Women from BME communities

Women from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities

Domestic abuse 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 abuse may be perpetrated by extended family members, or it may include forced marriage, or female genital mutilation (FGM).

Whatever their experiences, women from Black, Asian or minority ethnic communities are likely to face additional barriers to receiving the help that they need.

If you are a Black, Asian or minority ethnic woman trying to escape from domestic abuse, 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 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, Asian or from another ethnic minority, you may wish to protect him or her (and the community) from police intervention due to your experiences of institutional racism.

Maybe you are escaping abuse 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 (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247 and ask for an interpreter in your first language. 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.

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.

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, Asian 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 (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247. Some local domestic abuse services may provide this also.

You may, however, be concerned that if workers at a local service come from the same community 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 abuse 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, Asian 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”).

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. 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.

Back to The Survivor’s Handbook

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