Domestic violence up, refugee & immigrant populations at-risk

SEATTLE -- A vulnerable part of our community now faces even more difficult times.  Local organizations tell us domestic violence in the Puget Sound has gone up over the past year. It’s specifically hurting refugee and immigrant communities. It’s measured by the number of calls to 911, assaults, and the number of people seeking resources.

“It’s not acceptable in any culture, domestic violence,” said Refugee Women’s Alliance Domestic Violence Victims Program Manager Tigist Negash.


That’s why the Refugee Women’s Alliance of ReWA steps in to help families from more than 15 countries.  But when those families finally make it to safety here in the U.S., Negash says, recent events have made them feel unwelcome and stressed out.  She points to events like a Sikh man being shot for practicing his faith or an executive order banning refugees from certain countries.

“Being refugee or an immigrant right now is a very scary moment because you don’t really know what’s going on and you don’t understand the political situation,” said Negash.

She says that fear leads to abuse, which is why they’re getting twice as many call for help than normal.

“People aren’t really sure so they’re stressing and they’re fighting,” said Negash.

In the first quarter of the year, they normally get 200 new clients.  So far this year, that number has jumped to 350 new clients.

“The more stressed the men are, the more likely to abuse,” said Negash.

And the more likely the police get involved.  Burien’s police chief says aggravated assaults are up 33% and the majority of those are domestic violence.

“We really just don’t have much strategy with domestic violence other than doing everything we can to make sure they’re prosecuted and to make sure the parties are separated and out of danger,” said Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer.

But Negash says just getting someone to call 911 is the first big hurdle.

“Sometimes they’re afraid to call police because of their status. If I call police and I’m not documented or they’re not citizens is this going create different problem for me?” asked Negash.

Then, the language barriers creates another obstacle.

“Sometimes in many different countries domestic violence doesn’t even have a word. It’s just known as a family problem. It doesn’t have a title like domestic violence here,” said Negash.

Negash says they’re working to give the abused a voice, resources to flee their attacker, seek legal action, and survive on their own.