Heres the link to Rights Talk and the Experience of the Law by Sally Engle Merry if you need to refresh your memory:


A newly wedded couple is having a dispute which ends up having the police being called for domestic violence. The man’s story was that the woman slipped on the wet floor because of the aggressive manner she approached him during their dispute. The woman’s story was that the man threatened to hit her by raising his hand at her, she fell on the floor trying to avoid it, and that was when she decided to call the police. After the police arrested him and took him in for questioning she retracted her statements and did not want to press charges.

In a case like this the woman would be seen as a “bad victim.” Bad victims are those that have a  case largely based on allegations that cannot be proven. They also do not pursue their attempts to press charges against their partner. But, there was another factor that came into play, both are undocumented. Merry notes that, “resistance often stems from a sense of self that is deeply at odds with other senses that are rooted in family, religion, and community.” That taken into consideration I think that the woman knew what was to come from the community and wanted to stop it but it was too late. In undocumented communities police involvement is something that is not welcomed.

This couple lived in my community, which was very diverse and was very church oriented. It is interesting to note the reaction of law enforcement and the court. Both seem to not care what the case is as long as they get the offender out of the country. I’m not sure why the woman was not deported, but I’ve heard rumors of them living together again in Mexico. What was more noteworthy, was the reaction of the church community which we attended. The community sympathized with the male and condemned and even disowned the female. I even got around to hearing that the reason she called the police was because she was mentally unstable.

Hispanics are the largest growing minority in the United States, a substantial amount of this adult population is undocumented. When something goes wrong, who protects these women, and even more who protects all undocumented? In a community largely affected by immigration status it is seen as foolish and ignorant to get the police involved in any matter not just allegations of domestic violence. These women have it even harder than those who are in the United States legally to speak out but they condemned even more and cast out by their own community, never being praised by the legal community for doing the “right” thing.

Perhaps this is a major reason for having so much violence surrounding the communities of the undocumented. If people are trying to collect a debt they’re not going to file a lawsuit, they will resort to violence. It was disheartening to see the reactions of these people so devoted to religion. In this case I sensed that many of them had a secondary reaction to the abuse the woman was getting rather than to him being in custody for being undocumented. The woman is seen as a traitor to the undocumented community which is why she disappeared until she returned to Mexico.

It is not right but the community was able to sympathize with the man because even if he may have raised his voice and threatened her, he has risked everything to provide for her. It is usually the male that comes to the United States, establishes roots and then brings the rest of the family over by paying a coyote or if they’re lucky, someone they know and trust. There should be groups readily able to help all women going through abuse not just those we assume to be the “norm”.

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  1. jenny9213 says:

    It is terrible the way that the Hispanic community views the battered woman. It enrages me that their not protected or even sympathized with in their own community. It saddens me that as a Hispanic woman she know’s that domestic violence is never reported. It is so common that the woman keep it quiet and under no circumstance should she speak of it. I find it repulsive the way women in the Hispanic community are shaped since their childhood to never report domestic violence. Great Post.

  2. darrian01 says:

    The fact that battered women in the hispanic community are not protected is appalling and sad. Although many of the women who fall under this category are not documented, the government should still protect them. They should still have the same rights as documented Americans, because even though they may not be “legal” doesn’t mean they haven’t helped support America’s economy. The U.S should have something somewhat like the militaries old “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, so that these women could report their abusive spouses.

  3. Tracy Encizo says:

    Having done some research into battered immigrant women, I can say that most of them live in fear of being deported, separated from their children, and without any means to provide for their children. And if their man is deported they may be left without any means of support. Yes, the Government should protect these women but as long as deportation and especially deportation that breaks up parents and children is a real threat, reporting their abuse is not going to be a safe option. As a society, we need a mechanism that is separate from immigration arm of the law and one that would offer safe haven to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

  4. cindylyon says:

    It saddens me to read this post. I do not think this is a phenomenon restricted solely to the Hispanic community, though. While we can all agree that this is terrible and a shortcoming of the U.S. Government, I’m curious to know if anyone feels as if a solution could be derived from any other parties involved? The first thing I thought about when reading your post was that not only did the government fail this woman but also her community. Could we as citizens not do something to help if we feel the government has failed to do so? For instance, I know in certain parts of India, women have come together and pooled their resources to start community kitchens. Here, women and their children can acquire a quality meal two times a day and sometimes the kitchens sponsor other activities like laundry, etc. It gives the women an independence that they otherwise lack. It can even be a sort of refuge for some. The reason I bring this up is because these kitchens were created outside the perview of the government, to make up for something the government was not offering. They are even (in some instances) technically illegal. But the community has recognized a problem and come together with a sort of solution. I admire that.

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