Spain was shocked last week by the brutal stabbing death of a Russian woman, Svetlana Orlova, 30, at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. The murder ocurred after Svetlana was called to a TV talk show, where she was surprised by her ex, Ricardo (against whom she had a restraining order) who proposed to her. She turned him down. He’s now in custody for murdering her. (Video of proposal here, how uncomfortable does the poor woman look?)

This mostly garnered attention for the television element – did the producers properly screen their guests? Is trash-TV (or telebasura in Spanish) getting too reckless in its search for sensationalized content? Reasonable questions.

But I started to wonder how the problem of domestic violence in Spain (and oh, how it is a problem) specifically effects immigrant women. I didn’t have to do much digging to find out that it very disproportionately affects immigrant women.

69 women have been killed as a result of domestic violence in Spain so far in 2007. 26, or almost 40% of those were foreigners. The overall immigrant population in Spain is 8-10% (depending on where you find your stats). So immigrant women are 4 times overrepresented in incidences of domestic violence turned homicide.

An article in El País explains some of the reasons why immigrant women are more vulnerable in the face of domestic violence:

  •  Simple language barriers, which make it difficult to access information and services.
  • A tendency to be more economically dependent on their abusers.
  • Lack of good interpreters in the legal system.
  • The fear of being deported if they approach police for help.

Two years ago, Spain introduced a comprehensive legal reform on domestic violence called the Ley Integral contra la Violencia de Género. But murders related to domestic violence, especially among immigrant women have continued to rise. In fact, the above article cites an Amnesty Internation study which puts the rate of violence against immigrant women as 6 times that of Spanish women. The last reason is especially difficult because many of these women have residency for family reunion reasons, not a work permit, so leaving the “family” may threaten their legal status.

A sad story all around. The President of the Association of Russians Residing in Alicante has asked for a collection to be made to help pay for the repatriation of Svetlana’s body to Saint Petersburg.