WAR’s Refuge from Rape & Destitution Campaign co-ordinates fortnightly, sometimes weekly, collective self-help sessions. Taking stock in the Spring of this year, we decided to focus on bringing the power of campaigning to women’s legal cases, individually and collectively. We started a new round of sessions helping women understand and document their cases, so that they can go to the public with their campaign for justice.
Here’s the first in our new series of blog posts tracking four women’s progress as they participate in the sessions. Here we introduce Ms V from Uganda, who hasn’t been able to speak about the rape and other domestic violence she suffered before fleeing.
“I have been disbelieved and dishonoured, kept in limbo like a car ticking over. If I was able to stand on my ground, I would be helping someone like me.”
Attending her first session, Ms V presented her draft case summary based on our Self-Help Tool No. 1. We thought she needed to spell out more what stage her case is at in the asylum process and whether she was getting any legal help now. Our test for a good summary is that you could give it to someone next to you in the bus queue and they could understand your case and see the injustice you’ve suffered.
Ms V explained that she had already made an asylum claim but hadn’t been able to report the rape and other domestic violence she fled from. When her claim was refused her lawyer applied for a Judicial Review, but as she described,
“The Home Office said it would look again at my case if I withdrew. It seemed to accept that there was a problem with its decision. But was it safe? I said to my lawyer, “I want to hear from you, what will be the consequences if I withdraw?” The solicitor said he agreed with the Home Office to withdraw. I respected his words and agreed. But when I was refused again by the HO the lawyer dropped me.
I went to an advice centre and they encouraged me to get a boyfriend. They told me the only way to stay in the country was to find a man. I said no, my dignity is more important. I will never have a man touch me for that.”
It turned out that after a series of unhelpful lawyers, Ms V did now have someone helping her, but they didn’t know about the rape and domestic violence she had suffered. Ms V took away her summary to add in the new information she had told us so that she could give this to her lawyer.
“What I learned from this session is that if I want people to see my problem, I have to say what is hurting me. If I want people to help me, I have to tell them”.
Our session on 8th October at Crossroads Women’s Centre