Three quarters of refugee women raped

Refugee Council’s report reveals shocking evidence of rape and sexual violence 6th February 2009: Three quarters of refugee women have been raped, either in their country of origin or the UK, a new disturbing report by the Refugee Council shows.

The interim findings of Refugee Council’s project working with vulnerable women who have claimed asylum in the UK shows that 15 per cent became pregnant as a result of their ordeal.

The report also shows that 76% of refugee women were experiencing trauma-related psychological distress while 35% had suffered some form of violence.

It also reveals that 27% had physical injuries, 22% had been sexually abused, and 20% had gynaecological problems as a result of their experiences.

stopviolence1.jpgThe list of sad things happening to refugee women doesn’t end here. The report also shows that 9% had been threatened with rape or sexual abuse while in detention in their country of origin, with 5 % having had a child as a result of being raped.

The Refugee Council’s Vulnerable Women’s Project is a three year scheme funded by Comic Relief working with women who have been the victims of rape and sexual violence, or other extreme trauma, both in their countries of origin and here in the UK. The project has so far supported 153 women.

While rape is recognised under international law as a weapon of war, and is outlawed in all countries, it is still hugely prevalent in many areas of conflict that produce refugees.

When women manage to escape and seek asylum in the UK, they are often faced with further hardships, such as destitution, and a system that often doesn’t recognise their needs. Many women who have experienced severe forms of sexual violence have had their asylum claims refused.

As a result of being refused asylum and living in destitution, many of the women who have come through the Project have become even more vulnerable, resulting in some experiencing further sexual violence in the UK, whether through prostitution or simply lacking a place of safety.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said: “We are all aware that rape and sexual violence are commonplace in conflict situations, and our project confirms this. However, what is truly shocking is that women continue to suffer when they come to the UK. They struggle to tell their stories, many have their claims for asylum rejected, and many end up sleeping rough or forced to rely on others. As a result, some women end up experiencing sexual violence here, the place they thought they would be safe, either by selling themselves to get food and shelter or by ending up in such precarious situations that they are acutely vulnerable to rape and sexual assault.

“This is to our shame. We should be doing all we can to protect these women, offer them help and support, and above all a place of safety where they can rebuild their lives. We hope that through our project we will be able to address some of these issues and help others working with vulnerable women to do the same.”

By Stephen Ogongo

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