VAWA Protection for Abused Spouses and Children
Immigrant spouses and children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents have, in the past, been vulnerable to abuse by the very people who should have been helping them adjust to life in the United States and successfully complete the process of receiving U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card.) Until the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, all the abuser had to do was threaten to stop helping the immigrant get a green card, and the abuser had a powerful method which which to assure that the immigrant would remain quiet and compliant. Fortunately, VAWA undid this power dynamic, by creating a means for the immigrant spouse or child to "self petition" for the green card or otherwise take control of the process at a later phase -- provided that the immigrant is able to prove the history of abuse.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When looking for help, remember to consider how private your computer, Internet, and phone use are and whether there's anything you can and should do to prevent other people from monitoring them.