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Domestic Violence: Statutes and Legislation:

Address Confidentiality Program


Notable legislative changes effective July 1, 2012, are highlighted below.  For the full text of these Code sections, please click on the link to go to the Code of Virginia.  Please note that this list is not inclusive of all Code sections related to the Address Confidentiality Program.

§ 2.2-515.2Address Confidentiality Program.













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Domestic Violence - Immigration Laws

Domestic violence reaches all segments of our society. Unfortunately, many people who come to America with hopes of better lives find themselves in abusive relationships. Because their right to reside in the United States is dependent on their spouse's status as a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may be afraid to seek help. Immigrants who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault should know that HELP IS AVAILABLE.


Isn't this a family matter that is best kept within the family?

Although most people who are abused first turn to friends and family for help, domestic violence is against the law. In addition to the police, there are various services available to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

What can I do?

You can call the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238. Someone is available to speak to you at any time. The call is free and confidential.

You can call the police. If you are being hurt, you can call 911 and the officer will help you. When the officer arrives, you may ask the officer to transport you to a hospital, shelter, or magistrate. A magistrate is an officer of the court who can issue emergency protective orders and warrants.

You can ask for a protective order. Protective orders are orders from a judge or magistrate to the abusive person to stop the abuse. Protective orders also can require the abuser not to contact you or to allow you to use a vehicle that you and the abuser own together.

Will I have to leave my home if I seek help?

No one will force you to leave your home. If you choose to stay, you should talk to someone from a domestic violence organization to determine the best way to stay safe while at home. Call the Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 for more information. You should know that most victims of abuse believe that leaving was the most helpful way to achieve safety.

Will I be deported if I seek help?

If you are undocumented or are unsure of your immigration status, you should talk to an immigration attorney. In any case, calling the Hotline will not place you in danger of deportation, and police will help you if you call them in an emergency.

Even if you are reported to authorities, you will have the opportunity to tell authorities about the abuse. "Cancellation of removal" is available for some victims of abuse when deportation proceedings have already begun. Remember, your safety is important. Get help and be sure to speak to an immigration attorney.

Can I get a green card without the help of my spouse?

Victims of abuse who are married to U.S. citizens or LPRs can file for their residency status (green card) on their own behalf and on behalf of their children. This is called the self-petitioning process.

How do I self-petition?

You must complete an immigration form and file supporting documents. There is also a fee to apply, but you may be eligible for a fee waiver. Please talk to an immigration attorney for additional information and assistance.

Can I get a work permit?

Yes. Self-petitioners and their children who have been approved through the self-petitioning process are eligible for a work permit.

I can't afford an attorney. What do I do?

There are several organizations serving Virginia that offer immigration assistance for free or for a low cost. Click here for a list of names and contact information for these organizations. Also, someone at the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 may be able to refer you to other places that assist immigrants.

What if my spouse is not a U.S. citizen or LPR or I was never married to my abuser?

You may be eligible for a U type visa when they become available. U visas will be available for victims of all crimes if they have information that will be helpful in the prosecution of the perpetrator of the crime and have suffered substantial injury. Again, speak to an immigration attorney for more information and assistance.
For more information, visit the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) web site.

end faq


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Domestic Violence - Batterer Intervention Programs

Why Does Someone Use Violence in a Relationship?

People use violence to exert power and control over another person. They might have learned such behavior through the violence they witnessed in their families. This is one reason why family violence tends to continue from one generation to the next.

If you use violence in your relationship, or if you know someone who does, consider contacting a Certified Batterer Intervention Program for assistance. Batterer intervention programs are designed to help people change their abusive behavior. A court may order offenders to a batterer intervention program as a term of probation under Va. Code § 18.2-57.3.

Goals of Batterer Intervention Programs Include the Following:

  • Stop the violence and prevent the reoccurrence of future violence, while ensuring victim safety.

  • Identify abusive behaviors.

  • Teach alternatives to violence.

  • Explore the impact of violent and abusive behavior on intimate partners, children, and others.

  • Assist individuals in examining the beliefs they hold about violence.

Under the Virginia Standards for Batterer Intervention Programs:

  • Everyone who completes a Certified Batterer Intervention Program receives a minimum of 36 hours of group services over 18 weeks.

  • If referred to a Certified Batterer Intervention Program, individuals are assessed for drug/alcohol dependency and severe mental health issues. Referrals are made to treatment if necessary.

  • Certified Batterer Intervention Programs can help to ensure that victims are offered services, informed about the Batterer Intervention services, and are notified if the individual leaves or completes the Program.

  • Certified Batterer Intervention Programs charge a fee, but they provide services to indigent clients.

  • Staff of Certified Batterer Intervention Programs must have 32 hours of initial domestic violence training, in addition to 12 hours of annual continuing education.

For more information on certified batterer intervention programs in Virginia, please visit the Virginia Batterer Intervention Program Certification Board at www.vabipboard.org







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Domestic Violence - Sexual Assault

Sexual assaults and rape occur when someone has sexual contact with another against another person's will, by force, threat or intimidation or by taking advantage of another's mental incapacity or physical helplessness. Many people still think of rape only as a crime committed by strangers who "jump out of the bushes." In fact, most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. According to criminal reporting statistics from the Virginia State Police, the majority (71%) of forcible sex offenses reported to law enforcement in 2007 were non-stranger offenses.  Of these offenses, approximately 28% involved offenses committed against family or household members or intimate dating partners.  In addition, nearly two-thirds of the reported victims, both male and female, were under the age of eighteen.  (Virginia State Police, Crime in Virginia, 2007 (2008)).

At one time in Virginia, a person could not be found guilty of raping a spouse, unless they were living separate and apart or the defendant caused bodily injury to the spouse by the use of force or violence. This was referred to as the "marital rape exemption." In 2002, through the efforts of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the statute was amended by the General Assembly to eliminate the marital rape exemption. 

In addition, marriage was once an absolute defense to statutory rape where the perpetrator married the minor victim. Effective July 1, 2008, the subsequent marriage of an adult to a minor (14 years of age or older) is not a defense to statutory rape of that child.

"Date Rape Drug"

Many people are falling victim to sexual assaults and rape by the use of drugs. The popular "date rape drug," Rohypnol, incapacitates victims and prevents them from resisting sexual assaults. Rohypnol can be easily crushed and dissolved in liquid. It is tasteless and odorless, and can be slipped into people's drinks without their knowledge. A single dose of Rohypnol as small as 1 mg. can produce effects for 8-12 hours after ingestion. The drug causes "anterograde amnesia." This means that individuals are unable to remember events they experienced while under its effects. Therefore, someone could have been raped while under the influence of Rohypnol and not even be aware that it happened.

In 1996, the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act was enacted to address the problem of "date rape." The law provides penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and fines for persons who intend to commit a crime of violence (including rape), by distributing a controlled substance to another individual without that individual's knowledge.

Physical Evidence Recovery Kits

Physical Evidence Recovery Kits, or “PERK” exams, are performed by health care providers on victims of sexual assault to obtain and document physical evidence of the crime.  Prior to July, 2008, victims were required to report sexual assault to law enforcement or pursue criminal charges in order to obtain PERK exams at no cost.  Effective July 1, 2008, however, participation in the criminal justice system or cooperation with law enforcement is no longer required in order for victims to be provided with PERK exams free of charge.   

What to do if you need help

If you are a victim of sexual assault, please take these steps:

  • Make sure you are safe.

  • Call the police and someone you trust for support.

  • Contact the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-838-8238or your local sexual assault crisis center.

  • Do not bathe or change clothes. You might destroy evidence.

  • Even if you are unsure if you want to file a report, seek medical attention. Ideally, you should be examined by a trained forensic nurse examiner. You also should be examined for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

How You Can Help

Whether or not you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, you can help combat sexual assaults and domestic violence.

  • Become educated about sexual assault and domestic violence. Your local sexual assault crisis center and domestic violence program can provide information in addition to the information on the OAG's web site.

  • Make financial or in-kind contributions to local sexual assault crisis centers and domestic violence programs.

  • Volunteer at local sexual assault crisis centers and domestic violence programs.

  • Support victims and survivors. Listen if someone confides in you and do not blame them for what happened.

  • Teach your children that no one deserves to be abused.