249694 Mothers fleeing to the US for safety due to domestic violence: Hague Convention cases & the Latinas' perspective

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 12:30 PM

Luz M. Lopez, PhD, MPH, LCSW , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Gita Mehrotra, MSW , School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Taryn Lindhorst, PhD, LCSW , School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Jeffrey Edleson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Problem Statement and Relevance: Many women come into the United States with their children after leaving an abusive relationship in another country and become involved in a legal dispute under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This may result in wrongfully labeling the mother as a child abductor and children being ordered to return to the abusive parent. According to U.S. State Department records, a high number of incoming Hague cases involve women from Latin America. This study explores characteristics of battered Latinas involved with Hague cases in the US.

Method: Qualitative research methods were used to explore experiences of battered women respondents to Hague petitions in U.S. courts. 21 interviews were conducted, including 4 Latina mothers interviewed in Spanish. Data was coded using a consensual team process and themes were identified through within case and cross-case analysis.

Results: Primary themes included: 1) severe domestic violence that led to decision to flee to the U.S.; 2) inadequate responses to violence in home country; 3) immigration issues and abuser's use of immigration threats; 4) language and legal barriers; and 5) Latina's resiliency.

Conclusions: Latina immigrant women experienced language and legal barriers different from US citizen women facing Hague petitions. Further, Latinas in the study experienced abuse in another country; thus making them ineligible for immigration options available to women who are victimized in the U.S. Recommendations include developing interventions focused on safety, immigration and domestic violence advocacy, and language access for Latina women in transnational relationships.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
1.Describe the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and special considerations in cases of domestic violence. 2.Analyze 3 case examples of severe domestic violence that led to the Latina mothers' decision to cross international borders and come to the United States for safety. 3.Identify 3 public health social work implications for Latina immigrant mothers who fled domestic violence but faced Hague Convention cases and wrongful abduction charges.

Keywords: Battered Women, Latinas

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was a member of the research team for this study and have more than 12 years' experience working in the areas of trauma and domestic violence.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.