a convenience sampling process. Through their stories of abuse, several themes and sub-themes emerged. Themes included multiple forms of violence, impediments to reporting, facilitators for reporting, adverse experiences in dealing with the court system, and experience with help-seeking in public, non-profit, and informal sectors. Study participants reported difficulties and obstacles related to leaving an abusive relationship and gaining access to services. Through their search for safety and assistance, the inventiveness and resilience of these women could be inferred and discerned. Implications are offered for future research, policy, and practice.




Social Work


State University of New York at Albany