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Miller-Muro: Protections for Victims of Abuse

On July 27, Roll Call published an opinion piece from Natasha Spivack (“Hearing Reveals Gaps in Domestic Abuse System”) in which she decried false allegations by immigrant victims of abuse. It is concerning that she is the spokeswoman for this issue. Spivack and her company are complicit in personally facilitating the abuse of several immigrant women whom she paired with American men.

Spivack runs Encounters International, a “mail-order bride” company that offers a money-back guarantee to male clients paying $1,850 apiece for membership.

The Tahirih Justice Center has provided legal representation to several women who have suffered well-documented violent and depraved abuse at the hands of Spivack’s clients. Outraged by Spivack’s pattern of repeatedly pairing abusers with foreign women whose English was limited, who did not know American laws and who lacked resources to get help, Tahirih brought a lawsuit against her company.

A jury awarded $430,500 in compensatory and punitive damages to Ukrainian-born Nataliya Fox. (See Nataliya Fox v. Encounters International, affirmed by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.)

Nataliya was viciously abused by the husband to whom she had been introduced by Encounters International. He beat her repeatedly, held a gun to her head and used their infant child and threats of deportation as tools of control. Ultimately, he was charged with attempted murder and arrested after a shootout with police.

The Violence Against Women Act’s immigration provisions, including the battered spouse waiver, enable abused immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens such as Nataliya to escape violent marriages without fear of automatic deportation. These provisions were made necessary precisely to prevent an immigrant’s dependent legal status from being manipulated as cruel leverage to keep her trapped in a violent home.

We certainly welcome earnest and honest attempts to explore ways to improve protections for all victims of abuse, both male and female, citizen and non-citizen. As advocates and Congress look to the law’s reauthorization, protecting victims from violence should be everyone’s paramount concern.

— Layli Miller-Muro, executive director of Tahirih Justice Center

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