Written by: Pia Subramaniam (UK’s Immigration Advice Service).
Domestic violence and abusive relationships are prevalent all over the world. Five women are killed by their abusers every hour while one woman dies within the four walls of her home every three days in the UK alone. There has been a shocking increase in sexual harassment, forced marriage and human trafficking as of late, too.
However, on January 21, 2019, the UK Government released its draft Domestic Abuse Bill which gave campaigners and human rights activists new hope for better protection for our women, girls – and men – enduring domestic abuse. The draft offers to extend and change existing policies that have heavily doubted and overlooked victims in the past. It contains a new statutory definition of domestic violence that includes non-physical, emotional, and financial abuse as well as a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, extended protection orders, victim-centred considerations, and finally, the prohibition of cross-examinations of victims by their abusers in family courts.
As much as the bill has made positive changes and contributions, the coalition Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) has pointed out that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), refugee and migrant victims are more or less excluded from these new reforms and protection. Migrant women, as well as women of colour are mostly affected by domestic abuse and face additional barriers as a result, yet they receive less support from the UK government. One of the reasons for this is because these survivors often require more financial, as well as intensive and/or specialist support due to the type violence they face. With their insecure immigration status, migrants have no access to public funding nor social housing. When they do find a way to escape the misery, fleeing their UK Sponsor’s home potentially jeopardises their legal residency and the terms of entry into the country. This is because migrants on a Married Partner Visa must be accommodated for and financially supported by their British partner. Survivors on a UK Spouse Visa therefore fear to speak with the authorities as they worry the Home Office might threaten them with deportation – which the police have been reported to practice. In a 2015-2016 statement, 27 out of 45 victims who reported their abuse were sent to immigration enforcement by local police forces. According to Amnesty International UK, the Government feels victims “may best be served by returning to their country of origin”. However, this will never be an option for refugee women as they claimed asylum in the UK due to persecution and life-threatening living conditions in their home country.
Several victims of domestic violence feel trapped and keep the abuse they face a secret. For some migrants, domestic abuse is often seen as a taboo subject in wider parts of the world – simply returning them to their country of origin actually puts the victim in harms way as families may blame the victim or turned to ‘honour-based violence’ to shame them. And, more often than not, many are even unable to identify their relationship as abusive or fear the authorities won’t care about their case. There is a plethora of reasons why migrant women sweep their hardships and abuse under the rug, but large proportions of migrants stay quiet due to inadequate or unconfident English language abilities, and even fear of prejudice and racism by police forces. Some even seek a Spouse Visa extension to strengthen their immigration claim as they would be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain – and their freedom – after five years continuous residency with their spouse. The overarching result is women are putting up with life-threatening violence while hoping for a secure, independent and happy life in the distant future.
A solution for a faster achievement of their justice and freedom is to seek a Spouse Visa curtailment and inform the Home Office of this decision as soon as possible. This way, migrant victims of abuse can still achieve Leave status after a divorce and their legal residency in the UK would not be at risk. After this crucial step, they can apply for the Destitute Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession in which survivors may receive financial support and housing for up to three months, providing they can submit evidence of their financially destitute situation and of the abuse they faced. Unfortunately, these escape routes are barely known to many migrants, which serves the best interests of the abusive offender.
A worrying event that is approaching in the near future are the drastic changes and reforms of EU immigration laws after the UK’s departure from the European Union. The new reforms may most likely lead to less support and protection for European victims. At the moment, if EU nationals are unable to provide the necessary documents and therefore fail to achieve Settled Status before 2020, they may fall through the cracks of the system. In years to come, victims of abuse may be confronted with harsh and stricter immigration rules or even punishment if found to be residing in the UK unlawfully.
While the draft Domestic Abuse Bill does mark a monumental change and progress in its support for victims of domestic violence, equality and justice for all women remains in the distant future. The UK government has massively reduced Legal Aid and closed refuges and crisis support teams all across the country which all serves as damning evidence that the current rights and protection for women and girls are not even close to sufficient.
The new bill is indeed a positive step forward, but human rights activists and campaigners continue to strive and fight for reforms, further funding to local refuges and advanced specialist support. A reexamination and consideration of the misery and life-threatening violence migrants face is desperately required in order to protect the lives of our most vulnerable, as we are all citizens of this planet and need to help one another.
Pia Subramaniam is a content writer and correspondent for the UK’s Immigration Advice Service. IAS is an organisation of leading immigration solicitors, providing free legal advice to victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking across the country. |@IASimmigration
If you would like to write content for White Ribbon UK please e-mail us.
On behalf of the EVAW Coalition, we have been asked to pass on this very important message regarding the necessity for rape counselling support for survivors, and ask all our followers to sign the petition for change:
Today (8 March, International Women’s Day) 25-year-old Fern Champion, who was raped in 2016, has launched a petition, and written to the Prime Minister asking her to ensure there is always specialist rape counselling support available for everyone who seeks it.
Fern, who has waived her anonymity to put her name and face to the petition, was raped repeatedly one night by a stranger while she was travelling overseas. The attacker was never caught, but when Fern returned home to the UK and sought counselling, she was told her local Rape Crisis Centre’s waiting list was closed due to a funding shortfall.
Fern tried repeatedly to get counselling over the next eight months at several centres but always found they were full and unable to help. Her mental health seriously deteriorated and she faced a potential crisis, but was unexpectedly, and unusually, offered support by her private sector employer.
Author Linda Green has very kindly donated a signed copy of her book, “After I’ve Gone” to White Ribbon UK. The book is set partly in Mytholmroyd (where White Ribbon UK offices are based), and tells the story of Jess, who was subjected to domestic violence by her boyfriend.
If you would like to be in with a chance to win a signed copy of the book, click the link below, register your details and answer the competition question.
Your data will not be used for anything other than to contact you if you win. We will not pass your information onto any third parties, or contact you for any other reason.
Closing date for the competition is May 15th 2019.
The winner will be announced at the White Ribbon Conference 2019 on 5th June.
“After I’ve Gone” is available on Amazon, and part of the royalties from sales of the book will be donated to White Ribbon UK.
David Tennant (actor, Broadchurch, Doctor Who) spoke at Care International’s March4Women last weekend in London.
Wearing a white ribbon, Tennant read out a testimony from White Ribbon ambassador, John Clough.
John started the Justice for Jane campaign after his daughter was murdered by her ex-partner.
John’s words are heartfelt, moving, but above all motivate us as a campaign to do more in our work against violence towards women:
Since Jane’s death, I have actively campaigned for change in the Criminal Justice System…
Together we have continued to be a voice for victims. For victims like my daughter, Jane. My daughter had so much love to give. Not just to us as her family, and her own child, my granddaughter. But to someone who would treat her with respect, and allow her to shine in her own right.
Every girl, every woman deserves that respect.
(Excerpt from John Clough’s testimonial, read by David Tennant at March4Women 2019)
John says he embraces the values that White Ribbon UK holds - to end all violence against women, once and for all. And shares the belief that men and boys must join this critical conversation, and be a vital part of the solution.
As ambassadors for ending the violence, and indeed as men, we must hear these words as a call to action. To no longer allow violence against women to be seen as a ‘women’s issue’. This is everyone’s issue and if we are to have any hope of creating a safer world for women, we must do this together; and with conviction.
International Women's Day is Today.
White Ribbon UK is about men standing up against violence towards women and girls. We cannot do this without listening. As men we cannot support women at all without listening.
So for IWD2019, instead of posting something insightful or any sort of 'call to arms', we simply ask that all ambassadors and indeed any men that follow the campaign do one thing: listen.
Share this article to encourage men to do the same, ask how you can support women in the fight against inequality and violence against women.
Do this in real world conversations, posts on social media, etc.'; and just listen.
Please note: This application process is now closed
White Ribbon UK are seeking new trustees to support our important work. Our organisation is led by its Board of Trustees, who are responsible for the governance and strategic direction of the campaign. We are particularly interested in hearing from individuals, who are committed to our aims, with competence and interest in governance, campaigning and policy development, fundraising, finance or media and communications.
About the campaign
Our mission is to end male violence against women, once and for all.
We work with men and boys to challenge those male cultures that lead to harassment, abuse and violence. Our volunteer ambassadors engage with other men and boys to call out such behaviour among their peers and promote a culture of equality and respect.
We call on all men to take a stand against sexism and gender-based violence in all forms.
Board meetings take place at our office in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, from 6pm. There are up to 7 Board meetings per year. In addition, trustees are expected to hold at least one sub - committee membership with three to four additional meetings per year.
All trustees are expected to become a White Ribbon UK ambassador or champion.
This role is unremunerated but reasonable out of pocket travel expenses will be reimbursed.
Our trustees must have:
a commitment to ending male violence against women
a willingness to devote the necessary time and effort
good, independent judgement
an ability to think creatively
a willingness to speak their mind
an understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities of trusteeship
an ability to work effectively as a member of a team and to take decisions for the good of White Ribbon UK
By being a trustee, you will be working towards changing the cultures that can lead to male violence against women. You will play an integral part in the good governance of White Ribbon UK, ensuring that we remain viable and sustainable as well as keep closely to our mission so that we continue to make a real difference through our work.
This is not only great opportunity for you to share your skills and experience with us but also to build upon this and extend and develop your skills. You will be able to extend your professional contacts and become part of our team.
How to apply
Please note: This application process is now closed
To apply to be a Trustee of White Ribbon UK, please provide the following:
A letter of interest explaining your motivation for applying, your interest in the role and how you meet the requirements for the position of Trustee. This should be a maximum 2 sides of A4, minimum 10 point, Arial
An up-to-date CV
Closing date: Monday 11 March 2019
On International Men’s Day last year, the World Forum for Democracy heard from various speakers on a number of events. Our President, Chris Green OBE attended and gave a talk on what men can do to challenge the cultures that give rise to male violence against women internationally and here in the UK.
Open Democracy recently wrote about the Forum and Chris’s involvement which can be viewed here.
It’s men’s responsibility to stop gender violence, and since men listen a bit more carefully when the message is spoken by other men, we need to challenge each other to do better.
If we want to see change, we need to mobilise large numbers. We need to reach music venues, sports clubs, universities. Celebrities speaking out is great, but we want police officers, bus drivers, the whole community to embrace our values. It’s baby steps.
Chris Green OBE (President and Founder, White Ribbon UK)
Our Founder and President, Chris Green OBE is currently in Ghana, meeting with White Ribbon Ghana representatives. Excellent, inspiring yet under funded work is being done by these people:
They are providing outreach into rural areas of the Volta region, which have been highlighted as needing work on violence prevention. Campaign activities have included a district White Ribbon sponsored football tournament with awareness raising PA announcements, speeches and white ribbon badges presented, as well as many individual sign ups and contacts taken for the Men's Development Group. Banners and posters will be displayed in the future to keep the momentum going.
Another visit involved the community inviting the campaign to make presentations, have a question and answer session with village elders, and have most of the village take the pledge and commit as a community.
The campaign is also partnering with faith groups to take the message of men challenging and speaking out about violence against women and girls.