October 6, 2015

International students face unique challenges in domestic disputes

By Shu Yu Lin

International students often have to rely more heavily on their friends and partners than other local students who have family nearby. Because of this reliance, international students in relationships with other international students can be more prone to domestic violence as there is an increased amount of pressure that both students may face.

This past semester, an international student at Cleveland State encountered this serious problem.

A senior, who asked that her name be withheld, had an argument with her boyfriend this spring that led to him physically harm her. The issue began as a small verbal confrontation but quickly escalated.

“We had a difference in opinion and he became disrespectful,” she said. “He started using many profanities and was trying to provoke me by throwing things towards me. In order to try and get him to stop, I approached him and slapped him.”

After she slapped her boyfriend, his rage increased and he began pushing her.

“After being pushed once, I fell to the ground and before I could regain my footing, he continued to push me,” she said. “He was laughing at me and acting like a bully. He completely forgot that the person in front of him was a girl.”

“He threatened me and promised me he would make the issue bigger until I [couldn’t] bear it anymore and go back to my country,” she added.

The student was living with her boyfriend at the time, which made the domestic violence issue more complicated and difficult to deal with. She was lost as to what her options were.

Although it was a big problem, she did not want to get the police involved as she thought it could lead to legalities that may cause her boyfriend to get deported.

“I contacted a lawyer online and he suggested that the best move was for me to take this to the police, which I knew that I should do,” she said. “The lawyer also said that [I] could probably get a restraining order placed against him, which I didn’t want to happen because he could be forced to stay off campus or at worse, leave the country.”

To this concern, Harlan Smith, the director of International Studies, said, “In my experience, immigration concerns are rarely given as a reason for not reporting domestic violence.”

International students often feel that they lack the number of solutions that domestic students have available when facing problems such as domestic violence.

“[This] is a once common perception that is really a myth,” Smith said. “International students have all the same access to resources as would a [domestic] student.”

What international students do not have readily available in many instances is “a reliable, local support network and people who can help them make it through the trauma of domestic violence,” Smith said.
International students often travel a long way to attend school in America. The problems that they have to face in their time abroad are problems that they have to face alone, without any family nearby.

Additional trouble occurs when that partner is no longer trustworthy. If a student relies on that person for so long and then finds that they can no longer do that, issues may arise, and that student might be at a loss for what to do.

Victims of domestic violence at Cleveland State can turn to the Office for Institutional Equity. The Office for Institutional Equity can take measures on a university level to ensure the safety of Cleveland State students and also to properly reprimand those that commit acts of domestic violence.

“To date, we have not had any official complaints,” Yulanda McCarty-Harris, director of the Office for Institutional Equity and Title IX coordinator, said.

Section XI of the Procedures for Investigating Complaints of Discrimination and Harassment, which is the handbook for the Office for Institutional Equity, states, “Appropriate corrective action may range from counseling, written reprimands, removal of University privileges, suspensions, or other action up to and including termination or expulsion, in accordance with established University rules.”

All students in the U.S, including international students, are also protected under Title IX, which is a federal law that prevents sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. Title IX gives international students options that allow them time to recover from a reported case of domestic violence.

Title IX states that international students can get approval from their university to take a course-load less than the normal full-time amount to help them take time off and recover from a domestic violence issue.

Domestic violence is not always predictable, but it does occasionally happen.

“We recommend that a student call the Office for Institutional Equity and CSU police, or Cleveland Police, if the incident occurs off-campus,” McCarty-Harris said.

Although there have not been any complaints filed at CSU, the Office for Institutional Equity has dealt with several undocumented cases and helped provide those students with the appropriate information and materials.

“The administration has a duty to look into these matters regardless of whether or not a person chooses to file criminal charges,” McCarty-Harris said.

Gary Lewis, chief of Cleveland State police, said that Cleveland State wants to keep all students and staff informed about domestic violence and keep them safe from it.

According to Lewis, the Cleveland State police are also ready to act to on any report of domestic violence on campus.

“Incidents that occur on campus fall under the scope of duties of the CSU Police Department, which is prepared to conduct a thorough and complete investigation of any such incident,” Lewis said.

For a discussion of this story, visit The Cleveland Stater on Facebook.

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