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Diversity Politics Scottish Government

Domestic Violence, Varied Experiences…

How are domestic violence experiences among immigrant women different from women they find in their new homeland? Generally, regardless of their originality, social status, race, or ethnicity, domestic violence is likely to occur when there is an imbalance in a relationship. Domestic abuse might not be a one-off incidence, and it might happen again and again, probably getting worse over time, and for many women, it can continue even after the relationship has ended.

Women who have moved to another country could share similar domestic abuse experiences same as women who were born there, but there are some differences in how abusive partners try to get control depending on how they see their victim as being vulnerable. Domestic abuse is an interpersonal relationship that is hard for perpetrators and survivors alike to discuss openly. It is a subject that can be very embarrassing to discuss outside the homestead.

In some cultures, women are not allowed to seek help outside the marriage. Instead, a clan of elders or the church elders are normally called to discuss and resolve domestic violence concerns. It is very probable to have survivors endure violence for a long time with a vast majority of cases going under-reported, especially in cases where their immigration visa is linked to the abusing partner. Surprisingly, even with low reporting, the number of women impacted by domestic violence could still be shockingly high. I have come across few women happy to share their experiences, with few confessing that

“Without the assistance of police and Women’s Aid, they would not have managed to escape domestic abuse. Thankfully, with support at the women’s refuge, they secured legal representation and applied for indefinite leave to remain as victims of domestic violence in their own rights. Ultimately, they were able to escape although others are not always lucky and won’t unless the government changes varied measures”.

In this unprecedented global pandemic, it is understandable why the government is urging us all to stay home. The Coronavirus pandemic means that urgent change is necessary current lockdown measures have made it even more difficult for women to obtain life-saving services. However, as a migrant survivor of domestic abuse, I know that home is not always a safe place. Abusers frequently isolate victims and can easily exploit the current lockdown measures for selfish gain. Although I am not all too familiar with the barriers that prevent many women from fleeing their abusers and securing their personal safety. Sometimes immigration status takes over precedence over safety.

As a migrant domestic abuse survivor, I am aware that leaving an abusive relationship was almost impossible, With no recourse to public funds, feeling isolated from family and friends, gripped with fear of not knowing how I would cope if I left my matrimonial home the only habitat that I knew, and not knowing where I would seek help, or where I would go if I left my matrimonial home were reasons that hindered me from seeking help and could hinder other domestic abuse victims from seeking help.

Mercy Kamanja: Personal Experience

The Coronavirus pandemic means that urgent change is necessary current lockdown measures have made it even more difficult for women to obtain life-saving services. Without access to the refuge and housing support, migrant survivors remain trapped inside all day with their abusers. Due to Hostile Environment policies, they are often terrified of accessing healthcare and or reporting to the police for fear that their information will be shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.

Whilst I’m grateful that I had access to legal aid and application was available to me, many who arrive on a spousal visa, and many survivors on other visa categories do not have access to this route and face further obstacles as a result. Despite domestic abuse experiences, some do not qualify for legal aid and/or a fee waiver and are sometimes forced to pay the £2,389 fee for an application, in addition to legal costs although legal costs could be different today.

In the past, while I was working with a Home Office Immigrant Housing Support Agency in Scotland, I came across cases where several victims of domestic abuse had decided to report their abusers to the police. Despite medical professionals’ reports determining that some victims were at high risk of serious harm of homicide due to their mental health state, sometimes immigration officers failed to investigate their cases properly or to implement meaningful safeguarding measures to protect those victims and others. Instead, suggestions of returning them to their country of origin were raised.

Domestic abuse victims are likely to have low self-esteem, low confidence, largely lacking confidence to leave an abusive relationship even though circumstances could be difficult. They might not feel confident enough to move away to start again or manage to live alone in a new country.

Mercy kamanja

Whilst all victims should be able to report their abuse, it is incumbent upon the government to remove the barriers that prevent migrant women from feeling safe in doing so. Arguably, some of these urgent remedies include scrapping the no recourse to public funds rule and imposing a data-sharing firewall between the Home Office and public services. The Home Office does retain identification documents for the duration of the processing, so some are not able to demonstrate their right to rent and work in the UK. Despite paying for NHS access, some GP’s might refuse to register immigrants without ID or register children to primary school without birth certificates. 

Everyone has the right to live free from domestic. abuse. I am hopeful that the government will secure equal protection for all survivors, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, or immigration status. If anyone is going through domestic violence or other experiences threatening your security including racism, kindly contact the police, report to your GP, or contact Women Aid wherever you might be located. Do not suffer quietly help is readily available.

By Mercy Kamanja

Mercy Kamanja, I am a passionate activist for Scottish Independence, and a voice for underrepresented, hard to reach diverse communities. I belief in equality, fairness, social justice, social solidarity, working as a collective, unity of purpose and amicable conflict resolutions.