Addresses on the I-360 VAWA Application

Relocation from one country, or one State, to another

If a friend came up to me, feeling guilty for being unfaithful to her husband, I would not berate them. I would not shame with terrible names or wound with criticism of how irresponsible actions broke a family apart. If they moved to get away from the pain, only to find that the lover did not move with them, I would not say, “You deserve that bad karma.”

Yet, this was how I behaved. To be clear: I criticized myself for years for being unfaithful to my husband. I felt ashamed for not only causing a divorce, but also wanting a divorce. When I moved to another part of the country and my lover did not move with me, I looked in the mirror and said, “Et voilà.”

The urge to hide or mislead with wrong information on Form I-360 can be tempting due to survivors’ shame and guilt, but the true information is needed to win the case. The application for immigration benefits under the Violence Against Women Act, Form I-360, asks about addresses, be specific about dates and places. We all need to constantly remind ourselves: mistakes are part of being human. 

Residence Together Between Abuser and Victim

Abusers toss survivors out like yesterday’s trash. Or they walk out on the survivors, because they know it makes them feel like yesterday’s trash. When a survivor cannot “make them stay” (in the words of Taylor Swift) that does not make the residence any less valid. Survivors — do not beat yourself up for past mistakes but do provide us, for VAWA Form I-360, all the places you lived including hotels and friends’ homes used for couch surfing. Take it from this 50ish year-old attorney who learned it the hard way: better to show yourself self-compassion and accept that you are a mess than be a self-critical perfectionist who will die believing that they can control everything.

A perfectionist kicks themselves when they drop a plate. They say nasty things to themselves when they spill a drink. These people want to appear as if, in the midst of their mistakes, they are perfect because they knew they should not have behaved as they did. These are not fun people to be around. Self-criticism builds like steam. Incapable of taming frustration, the self-critic will release their bad mood on the nearest person, usually someone they love.

Dates of Living Together

Moving away is part of the fight or flight instinct. Survivors learn quickly that fighting is not an option. So, what we do is flee. Leave the city. Leave the state. Leave the country. When we ask survivors for the dates they lived with the abusers for Form I-360, we need honesty. We have won VAWA cases where the abuser and the survivor lived together for less than a week after marriage but lived together for months before marriage.

My personal decisions hurt many. Although unfaithfulness has many causes, I will not excuse mine. I will, however, hug myself warmly and say, “You did your best, my friend.” It remains our wish that survivors reading this hug themselves, too.

Disclaimer – These entries are based on real life events. Family member names, when used, are real. Client names are changed for privacy.

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