Thousands of asylum seekers not reporting rapes due to Home Office stigma and ‘culture of disbelief’

We recently got featured on The Independent! The following is an excerpt from the article. Read the full article here.

“Women Against Rape, which provides legal advice to victims, found two-thirds of asylum-seeking women using their services were destitute.

All the women surveyed had endured rape or other sexual violence in their home country but only one-third had been able to report the rape when claiming asylum.

Women Against Rape say the women who reported rape faced “hostility, stigma and discrimination” which included not being believed in spite of compelling evidence of the violence they experienced. 

Sian Evans, who runs Women Against Rape’s Refuge from Rape and Destitution Campaign, said the sample for this study only includes 52 women seeking asylum but it only represents “the tip of the iceberg”.

She said women making asylum claims are sent all around the country and often end up in areas where they might be the only black and ethnic minority female. 

Ms Evans added: “This is just a small sample of the women who find our way to us. We have worked with thousands of women. Women in this position are very isolated. They are living on the street with no money to travel to services. They are scared of anyone knowing their problems because their immigration is not sorted and they are terrified of being deported. They are suspicious and frightened. They are invisible. It is a really hidden experience. Some are warned by their lawyer not to mention their rape because they won’t be believed. Even when women do report, the Home Office routinely disbelieves them, and they are denied legal aid, proper representation and expert evidence to appeal. Women’s claims are closed without the rape they have suffered and its devastating impact being considered. They are made destitute as a result. Without any means to survive, a number of women we surveyed described being raped in the UK because they were forced to depend on people who abused and exploited them.”

The hostility faced by rape survivors who claim asylum is so bad most women are too frightened to report the abuse they have undergone, Ms Evans added.

She said any woman reporting rape is “very vulnerable” to discrimination and racism from the Home Office – adding the “number one way” such reports are treated is with disbelief.

Ms Evans said cuts meant legal aid lawyers were “up to their eyeballs” with work and recalled an instance where a legal aid lawyer said to a woman: “No, don’t even start telling me about rape, because if you start adding that in now, they won’t believe you.”

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