Can Only Women Use a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Petition?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was designed decades ago to make it easier for women to use immigration as a means to escape domestic violence and cruelty, usually at the hands of their spouses. As the Act’s cosponsor, Joe Biden, noted in 1994 when it was first introduced, “[…] the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children […]” Does that mean that VAWA petitions can only be used by men? Not at all, actually.

As Biden also explained in 1994, “Nothing in [VAWA] denies services, programs, funding, or assistance to male victims of violence.” An official press release from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women later clarified further that VAWA is available to any potential immigrant who is a victim of domestic abuse “regardless of gender.” This added explanation has been used recently to open VAWA petitions to individuals who do not identify as male or female. It is unknown at this time if an official change will be made to VAWA to be clearly inclusive of more than two genders.

Who Can Use VAWA?

VAWA petitions are used to remove eligible people from domestic abuse that is carried out by a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). Men and women – and potentially people of other genders – can self-petition, which means they can file without needing anyone else involved in the process. This note is crucial because it makes it easier to keep the petition confidential and without risking the abuser learning about it.

You can use a VAWA self-petition if you have been abused by a:

  • U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who is your spouse, ex-spouse, or parent
  • U.S. citizen who is your son or daughter

A successful VAWA petition will provide the petitioner with a Green Card with special restrictions. It essentially allows the petitioner to stay in the United States on their own accord and start a new life independent of their abuser. Some petitioners might benefit from coordinating with law enforcement or spousal abuse shelters to make plans about how and where to begin their new life.

VAWA Acknowledges Male Abuse Victims

For decades, if not centuries, men have been belittled when reporting domestic abuse, cruelty, and neglect. Far too often, they have been told to “man up” or “stop complaining.” VAWA’s intentional decision to be inclusive for men despite the specificity of its name is an attempt to undo the unjust social biases and stigma surrounding male abuse survivors. It acknowledges that men can be abused by female partners, male partners, and their own children and that they should not feel guilty about it.

Do you want to know more about VAWA? Do you need to use a VAWA petition in Omaha, Nebraska as a man, woman, or someone who identifies as a separate gender? Please call (402) 810-8611 when it is safe to connect with our VAWA attorneys from Carlson & Burnett. We keep all phone calls completely confidential for your privacy and protection.

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