From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
In a landmark decision that could affect thousands of immigrant women and children, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday defined domestic abuse as "extreme cruelty" and a cycle of violence that knows no borders.
For the first time since Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, a three-judge panel interpreted key phrasing used in the immigration provisions of the law passed to prevent victims of domestic violence from being held captive in abusive relationships by threats of deportation.
The court defined domestic abuse not only as physical assault, but also as part of a well-documented cycle that includes psychological abuse over time and intermittent periods of remorse and reconciliation.
In doing so, the court stopped the deportation to Mexico of Seattle resident Laura Hernandez ordered by Seattle Immigration Judge Anna Ho and the Board of Immigration of Appeals.
"The 9th Circuit just smacked the INS hard," said Lisa Stone, executive director of the Northwest Women's Law Center in Seattle, a non-profit legal organization for women that represented Hernandez in her appeal.
From the Ninth Circuit decision in Hernandez v. Ashcroft:
Abuse within intimate relationships often follows a pattern known as the cycle of violence, "which consists of a tension building phase, followed by acute battering of the victim, and finally by a contrite phase where the batterer's use of promises and gifts increases the battered woman's hope that violence has occurred for thelast time."...
The literature also emphasizes that, although a relationship may appear to be predominantly tranquil and punctuated only infrequently by episodes of violence, "abusive behavior does not occur as a series of discrete events," but rather pervades the entire relationship...The effects of psychological abuse, coercive behavior, and the ensuing dynamics of power and control mean that "the pattern of violence and abuse can be viewed as a single and continuing entity"...Thus, the battered woman's fear, vigilance or perception that she has few options may persist...even when the abusive partner appears to be peaceful and calm."...The psychological role of kindness is also significant...since in combination with the batterer's physical dominance, such kindness often creates an intense emotional dependence by the battered woman on the batterer...
"Congress clearly intended extreme cruelty to indicate nonphysical aspects of domestic violence. Defining extreme cruelty in the context of domestic violence to include acts that "may not initially appear violent but that are part of an overall pattern of violence" is a reasonable construction of the statutory text at hand. This interpretation is congruent with Congress's goal of protecting battered immigrant women and recognition of past governmental insensitivity regarding domestic violence...