0808 2000 247 Free phone 24 hr National Domestic Violence Helpline Run in partnership between Women’s Aid & Refuge
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Women's Aid - The Survivor's Handbook - Women from Black and ethnic minority communities

Women from Black and ethnic minority communities

You can listen to this part of the Survivor's Handbook (mp3)

Domestic violence affects women from all ethnic groups, and there is no evidence to suggest that women from some ethnic or cultural communities are any more at risk than others. However, the form the abuse takes may vary; in some communities, for example, domestic violence may be perpetrated by extended family members, or it may include forced marriage, or female genital mutilation. Women from Black or minority ethnic communities may also be more isolated, or may have to overcome religious and cultural pressures, and they may be afraid of bringing shame onto their 'family honour'.
 
If you are a Black or minority ethnic woman trying to escape from domestic violence, your experiences may be compounded by racism, which is pervasive in the UK. You may be unwilling to seek help from statutory agencies (such as the police, social services, or housing authorities) because you are afraid of a racist response. You may be disadvantaged because you are Black; or you may find that service providers are basing their responses on particular cultural, ethnic or religious stereotypes. In some cases, they may avoid intervening for fear of being perceived as racist. If your partner and abuser is Black, you may wish to protect him or her (and the Black community) from police intervention due to your experiences of institutional racism.
 
Maybe you are escaping violence from other members of your family (for example, your parents or parents-in-law) rather than, or as well as, your partner or husband. You may be afraid of rejection from your own community if you ask for help. It may be particularly hard for you to admit to having problems with your marriage, and you may experience additional pressure from your extended family to stay with your partner. You may even have been forced or persuaded into marrying him in the first place. If your marriage fails, it may be seen as your fault, and you may be blamed for damaging the family honour; and you may be afraid that, if you leave your husband, you will be treated as an outcast within your community.
 
Getting help
 
If you have recently arrived in this country, or if your first language is not English, it may be much harder for you to understand the systems of support available or to access appropriate sources of help. You may be unaware of support services and not know where to go. You could ring the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge. The helpline is a member of Language Line and can provide access to an interpreter and suggest organisations in your area which can help you.

If you have approached an agency for help, and do not speak English fluently, they should offer you an independent interpreter; ask for this if it is not offered to you. If you are unhappy with the interpreter or are afraid they may breach your confidence or pressure you in any way, ask the agency to change the interpreter. Only use a trusted friend or relative to interpret for you if it is an emergency and no one else is immediately available.
 
If your immigration status is insecure, or is dependent on your remaining with your husband or partner, you may feel trapped and believe there is nothing you can do, or you may be afraid to approach anyone for help in case you are deported. (If this is your situation, see the section on Immigration issues for more information.)
 
Whatever your immigration status, you have a right to health care and to protection from the police. You also have the right to apply for a court order (injunction) to protect you from your abuser. See Getting an injunction for more information about applying for a court order.

Specialist provision
 
You may prefer to get support from someone from the same ethnic, religious or cultural group as yourself. There are a number of specialist services for women from Black and minority ethnic communities. Some of these are listed at the end of this section. Others you can access via the National Domestic Violence Helpline (see above). On the other hand, you may be concerned that if workers at a local service come from the same cultural group as yourself, they may also know your family, and it may be easier for your husband, partner or extended family to trace you. You should have the choice whether to use a service specifically for Black, Asian or other minority ethnic women, or to use a general service.
 
All domestic violence organisations within the Women's Aid network offer a service to women of all ethnic groups, and some provide services addressing the particular needs of women from Black and minority ethnic communities. There are also refuge organisations which will provide you with accommodation and support you even if, due to your immigration status, you have no right to live permanently in the UK or to claim welfare benefits (this is termed 'no recourse to public funds'). See the section on Immigration issues for further information.
 
Forced marriage
 
If you fear you may be forced into marriage overseas, or know someone else who may be, the Forced Marriage Unit may be able to help. You could call one of the following numbers: 020 7008 0151. You can also contact the organisation at fmu@fco.gov.uk. All calls and emails are dealt with on a totally confidential basis by skilled caseworkers who are fully aware of the cultural, social and emotional issues surrounding this abuse.
 
The following organisations may be able to help you further:
 
Southall Black Sisters: Resource centre mainly for Asian, African and Afro-Caribbean women. It provides advice and information on domestic violence, racial harassment, welfare and immigration rights, and matrimonial rights. It provides face-to-face support and case work for women in the London Borough of Ealing, but also deals with enquiries on a national basis. Phone: 0208 571 9595. Email: sbs@leonet.co.uk. Website: www.southallblacksisters.org.uk
 
Aanchal: Helpline for Asian women experiencing domestic violence. Languages spoken include: Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujerati, Tamil and Urdu. Phone: 08454 512 547, every day 24 hours.
 
Chinese Information and Advice Centre: For Chinese people on a low income, or who have difficulty communicating in English to access mainstream support services. Domestic Violence Line: 0207 462 1281; Legal Advice Line: 0207 462 1285.
 
Turkish Cypriot Women's Project: Offers help with emergency housing, children, injunctions against violent partners, welfare benefits, health care matters and other issues related to domestic violence. It provides a free service for any Turkish-speaking woman living in London. Phone: 0208 340 3300. Open Mon - Fri 10am - 5pm.
 
Newham Asian Women's Project: Based in the London Borough of Newham. The Project supports South Asian women who are experiencing domestic violence and offers a Resource Centre, refuges for women and children, counselling services and projects for teenagers and young women. Telephone: 020 8552 5524. Email: info@nawp.org. Website: www.nawp.org
 
Jewish Women's Aid: Provides a number of different services including a helpline, floating support and outreach for Jewish women and their children. London based. Freephone Helpline: 0800 59 12 03 9.30am - 9.30pm - Monday to Thursday.
Office phone: 0208 445 8060, Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm.
 
Multikulti: Provides information and guidance on housing, immigration, health, welfare benefits, debt, education and employment in a variety of languages. Website: www.multikulti.org.uk
 
NSPCC: Has separate child protection helplines in a variety of Asian languages: Bengali 0800 096 7714; Gujurati 0800 096 7715; Hindi 0800 096 7716; Punjabi 0800 096 7717; Urdu 0800 096 7718. Website: www.nspcc.org.uk
 
For services offering information for asylum seekers and refugees, and on immigration generally, see the section on Immigration issues.