The University of Wisconsin student organizations DREAMers and Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment hosted a discussion Monday about domestic violence within the undocumented community, an issue the clubs stressed is often misunderstood.
UW senior Heidi Knoche said she attended the discussion because she views it as her social responsibility to learn about the perspectives of those outside of her community, particularly regarding domestic violence.
PAVE’s evaluation coordinator, UW student Delaney Heffner, defined domestic violence as “a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior that is pervasive, like threatening crime, affecting people in all our communities, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, social standing and immigration status.”
Heffner continued to detail how there is a lack of studies and data on undocumented survivors of domestic violence due to the fear of interacting with government institutions. According to the Tahirih Justice Center, 43 percent of legal advocates for domestic abuse survivors reported that victims who are undocumented dropped their court cases for fear of being deported.
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The discussion covered topics ranging from power dynamics within relationships to why it’s difficult for undocumented immigrants to seek legal help if they become victim to domestic violence, and it featured perspectives from a demographically diverse group of students.
UW graduate student and peer advisor on campus Allison Lancaster noted that many people believe domestic violence is a “heterosexual, middle-aged, white people problem,” or see it as problems other people experience.
Lancaster added that many people do not think of this kind of violence as occurring in their own community.
PAVE’s chair, UW senior Kennedie King, added that a common misconception regarding sexual violence is that it only happens in spousal relationships.
“[Sexual] violence can involve parent to child, parent to parent, child to child,” King said.
The discussion also centered around ways students can be more cognizant of the issue. Multiple attendees acknowledged the importance of learning more about the truth behind misconceptions regarding undocumented immigrants and recognizing that domestic violence is something people of all demographic backgrounds experience.
According to their mission statement, DREAMers works with and advocates for undocumented immigrants and students protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who are pursuing higher education at UW. They aim to provide them with helpful resources, along with educating fellow students, faculty, staff and communities on the needs and struggles these students face.
PAVE is committed to preventing sexual assault, dating violence and stalking through the means of education and activism, according to their website.