Domestic Violence Initiative

Who do we help?

We help immigrants that have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior when one intimate partner or spouse threatens or abuses the other partner.  Abuse may include physical harm, forced sexual relations, emotional manipulation (including isolation or intimidation), and economic and/or immigration-related threats.  While most recorded incidents of domestic violence involve men abusing women or children, men can also be victims of domestic violence.

Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, even with your spouse, and can be committed by anyone.  It can include unwanted exposure or touching, rape (or attempted rape), and other crimes.

Why do we help?

Immigrants, particularly women and children, are at greater risk of experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault.

Studies show that immigrant women and girls in the United States are twice as likely to experience domestic violence than the general population, and they’re less likely to leave their abusers due to fear of immigration consequences, such as being separated from children.  Immigrants face unique barriers in accessing social and legal services such as language, isolation, lack of knowledge of the U.S. law, and distrust of authority.

How do we help?

If you are a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, there are laws that can allow you to retain or gain legal status in the United States.

Our Domestic Violence Initiative advocates on behalf of immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Pennsylvania to enable them to obtain lawful status for themselves and their families, relief from the threat of removal, access to resources and support and work authorization to enhance economic security.

Our advocates are trained and experienced in working with survivors of trauma from diverse cultures and are able to provide services in a wide variety of languages.

The Domestic Violence Initiative provides free immigration legal services in areas of law including, but not limited to:

• U Visas
• T Visas
• Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Self-Petitions and Battered Spouse Waivers
• Work Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouses
• Removal defense for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault

Click here for an overview of protections for immigrant victims.

Need help with an immigration matter?

The first step towards a solution is to consult with one of our advocates. 

To schedule an appointment, contact the Domestic Violence Initiative by phone (215-832-0900) or email (

The Domestic Violence Initiative also offers trainings to service providers.

Our advocates offer trainings to legal, social and health service providers, community groups, and law enforcement agencies regarding the immigration options for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  For more information, contact Stephanie Costa, Esq.

Looking for additional information? Click here for Immigration Law Basics for Domestic Violence Advocates.