Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Judy Lewis, M.Phil and Zita Lazzarini, JD, MPH

Field of Study

Public Health


Master of Public Health

Open Access

Open Access


This study aimed to contribute to the currently scarce literature on unauthorized Latina immigration and intimate partner violence expanding the analysis to include women’s reasons for migrating, their experiences during the migration journey, and the intimate partner violence once they arrived in the United States. Through these women’s voices, this study shows how the lack of migratory documentation affects the experiences of Latina immigrant women. Qualitative data were collected from 11 in-depth interviews with Latin American women that had an undocumented status and received services from five domestic violence programs in Connecticut. A thematic analysis approach was employed to examine the content of each interview and the entire data set. This study documents how Latin American women with undocumented status immigrate to the United States in search of a better life, escaping from poverty and intimate partner violence. Most of the women in this study crossed one or more international borders in their journey to the United States, and were exposed to severe environmental risks and abuses in the journey. These women sought to remain invisible to people’s eyes throughout their migration journey, carrying this invisibility into the United States, living as shadows in their communities. In the United States, they experienced severe obstacles to find safety including fear of deportation if discovered by authorities, the use of their undocumented status by their partners to force them remain in the relationship, fear of losing their children, isolation, and lack of information. These women also experienced physical and sexual violence that led to life-threatening situations. Lack of information about their rights and the social services available to them, combined with fear of being discovered by authorities, make this group of women especially vulnerable to experience violence, as well as being one of the most marginalized and underserved population groups. The findings show how the responses they get from police and social service providers can help or hinder their possibilities for finding safety.

Major Advisor

Jane Ungemack, Dr.Ph