How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer
Welcome to our guide on How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without a Lawyer! We hope it will be helpful to you. However, while you’re reading it, we want you to remember two things.
- First, you are a strong, powerful, and valuable person. Whatever you are facing, you can overcome it. Hopefully this guide can help you. If sometimes it feels too overwhelming, put it away. If you feel you can’t make it, take a rest. Take your time. You are strong. You can do it!
- Second, your safety comes first. Please make sure you read this guide in a safe place, when you are alone. Don’t take any risks. You will find more specific security information below — please, treat it as a priority. You are valuable, you have to take care of yourself. As a precaution we included a quick exit button on the top of every page — use it whenever you feel it is not safe for you to read the guide anymore. If you suspect someone might be spying on your computer you can find it useful to take a look at this guide. If you are reading this in print — use the “fake book cover” to hide the guide. You can download them from here: http://chayn.co/how-to-build-your-own-case/
- Thirdly, if you’ve read this guide and have questions regarding your case, you can ask them in our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/chaynagainstabuse
Keep checking back at http://chayn.co/how-to-build-your-own-case/ for the latest version of the guide.
- Take care of yourself, but don’t be scared — you can make it!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How to use this guide
- Collecting Evidence
Types of Evidence
- Preparing Your Case
Timeline of Abuse
Report from Agencies
Staying safe online
- Thanks & How to Contribute
“I wish I had this when I started out, I had collected some evidence although I will add the police refused to take the audio evidence, I believe ‘How to build your own dv case without a lawyer’ will benefit anyone who is in the process and also help educate those in case they should ever need it. Excellent.” — OP, survivor.
“I wish I had read it ten years ago. It has better advice in it than I have been ever given by any solicitor or the police about collecting evidence. I could have had TONS of evidence. If anyone is in an abusive relationship or has just left one, I would advise a read of it….”
“The guide is clear, concise, easy to understand and straight to the point… I will recommend it to anyone , even if you are represented by a solicitor…” Johana R, survivor.
“Wow, yes, it really is an eye-opener.” NU, survivor.
“When my battle of abuse began, social media and search engines weren’t a big thing then, so I went into everything completely blindsided. If “How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case”, was available to me at that time, it would have made a world of a difference in not only empowering me with the knowledge and strength I needed to get through, but it would have done the same for millions of other women out there fighting the same battle. This is definitely a tool for survival”
Christine Taylor, Organiser of Domestic Violence support group
“I have just read your ‘How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case’ manual. It is very good. As an immigration practitioner I am overwhelmed by people who need help and cannot fund solicitors etc. Helping such potential clients help themselves and thereby reduce costs/preserve funds for application fees and appeal costs is excellent.”
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
IS THIS GUIDE FOR ME?
If you are a victim of any form of domestic violence or abuse, and have limited access to resources, you can use this guide as a tool to help build a case against the perpetrator without having to spend money for legal counsel. You can find more information about what constitutes domestic violence and abuse below, as well as on the Chayn, Chayn India and Chayn Pakistan websites. Although this guide is meant primarily for those suffering from domestic violence, you may still find sections of this guide useful if you’ve endured or are enduring any injustice. If you’re worried about someone close to you, you can use this guide to help them.
In one line: this guide tells you how to build your own case if any injustice is being/has been done to you, without the help of a lawyer.
Although it is a useful tool in collecting evidence and building your case, and can help you reclaim your rights without legal counsel, the guide cannot fully replace specific legal advice relevant to your case. Therefore, if you can afford legal counsel or are appointed one, please make sure to make the best use of it. If you sought legal counsel, but were refused help, this guide can help you convince a lawyer to take your case, by collecting and presenting your evidence.
If you are unsure whether you want to take legal action, you can still use this guide to collect evidence and keep it safe in case you need it in the future.
Some of the language in this guide may seem like it is written just for women but in reality it can be used to help anyone facing domestic violence in both heterosexual and same sex marriages and relationships. The information also applies to you if you are facing abuse from your parents or siblings.
The general advice we provide in this guide is designed to help you build your case, aid in holding the perpetrator accountable, and exercise your rights wherever you live. The Chayn team is also working to develop country-specific guides, which will provide more detailed information on the legal and cultural framework and ways to get help in particular countries.
In some countries, you may be eligible for free legal advice provided under a Legal Aid scheme. However, there are number of resources at the back of this guide that can assist you in seeking legal help. If there is no information about your country, then you can turn to a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation/charity) — even if they do not have experience or expertise in domestic violence cases, they can still point you in the right direction.
What can you use the guide for?
This guide aims to help you exercise your right to:
- take legal action against the perpetrator
- escape an abusive relationship
- get a divorce
- secure child custody
- apply for asylum
- any other scenario where you need to prove the abuse you faced
- for your own record.
Legal systems and procedures can be complex, slow, and rigid. We strongly believe that preparing the right evidence and presenting it well will enable you to effectively overcome these obstacles.
There are many instances where bringing a criminal case against your abuser is not feasible or is dangerous for you. In that instance, use this guide to make a case for your own record. You never know when you may need it.
If the Police are bringing a criminal case against an individual or individuals who have committed or are currently committing abuse against you, you should provide them with all the information this guide has helped you collect. The Police will also obtain information which they need and might interview you to ensure that they have your personal evidence/statement. If you can, obtain a restraining order. If the police are unwilling to investigate your case, you can turn to organizations that help victims of domestic violence bring their cases to court, through civil, criminal, or community court. Depending on where you are, there might be a list of useful organisations available here.
The section on presenting the information will be most helpful to you if you are putting together a case relating to their immigration status and other agencies. However, you can also use this section to present your case to the Police, the Prosecutor, or any organisation assisting you, in order to maximise the chances of their involvement in your case, even if they are initially unwilling to.
You may have suffered abuse, are working through a legacy of abuse, or are still working through abuse right now. It’s important to remember that you don’t deserve to be oppressed, you deserve respect.
You take real action towards making a future for yourself in the present by seeking help from people and resources like this guide that uphold your rights.
WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Domestic violence is a type of mistreatment and includes physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. There are different types of domestic violence: it can occur in a lot of different ways, and it can happen to anyone, in any kind of relationship.
If another person’s actions put physical, psychological, or emotional strain on you, or if you feel hurt in any way and at any time, you might be experiencing abuse. Abuse is a recurring phenomenon and can be inflicted by anyone including your partner, parents, siblings, children, relatives, and in-laws. You can find more information about what constitutes domestic violence and abuse below, as well as on the Chayn, Chayn India and Chayn Pakistan websites.
While there is no internationally agreed definition of domestic violence, and different countries have different definitions, for women, United Nations defines “violence” as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering”. Some countries extend this definition, and recognise that emotional harm and financial control can be part of this abuse, as well as ‘honour’ based violence, Female Genital Mutilation, and forced marriage. In some cultural contexts, forced/child marriage or marital rape can be very controversial issues. Regardless of where you live, you should collect evidence of any such events — they can prove useful in building your case later on.
If you are facing any of the above forms of abuse from your intimate partner, family or in-laws: whether physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, or financial, this guide has been created for you. It is designed to help you collect and present evidence of the abuse. Collecting evidence is extremely important — you can use it when filing for divorce, pressing criminal charges against the perpetrator, or applying for asylum.
While you should not rely on this guide to win a case or as the only guide for every legal scenario, it can be a helpful resource for you. If you seek legal help, this should speed up the process of preparing your case.
We’ve put as much information as we can in the guide. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, close this guide. Take a break. Come back to it and start again when you feel you can. You will be fine.
You can do this!
WORKING THROUGH THE GUIDE
In each section of this guide, you’ll first find:
- A summary that tells you the basics of what you need to know. If you are in a hurry you can just read this section.
- Detailed section with more tips and explanation
- A template or example
At the end of this guide, you’ll find the resource Appendix with useful templates and links of organisations that can help you.
In the sections below, we have outlined the basic guidelines for collecting and presenting evidence. Regardless of the specific nature of domestic violence or the laws in your country, collecting this type of evidence and presenting it effectively will ultimately support your case. If you wish, and if you are unable to collect evidence, you can still leave the relationship and bring a case against your abuser. We have put together general tips for planning an escape which you can see attached in the appendix.
Collecting evidence is crucial, and it is best to start as early as possible — while you are still in the abusive relationship. The following sections will provide you with practical examples of the kinds of evidence that can be useful and of how to collect it. You may also find that even when you were not actively collecting evidence, you still have important things that can help your case.
There are different types of evidence you can provide: from various statements, legal documents, letters and reports, to visual and audio evidence of abuse. All these kinds of evidence are useful, so it is important that you collect them and document the abuse and related events (e.g. police intervention, court orders, getting admitted to a refuge) in as much detail as possible.
The more exact you are in your details, the more persuasive your account becomes (e.g. what curse or abusive words did he use? When did they start locking you up or restricting you in other ways? When did you start feeling threatened in any way?). If you have not left the abusive house yet, consider keeping a diary where you record little incidents. These can then be presented as evidence for any purpose. If you are concerned the perpetrator will find and read your journal, consider creating a confidential online journal like Penzu.
Being as detailed as possible will also help support your case if the perpetrator, or anyone else, attempts to cast doubt on your evidence by denying occurrences. So for example, if they deny sending you an abusive message, claiming you are mistaken, you will have the proof to hand. Abusers may try to question evidence by casting doubt on the accuser’s state of mind, trying to make the accuser seem confused, or mentally unstable. This is known as ‘gas lighting’. Stay strong and stick to the evidence you collect — it will serve as proof that you are telling the truth and that all your accusations are justified.
You may even find that things you don’t think count as evidence are useful, and things that you do not think are relevant may be very important to your case. It is always better to have something and not need it than the other way around.
If you still feel like you don’t have any evidence to collect or present — then discussing your situation with a trusted friend might be a good idea. They may be able to spot evidence sources that you may have overlooked. It may seem daunting at first, but it will get easier. Just think about all the times your abuser has wronged you. How many times has that happened in front of other people? Have they threatened you in a text or online message? There may be pieces of evidence scattered everywhere. You just need to find them! Use this guide to plan how to collect the evidence. You can do this!
The way you present evidence can make a huge difference for your case. The evidence is there to tell a story — your story. Keeping it organized will help you make your voice loud and clear.
If you are presenting the evidence in a legal setting it is useful, because courts are usually oversubscribed and underfunded. But even if you aren’t, you should still keep it organized!
Make sure you present the evidence clearly, including all relevant information. It is important that your evidence is well-organized, to make it easier for people reading it to comprehend and make sense of it. In the following sections, we will provide you with step-by-step advice on how to build a strong evidence folder.
TYPES OF EVIDENCE
Evidence can take a number of forms. As there is no such thing as standard evidence, the evidence you submit will be specific to your case. Also, remember, that just because your abuser engages in psychological or verbal abuse does not mean that it is not abuse and there are ways to collect evidence for it. Keep reading the guide and you’ll find out how to do it!
The following section will take a legal approach to evidence. Don’t let this stop you from making use of it. Not all kinds of evidence will be relevant for your case, but it is useful to know how a court categorises it. If you feel overwhelmed at any point by this section, skip it and jump to evidence types.
For most court settings, there are 5 different types of evidence:
1 — Documentary
2 — Physical / Real
3 — Hearsay
4 — Original
5 — Testimony
 Documentary Evidence
This consists of documents and reports which have been produced for inspection by the court. These may be items of real evidence, original evidence or hearsay.
These are the kinds of reports you can include:
- Any formal report or letter from your hospital, nurse, doctor, therapist or masseuse to attest to your mental or physical state. They can also be witnesses to an incident e.g. your partner shouting at you in the hospital or accompanying you to a checkup.
- Any bill, conviction, incidence report, or warning by police to your abuser
- Any criminal case against your abuser or one that your abuser has lodged against you
- Letter from any organisation that supports survivors of domestic violence i.e. shelter, law firm, or even a support helpline
- Letter from any organisation that supports people in hardship i.e. social services
- Any other official report, document, or evidence that can provide supporting evidence of the abuse you faced or anyone else has faced from your abuser.
 Physical / Real Evidence
This is usually a material object of some kind, which is produced for inspection, either to prove that it exists, or so that the court can get more information that will help it come to a conclusion based on evidence.
Physical evidence can consist of things like ripped clothing, a letter, a weapon, documents and partially destroyed documents, or other physical tangible objects. It can also include photographs, text messages, emails, social media conversation, videos, and audio files of abusive events.
 Original Evidence
Original evidence is a statement made outside court proceedings (for example, if during an incidence of abuse your abuser says, “I’m going to kill you!”). The statement is made not to prove the truth of its contents, but rather for other purposes, for example to provide the relevant context to the situation, or otherwise strengthen your case — it corroborates your story. For example, in the case of your abuser saying “I’m going to kill you!”, the purpose of including this statement is not to prove whether or not he/she wanted to kill you, but rather to illustrate his or her violent character, and the abusive nature of the relationship.
 Hearsay Evidence
Testimony provided by a witness, or someone else, outside of the court, and not as part of their testimony is called “Hearsay evidence”. For example, a member of your family saying that they are worried about you because they have seen your abuser act violently, or a neighbour saying she/he has heard arguments and indications of abuse, can be included as hearsay evidence if these statements are made outside of the court. In many law jurisdictions, this evidence is inadmissible. However, when applying for asylum, these become supporting statements and this may be true for other cases as well.
Hearsay evidence is less powerful than witness testimony given in the court, but can be useful if you can prove it by using a statement of support or some other recorded evidence. It’s worth collecting this type of evidence even if there is a chance it might be not be as powerful.
 Testimony Evidence
Testimony evidence is evidence given by a witness, under oath, in the proceedings of a trial. Witnesses often also make statements before they get to court; this is a different form of evidence from testimony. Testimony evidence is only made in open court, in most countries. However, when applying for asylum testimony evidence can be submitted in writing and asylum case workers almost never contact abusers to ‘hear their side of the story’ so you should not worry about that.
Examples of testimony evidence include:
- Direct witnesses: These are people who have directly witnessed the abuse.
- Expert witnesses: These often include doctors, social workers, nurses, or psychologists — in other words, these are people who are considered to be knowledgeable in a field that the court may not have enough knowledge of.
- Character witnesses: These witnesses testify to your character in court proceedings. This is very important, because your abuser may try to challenge your credibility. For example, they can claim that you have been hurting yourself or making-up stories of abuse. They can question your truthfulness, or even mental health. That is why character witnesses are crucial for your case. They should be people who know your situation, but also people from different areas of your life — for example, a member of the family, a friend, an employer, or a school teacher at your child’s school who can attest to you being a responsible parent. Even the simplest statements about your child’s behavior at school, or your employer’s evaluation of your work can be helpful — anything they say can be used to support your case in one way or another!
This section was the most difficult to get through. If you’ve made it this far, the rest is easy. Keep it up!
“As a victim it is very important to overcome the thoughts of humiliation and shame that making the abuse public is going to bring. You need to put yourself forward. You need to know that not collecting the evidence is going to work against you and in favor of your abusers . You must try hard to give yourself the peace of mind that you deserve. Remember that, you are entitled to a life for yourself the way that you want and that your abusers have no right to take that away from you. Start collecting the evidence and keep it safe somewhere. This will help you get back the freedom that you lost. People call me crazy when I tell them what my parents do to me. By recording a video — that is the only way they believe me. ”
Brave woman, 26
The most important thing to bear in mind when collecting evidence is that your safety is of utmost importance. So always be careful, and make sure you gather the evidence in a way that does not pose a threat to you. Please see below for specific safety rules.
Often the best time to document abuse is when you are still in an abusive situation, to illustrate how the abuser acts whilst in an everyday context, before they could potentially be ‘angered’ by a situation such as their partner leaving them. That is to say that in some countries the judge may be sympathetic towards an abuser because they might think the threats or actions ensuing a person leaving the house/relationship are a result of the abuser being angry and might not be reflective of how they usually are. This is not to say that this type of evidence is not useful. If there is one thing you should do — it is to rigorously and safely document everything you can.
If you’ve been in an abusive relationship for a while, it can be difficult to spot what are the instances of abuse you should be recording. It’s best to record more and then discard later if it is not as useful. A way to help you do this is to imagine your life lived by someone you love and are protective of e.g your sister, friend, cousin, daughter or niece. Now imagine them living your life and note down all the instances of abuse they face in one day. Think about what they see, hear and experience. Now, repeat this for the whole week. Once you’ve got all of this written down, circle around points that demonstrate the nature of abuse and manipulation. Now star every instance which can be easily and safely recorded. This is a good starting point for collecting evidence.
If you’ve left the abusive situation, you can still collect evidence by saving what’s already been sent or done to you (calls, messages, emails, photos) or by outsmarting them and recording interactions in which they admit to the past abuse they committed, or when they threatened you.
You must be very careful when collecting all types of evidence and be sure to collect it when no one is watching, especially those you don’t trust. Your safety is of the utmost importance. Make sure that whatever evidence you are collecting, you must keep it safe and away from your abuser so it cannot be destroyed and discovered. Take a small step before taking a bigger one!
Here are some general safety rules:
- Record without arousing suspicion, your personal safety is always the most important thing;
- When recording or collecting evidence, always think of a backup excuse in case someone you do not trust questions you about it;
- Save the files online, under an unobvious name; you can save them on email accounts, Dropbox.com & Google Drive. You can also password protect your documents offline — although be very careful and name things inconspicuously so as to not arouse suspicion.
- Save the files offline, preferably in several copies in several places; your computer is likely to store ‘recent files’ history. Make sure to remove them from the list, or to deactivate this option entirely. It’s very easy to do! Here you can read on how to do it on Mac and Windows.
- Share the evidence with trusted individuals. If you have more than one person you trust, send it to all of them! However, make sure that the person will not betray you — if you are not sure, you can test their trust, by confiding in them with less important secrets. If they don’t let you down, you know there is a chance they may be trustworthy.
For detailed safety rules, check each section of the guide.
PRESENTING YOUR CASE
WHAT CAN YOU USE IT FOR?
If the police or the prosecutor is investigating your case, you should give the folder to them, to support the investigation. You can also give the folder to any organizations that are helping you develop your case. Finally, the folder can be a useful part of your asylum application.
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Cover Letter
- Personal Statement — written by you
- Timeline of Events
- Supporting statements — written by other people to support your case
- Anything else that may be relevant e.g. journal entries
Make sure you properly number and label different sections of your folder so it is easier to show others and for them to browse it.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Do not print smaller than font size of 12.
- If possible, print out 3–4 copies so you have 4 identical folders. Hide one away in a safe spot if it’s safe for you to do, or give it to someone you trust.
- Keep digital copies of everything and email them to several email addresses and some people you trust. If you don’t know who to trust, send this evidence to any NGO or organisation that is assisting you. You can also create a password protected account on Dropbox.
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Who you are
- Why are you submitting this case / what is it for?
- What the evidence suggests
- Why you collected the evidence
- An appendix of the different kind of documents included in the folder
The cover letter is a way of introducing your case, and the evidence, to the reader. Please be as concise and specific as possible. Focus on highlighting the most important information: who you are, why you are writing to them, what evidence you collected and what does it show.
When introducing yourself, stay very brief. Just state your name, your status, and the reason why you are writing this letter and presenting the evidence. The introduction should not be longer than 1–2 lines.
At this point, do not get into details of describing or explaining your evidence. Instead, say something like: “The evidence I collected, in the form of documents, audio evidence, as well as witness statements, clearly shows the abusive nature of the relationship, and supports my need to escape it for my own safety.” The details can come in the personal statement section.
See the Appendix.
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Write in first person. Use “I” rather than she/he.
- First paragraph: Briefly describe your situation — are you in an abusive relationship, have you escaped it, what is your current position etc. Then, state clearly what you are applying for: e.g. divorce, domestic violence or harassment conviction, asylum, child custody, etc.
- Chronological narration of events.
(i) Only include main and significant events. You can write one paragraph to state how your usual day went with enough detail for the reader to understand without going into depth about every incident that occurred.
(ii)Describe your cultural and other relevant contexts — for example, your family situation, background or local trends, happenings and customs etc. The person reading the document may have little understanding of the significance of some things to you, so always make it clear why what you are describing is important.
(iii) Talk about and explain evidence you may be attaching elsewhere, including hearsay and original evidence (see above) where relevant.
(iv) Add quotes in quotation marks and always describe cultural context.
See detailed section for examples.
Personal statement is the space in which you can explain your situation in more detail. Use it to explain your current situation with relation to your abuser (have you escaped, are you still in the abusive relationship, do you have any children with your abuser etc.), as well as what you are applying for and what you need specifically from the person you are writing to. The more concrete you can make your request, the more likely they are to be able to help you.
Make sure you always explain the cultural, personal, social and other contexts in which the described events took place. Even though you should aim to be brief and concise, it is helpful to include one sentence explaining why a given event/piece of evidence is important, to help the reader understand your perspective, even if they don’t have an understanding of your cultural and personal background.
For example, if your society does not approve of women working once they get married, this can be an important piece of cultural context. It brings out the issue of financial dependence, and might contribute to explaining why some of your choices, that would otherwise seem “consensual” were in fact coerced and an element of the abusive relationship. An element of a personal context can be jealousy or possessiveness of the partner. It can explain why you felt threatened in certain situations and provides important context for other elements of abuse. In other words, any piece of context can be relevant, even if it seems unimportant to you!
When describing the events, you can start with a brief description of what your day-to-day life looked like. This is to help the reader understand the context in which the other events occurred. Make sure to illustrate what your life looked like, and why you felt scared, powerless, or threatened, without going into too much detail of the everyday events.
Following that, choose the most significant, main events, and present them in a chronological order. Provide only the details that help you build your case/illustrate the abusive nature of your relationship. Although it is important to be precise, if you make your account too long and detailed, it might be more difficult for the reader to comprehend. Wherever relevant, explain the context (see above), and refer to evidence that you provide elsewhere. This includes hearsay. You can refer to things people said, always making it clear who said it. For example, you can include it if you heard your mother-in-law say your husband will find you and kill you or if your relatives tell you that your partner has been spreading slanderous lies about you. Try and note down the date these things were said as this gives clarity to the person reading it.
This is your space to present your story. You should use your own words and describe the events as you experienced them, rather than language that is overly scientific or detached. However, try to focus on facts, rather than emotions. You can mention how the abuse made you feel, but be sure to keep your statement focused on what happened. Below are examples of sentences that are (1) too impersonal; (2) too emotional; (3) well-balanced.
(1) Overly impersonal description of abuse
“In 2015, the situation deteriorated. He used physical and other forms of violence against me. When I attempted to notify the authorities, the abuser would use force to prevent me from doing so.”
“He repeatedly used insulting language when referring to me and our son. He used threats to prevent me from notifying other people of my situation”
* Sound unnatural and forced, do not provide a flowing narrative
* Use overly formal language
* Downplay the abuse: saying “He used insulting language” does not necessarily show the effect the verbal abuse had on you and why it was abuse — it is important to stress that. Insulting you IS abuse and how it made you feel IS important!
(2) Overly emotional description of abuse
“After some time, it all got so bad, I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore. I cried and cried all the time and felt completely powerless. He was beating and kicking me and I felt like dying, so scared all the time. He did things that made me feel worthless and humiliated. I felt very scared and couldn’t even contact the police.”
“The way he talked to me always made me feel very scared and sad and depressed. He also said many things that made me terrified about my safety”
* Are too vague — they do not provide specific examples or dates of the events
* Focus on emotions rather than facts — it can distract the reader from your narrative of events
* Are too repetitive and do not add enough new content
(3) Balanced descriptions of abuse, including account of facts and emotions
“In 2015, the situation got much worse. He beat, kicked and slapped me so much that I felt like I couldn’t take it any longer. On one occasion, he got particularly violent and I was afraid he was going to kill me. I reached for the phone to try to dial the police number, but he slapped the phone out of my hand and spat on my face, calling me a bitch”
“He repeatedly called me a bitch and a whore, forbidding me to see my friends and accusing me of cheating on him. This language made me feel very threatened and vulnerable. On one occasion, in June 2014, when I came back from a meeting with a friend, he threatened to kill me if I tried to contact someone from outside of our house again.”
* Form a narrative — they show the events in a sequence, but also show their personal effect on you and how you felt about them
* Clearly show how and when the abuse happened — whether it was physical or verbal, explaining the events and how you felt about them shows the nature of your relationship
* Are specific about the dates and types of abuse
See the appendix.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
The timeline of events must be chronological. You have already explained in the cover letter why you are building this case. The timeline of events is your chance to demonstrate the sequence of events that have happened to you and how it has affected you.
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- First instance of abuse. When did it start?
- All major incidents
- Explain what a typical day in your life is like during a period of abuse (See example)
For every timeline event, you must mention the following, even if it is approximate (make sure to indicate that):
- What happened
- Who else witnessed it?
- Any evidence related to the timeline event
There are two ways to go about this. You can either include a timeline of events in your personal statement or you can do one separately. We suggest making a separate timeline.
Timelines are an important part of your evidence as they will help people reading understand your situation and how the abuse has developed. Sometimes it can be hard to communicate and remember all the details if someone is asking you questions about days in the past. Depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can have a profound effect on our memories. In order to cope, the mind can push the thoughts that make us most anxious to a place which is not easily accessed. So don’t be hard on yourself if you cannot remember every single thing. This is why you need a written timeline. Every time you can’t remember or someone asks you about a specific incident and where it happened, you just need to show them the timeline.
Have a look at the example included in the Appendix.
See the appendix.
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Cover Letter for Supporting statements: Include a table or list of the names, date of births, ID number (if applicable), relation to you, and address.
- Who can you ask to write you a statement? Friends, Family, Neighbours, Social Workers, Doctor or Nurse, Health visitor, Children’s teacher, Your teacher, Anybody you have confided in or who has seen the abuse first-hand or seen its affect on you, Any NGO or charity supporting you.
- Each statement should include
(a) The person’s full name, their date of birth, who they are, who they are married to
(b) Their home address if they know you in a personal capacity (e.g. a friend or neighbour) — it should specify which country they live in
(c) Their professional address if they know you in a professional capacity (e.g. if it is your doctor then the address of their office/clinic)
(d) Relationship to you and how long they have known you for
(e) As a general rule, the statement should contain as many details about the person and their relationship to you as possible; if the person is a family member, they should also provide the names of their parents, siblings, children (if there are any) and other relatives, their marital status etc.
(f) Copy of ID document/scanned is fine
(g) Contact Details; a phone number and email address if they have one
(h) A first-hand statement from them: they should mention every time they witnessed or heard of the abuse and your situation from you, your relatives, friends, or anyone else
(i) It is extremely important to clearly state the first time the person found out about the abuse against you and how they found out about it
(j) Ensure that they sign the statement. This can be done either by printing the document, signing, and then scanning it, or by adding a digital signature.
The supporting statements can serve different purposes, depending on what you are applying for. Even though it is important to let the person writing the statement express their own opinion freely, make sure to always let them know what you want to use the statement for, and make it clear why it is important. For example, if you are trying to get custody of your children, you can ask them to speak of your character, responsibility, and your relationship with your children. If you are applying for asylum, you can ask them to speak of your relationship, and confirm its abusive nature and, if they can, confirm the threat to your life upon returning to your country. Of course, the content of the statement will also depend on who is writing it. Your employer is more likely to vouch for your reliability and good character, whereas a member of the family, a neighbour, or a friend, can talk about your character, as well as your relationship with the abuser.
Ask the person writing the statement to briefly introduce themselves at the beginning of it. They should state their relationship to you, as well as the reason why they decided to write the statement supporting your claim/request. The important point here is to make sure the reader knows
- Identity details of the person (see above)
- How this person is related to you
- When was the first time they heard about the abuse you face and who told them?
- Details of incidents they witnessed themselves
- Details of every single time they heard about the abuse from someone else (who was this?).
- Any evidence of the conversations above happening e.g.
(a) Screenshot of Skype call history
(b) Screenshot of facebook messages/ twitter DM
(c) Screenshot of phone call log or SMS/Whatsapp
(d) Phone bill
Just as with your personal statement, ask the person writing the statement to be concise, specific, and focus on the main points and facts. For example, if your employer is saying that you are a trustworthy person, they should: (1) state it clearly and concisely; (2) support it with an example. For example, they could say: “X is a trustworthy and reliable person. While working for my company, she/he often handled tasks that required a high degree of independence and always completed them on time”. If your neighbour or friend is writing a statement giving evidence about the abusive nature of your relationship, ask them to be as specific as possible — if they remember the exact dates of the events they mention (for example, hearing a fight, calling the police, or seeing you with bruises), they should include it.
Once you’ve collected all the statements, make sure you include a cover letter which is either a table or list which gives an overview to the reader about what statements you are including.
Check the template for details.
EVIDENCE TYPE: AUDIO
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Audio file
- Include date & length of recording
- A letter explaining the context of the recording and whose voices will be heard on it
- Transcript in the original language
- Line by line translation in the language used by agencies or officials
(a) This can be done by a professional translation agency, by someone you know or by yourself
(b) Include contact details of the translator or transcriber
(c) If the translation is done incorrectly by someone, highlight that with a highlighter and then write a separate note explaining what was interpreted or translated incorrectly.
Although photographic, audio, and video evidence can be very useful for your case, it is important to bear in mind that it is often not self-explanatory. A recording taken out of the context can be misleading, or interpreted in different, sometimes contradictory, ways. That’s why it is always important to include a description of the recording: explain when and in what context it happened (e.g. was it at home, on the street, what happened directly before the recording etc.), how you recorded it, and who can be heard in the recording. Since recordings are not always clear, it is also important to provide transcripts — both in the original language, and a translation. It would be best if the translation could be done by a professional. However, it can also be done by you, or someone you know. Make clear who made the translation and include their ID and contact information. If the translation is incorrect by someone, highlight that with a highlighter and then write a separate note explaining what was interpreted or translated incorrectly. It may also be useful to find online or offline sources with the correct use or translation of the word to bolster your case e.g. news article, dictionary or any book.
Audio evidence can support your claim in multiple ways. It can document the abuse itself, but it can also be a recording of a conversation with the use of threats or violent and abusive language. Collecting audio evidence is extremely important; however, it can also put you at risk. Thus, while it is advisable to start collecting evidence, including audio evidence, as early as possible, you should be careful and always put your safety first!
Even if you have left the relationship or are away from the abuser, you can record calls to use as evidence. For instance, if your abuser is calling you — ignore their calls for a while and then pick it up. They will have a lot of pent-up energy and anger which they would display on the call — record it e.g. using a recording function on your mobile phone, or a dedicated app. Mention specific incidents where they wronged you — trying to get them to either reveal their abusive nature or to admit that they wronged you. Encouraging someone to reveal the abuse they did to you is not wrong. You can do the same thing with your family, in-laws and anyone else who has wronged you. If you think your partner would suspect you of recording the call, then you can also enlist the help of a common contact who you trust and know is on your side.
The recording can be done using small recorder devices or on a mobile phone/laptop. Recording devices can usually be bought quite cheaply online or from any shop. These can come in concealed or ‘secret’ forms. For example; they may appear to be a standard USB stick, jewelry box, pen or teddy bear. If you don’t know how to obtain such a device, you can talk to someone you trust about it. When recording the evidence, make sure your abuser does not see the device. You can hide it somewhere in the house/venue, or on your person. However, please put your own safety first. Nothing is more important than your wellbeing! You can also ask someone else, for example a friend or a neighbor, to record evidence of abuse if they hear it.
Once you record the evidence, make sure you store it safely. If your device creates digital files, save them in several copies, under names that do not suggest the content, and store a hard copy on a USB stick in a safe place. If the device only produces cassettes, hide it in a safe place, or give it to a trusted person.
If you are unsure about the legal aspect of recording this, then don’t fear. Record it anyway. Later if you find out you can use it, even if just to persuade the police, an NGO, a loved one or lawyer to take up your case — then it will come in very handy.
“I started recording the conversations I had with my abusers after coming to the conclusion that I had no choice but to make their hypocrisy and their ill-treatment of me public. They seemed to thrive under the cover that my inaction in this regard was providing them. I decided to overcome the shame, the humiliation and embarrassment that I was experiencing at their hands because I needed to take control of my own life and my circumstances. But most of all, I wanted to have evidence to back up my side of the story because they had a habit of making me out to be a liar to the authorities. I needed to break that cycle.” A brave woman, 26
EVIDENCE TYPE: PICTURES
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Picture (digital or physical or both)
- Type of picture to include (see detailed section)
- Number the picture clearly
- Date and time
- A note explaining the context of the picture
Pictures are an important asset for your case. However, just like the audio recordings, they must be put in context. Remember to include the date and context of the picture. When documenting injuries, it is best to take several pictures: a “close-up” of the injury, as well as the photo of the entire body/body part with your face in it so it can be proven the picture is yours, allowing the viewer to place the injury in context and see its extent. Even if the injuries seem minor to you, you should document them — they can become an important piece of evidence. Try not to be too concerned about the abuser claiming the injuries are the results of your own actions e.g. self harm or natural accidents — doctors are often capable of determining how injuries have been caused, even from just looking at photos.
Remember that abuse includes emotional and psychological harm. So, for example, if your abuser confines you to staying at home, or deprives you of access to basic facilities, or fulfilling your basic needs, photographs of your environment, evidencing the emotional and psychological hardship, can also be useful.
As with the audio evidence, be careful when taking and storing the picture — make sure that your abuser does not find them. You should store both electronic copies, and physical ones, but make sure they are safely hidden away. You can also give and email copies to someone you trust.
If you receive any text or any form of correspondence from your abuser or a friend/family of the abuser — keep it. Don’t delete it.
Types of pictures you can include:
- Facebook status/posts
- Private Messages
- Any social media communication
- SMS — a screenshot/photo of the SMS is a much more powerful piece of evidence than simply repeating what is said!
Pictures of injury
- of yourself — documenting why you feel threatened
- of someone else — showing the violent character of your abuser
- Pictures evidencing your day-to-day life and the emotional, psychological and physical harm you experienced through it
- your home/room; anything that you made you feel repressed, depressed, or threatened throughout the relationship
- the tools used for abuse (if there were any), in particular if this use is visible (e.g. if there is blood on them).
- ID documents/property papers and any other proof of your status and relationship with the abuser you cannot hold a physical copy of — for example, a marriage licence, or even a photo from your wedding day.
Just like with audio recordings, you should gather this evidence even if you are unsure if it will be helpful. You never know when you might need it to help you convince someone to support you!
“One time I got beat up pretty badly, I remember that I had the opportunity to photograph the evidence at that time but I stopped myself from doing it, thinking of the humiliation and the stigma that would bring if people saw it. I even denied to myself and others that I even had the opportunity to collect that evidence. I regret that decision now because as time went on, I realized that not collecting that evidence at that time worked against me and in favor of my abusers. Now, I don’t shy away from collecting evidence at all, in fact, I like the peace of mind that it affords me and I intend to use it to gain my freedom.”
EVIDENCE TYPE: VIDEO
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Number the video clearly
- Date and time
- Explaining who is in the video
- Transcript in the original language and any other language you need to translate it to (i) Line by line translation in the language used by agencies or officials (ii) This can be done by a professional translation agency or someone you know or yourself
- Include contact details of the translator or transcriber
- Explain any cultural terms or terms of endearment e.g. nicknames or titles
- A note explaining the context of the video and any references the people in the video make to incidents or details someone who doesn’t know you would not know about.
Recording a video may be dangerous and can be more difficult than recording an audio but you can do it. You can record with your smartphone by placing it in such a way that it looks innocent. It’s imperative that when you do this, the whole scenario must not appear out of ordinary to your abusers. Watch out for kids because they might discover it and ask you without realising that they are putting you in jeopardy. If you are planning to do this, drop in that your phone is behaving weirdly a couple of times in the weeks prior to this. If you do get caught — blame the phone! The other way to do this is via a laptop as you can easily dim the brightness of the screen so it appears shut when it is actually working.
If you’ve managed to record a video of a conversation that supports your claim and provides the evidence of the abusive nature of your relationship, or shows an attack happening, then it is extremely beneficial to your case.
It is important you clearly explain what is happening in the video, who is in it, what is being said by whom, and what the context is. The authorities or a lawyer will want to know how this supports your case. This can be added after you have recorded the original evidence.
If you are unsure about the legal aspect of recording this, then don’t fear. Record it anyway. Later if you find out you can use it, even if just to persuade the police, an NGO, a loved one or lawyer to take up your case — then it will come in very handy.
EVIDENCE TYPE: REPORTS FROM AGENCIES
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
These are the kind of reports you can include:
- Any formal report from your hospital, nurse, doctor, therapist or masseuse to attest to your mental or physical state. They can also be witnesses to an incident e.g. your partner shouting at you in the hospital or accompanying you to a checkup.
- Any bill / conviction / incidence report or warning by police to your abuser
- Any criminal case against your abuser or one that your abuser has lodged against you
- Letter from any organisation that supports survivors of domestic violence i.e. shelter, law firm or even support helpline
- Letter from any organisation that supports people in hardship i.e. social services
- Any other official report or evidence that can provide supporting evidence of the abuse you faced or anyone else has faced from your abuser.
Any report from an impartial organisation that confirms any part of your story will be beneficial. These reports give the court/police and demonstrate to anyone else that (1) you’re telling the truth (2) you have reached out for help.
In some cases, getting these reports, proof-of-interaction or statement will be fairly straightforward. You go to them and ask them for a record of the incident/conversation and it should be provided to you. In other cases, they may be hesitant or you will be required to pay money for it. This should not cost too much, if they ask you for money you can ask them to consider waiving the fee and explain that you are in financial hardship. Domestic Violence Agencies can often get evidence for free as their purpose is to help you collect evidence as well as keep you safe.
In other cases, you will ask for proof but the organisation may not know how to provide it. For instance, the school may have noticed that your child has been distracted or scared or confided in a teacher what is happening at home. The teacher may not know how to provide proof to you. In cases like this, all you need is a school letterhead paper with a statement from the teacher about what she/he knows. Make sure it is signed, dated, and includes a copy of their ID. If they are reluctant to provide ID, make sure you include their full name so if an authority wanted to follow it up, they can.
Similarly, even if you applied for a caution against your husband in the Police and it was not approved — you should include this evidence as it will show that you reached out to protect yourself and knew that he was capable of harming you.
If you don’t have this or cannot acquire this — don’t worry too much. You can compensate for the lack of it by strengthening other sections.
So, grab a paper and pen.
- Think about all the possible organisations and people you have been in touch with or who may know about your situation. Write them down in a list.
- Find the right person to contact.
- Think clearly about the best way to approach them. Tell them to treat this as confidential if you are still with your abusive partner.
- It may be best to have a face-to-face conversation depending on your relationship with them. If you are asking face-to-face, you can hand them a letter or a list of points to cover in their statement so they do not forget what you have asked and the information that they need to include. Same applies for asking for probation or parole records from the police of your abuser.
- If you are asking an organisation, such as a domestic violence refuge, you may have to write a letter requesting the statement.
EVIDENCE TYPE: OTHER > JOURNAL/DIARY ENTRIES
WHAT TO INCLUDE <summary>
- Cover letter explaining why you started keeping a journal
- Some examples of journal entries — highlight the most important ones for your case here.
- The entire journal if you have it
- If you’re starting the journal now, make sure you keep it as detailed as possible including times, dates, places, incidents and how they affected you emotionally and physically.
- Online journal advice: Include a print-out or link to all online entries.
- Offline journal advice: Take a picture of the journal and submit it as evidence but write up the important journal entries separately so understanding the handwriting is not a problem.
Keeping an online or offline diary can be useful for many reasons, including:
- keeping a log of what happened to you and when so no one can make you think you’re ‘imagining it’ and you can stay on top of the details.
- keeping a record of little incidents that may not feel like they amount to much if you think about it in the moment but when you look back it, may prove the controlling and persistent nature of the abuser.
- presenting it in court to validate your claim, and this is specially if abuse has happened over a long period of time.
In the cover letter, explain when you started keeping the diary and what triggered it. It does not matter if the journal was online, offline, frequent, or infrequent. If you are just beginning to keep your journal, make sure make sure you keep it as detailed as possible including times, dates, places, incidents and how they affected you emotionally and physically.
If you have an offline diary and you are afraid the abuser might discover and destroy it — take a picture of the important entries and email it to someone you trust. Always keep it hidden somewhere where no one can find it and write in it only when you know you are not being watched.
In the cover letter, highlight the most important entries and all the entries that corroborate events from your personal and supporting statements. Make sure you add the evidence numbers next to the pages concerned so you can quote them.
Separately, you should print out all entries or load them onto a file and submit it if it was an online diary. In the case of an offline diary, you should transcribe the important incidents from the diary and include the physical copy of the diary. If you’ve lost your diary or it has been destroyed, include the pictures you took of the journal entries as they prove to the existence of the diary.
“The first week I moved in with my then boyfriend I started taking notes of his behaviour on Penzu. I thought he was just a perfectionist. After two weeks I sat him down and showed him my notes. I had written 53 “rules” of the house he had given me. I said, “do you realize this is what you’re asking? Don’t you think this is too much.” “Nope, that’s right” he said. And from there he got more and more controlling, name calling, physically intimidating. I had no job and no money and I was stuck. But I kept taking notes on my private journal- writing all my feelings down, all the feelings he was disregarding. That journal helped me keep grounded when he tried to make me think I was crazy. When I finally got a job, I was able to see an emergency therapist and told her everything. “This man is abusive and I would get out before you don’t have the strength to get out.” I got a police escort to gather all my belonging while he was at work, and went to the local DV shelter. It was so helpful to have all those notes saved electronically. They used them in court and I know it helped getting the restraining order granted. The judge said it was one of the worst cases he’s heard, and that he’d seen hundreds of cases.”
A courageous girl
You’ve reached the end of the guide! The next section of the guide is the Appendix which is packed with examples and templates to help you build your case.
Accepting you’ve been abused is a big step and deciding to do something about is even bigger!
If anything feels daunting — don’t be scared. You can do it!
We hope this guide provides you with the help and assistance you need. If you want to help improve this guide, please leave suggestions on this document (http://bit.ly/chaynbuildyourowndvcaseguide ).
APPENDIX 1 — TEMPLATES
These templates are put together with the best of intentions and with an acceptable form should be useful for most scenarios and countries. They will not be applicable to all cases and should not be used as a definitive example.
“To whom it may concern,
[YOU CAN REPLACE IT WITH THE NAME OF THE PERSON YOU’RE WRITING TO IF YOU KNOW IT]
My name is [YOUR NAME] I am [YOUR AGE] years old and I currently reside at [WHERE DO YOU LIVE]. I am writing to you to set out my case [TO OBTAIN A DIVORCE FROM MY HUSBAND — NAME; TO OBTAIN AN ASYLUM IN — COUNTRY NAME etc. Whatever it is that you’re asking for!].
For the last [X] year/months, my [HUSBAND/PARENT/RELATIONSHIP WITH ABUSER] has been abusing me. His/Her/Their name is [NAME] of [FULL ADDRESS/ID INFORMATION]. The continuous abuse and physical, verbal and emotional violence have made me fear for my life and the life of my children. [YOU SHOULD CUSTOMIZE THIS SENTENCE TO MATCH YOUR EXPERIENCE BUT DO STRESS THAT YOU ARE THREATENED BY THE PERPETRATOR]. I have collected evidence, presented in this folder, to document the abuse I have experienced.
The evidence, in the form of [LIST TYPES OF EVIDENCE YOU ATTACH: OFFICIAL STATEMENTS AND REPORTS, AUDIO FILES DOCUMENTING ABUSE, PHOTOS OF THE INJURIES, PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN YOU, YOUR ABUSER, HIS FAMILY ETC.,], as well as the supporting statements from [WHO PROVIDED THE STATEMENTS] show the nature of my relationship with [NAME], documents the violent acts committed against me. The evidence makes it clear that my fear for my life is well founded and legitimate. Therefore, it supports my request for [WHAT YOU ARE REQUESTING: ASYLUM/DIVORCE/CHILD CUSTODY], as a way of escaping my abuser.
Please find below the list of evidence provided. I trust that, upon revising it, you will appreciate the difficult situation I find myself in, and consider my request for [WHAT ARE YOU REQUESTING] positively.
[YOUR NAME/SIGNATURE + DATE]
List of evidence and documents provided:
[LIST ALL PIECES OF EVIDENCE YOU PROVIDE HERE, NUMBERING THEM CLEARLY. EVEN THE SMALLEST PIECE OF EVIDENCE (e.g. a photo from your wedding) IS IMPORTANT — IT SHOULD BE INCLUDED AND NUMBERED]”
Items in chronological order with the following details:
- Time (if known and if important)
- Where incident happened
- People involved
- Supporting Evidence
Keep the timeline short.
— — — — — — — -
20th May, 2013
“I’m married to [X] in the presence of both of our families”
People involved: My family and friends, His family and friends except his sister who could not come because she was pregnant and couldn’t travel from Sudan.
Supporting Evidence: Marriage pictures (Evidence 3–7), Marriage certificate (Evidence 14).
— — — — — — — -
— — — — — — — -
27th May, 2013
Bedroom, Husband’s house (address)
Husband shouts at me and curses at me for refusing sex. He calls me a “whore” and accuses me of sleeping with “the corner shop man and the postman and anyone else you can find.”
— — — — — — — -
— — — — — — — -
3rd November, 2013
Abuja, Nigeria at my sister-in-laws house [address]
“My husband chokes me and my in-laws walk in and get him off. They then take me to the hospital” (Details: Personal Statement, Paragraph 22)
People involved: My husband’s sister, [Y], mother-in-law[X] and husband [M]
Supporting Evidence: Statement from Nurse [Name], Screenshot of conversation of sister-in-law & my mother [evidence 11]
— — — — — — — -
And like this you can continue the timeline. Keep the incidents brief!
TEMPLATE FOR PERSONAL STATEMENT
This template has two components (1) Guidance (2) Example.
All paragraphs in the personal statement are numbered so you can refer to paragraphs rather than saying third paragraph on page X.
If you can remember the dates of different events exactly, please include them. However, if you only remember the year or the month, it is also ok. Try to be as specific as you can, but remember — the events matter even if you don’t remember the exact date when they happened!
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
1. Use this paragraph to disclose PERSONAL DETAILS.
My full name is [YOUR NAME (INSERT MAIDEN NAME)] and my date of birth is [INSERT DOB]. I am of [X] nationality. I was born in [CITY], [COUNTRY] And I currently reside at [FULL ADDRESS]. I have [SIBLINGS]: NAME OF SIBLINGS. I have [INSERT DETAIL OF CHILDREN IF ANY] My mum, [INSERT NAME], was a [INSERT OCCUPATION] and my dad, [INSERT NAME], worked as a [INSERT OCCUPATION]. My parents live in [FULL ADDRESS]. My siblings live in [FULL ADDRESS]
2. This paragraph is for explaining the REASON FOR CLAIM.
3. Explain the HISTORY OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF ABUSE in this paragraph. When did the marriage take place? Where? With Whom? Was it of your own choice? When you were born (if parents are abusers)?
“I got married to her when I was 21. I had been in a series of unsuccessful relationships in my late teens. My first serious relationship (June -Dec 2007) ended abruptly as I caught my partner sleeping with my best friend. My next relationship (March — Nov 2008) ended because my partner was distant and showed no interest in what I liked. I met M when I was 20. Some of my friends were settled in long-term relationships and I craved companionship. My friend, S, who also took Spanish classes in the evening with me said she would set me up with a girl she lives with (M). I had only known S for a few months (Jan — July 2009) but thought it was worth meeting M. M and I had our first date in a restaurant and found we both liked the same movies and foods. I was relieved to meet a woman who was caring and seemed loyal, with quite a strong personality — but I didn’t mind. At that time, it was nice to be with someone who was not afraid to commit and gave me time. Little did I know that she was going to turn out to be an abuser who caused me pain, depression and led me to consider killing myself.”
4. FIRST INSTANCE OF ABUSE /s from here. Put these in chronological order and break these into numbered paragraphs. Include one major event per paragraph and as many details as you can remember and cite evidence attached if any of it corroborates what you say.
“The first signs of abuse began shortly after we got married. He was very demanding, got angry very easily, and constantly made me feel guilty about not giving him enough attention, or not being a good wife. No matter how hard I tried to fulfil all his wishes, he would always find a way to complain and make me feel bad about myself. Sometimes he would call me lazy, useless. Once, after I came back home after meeting a friend, he called me a whore. A few days after the wedding, we were getting ready to go out with his parents. As I was getting dressed, my mother-in-law walked into the room and told me to wear a dress she liked. As we were already late, I told her I would wear it another day. My mother in-law shot a look at my husband and walked out. I said I was sorry, but he called me ‘an ungrateful, ill-mannered bitch’ and told me to get changed, raising his hand in anger. I cowered. I was in shock. I changed into the other dress and thought this was due to the pressure of new marriage. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I suppressed my tears. The next week, he cursed me again and then afterwards, the mental torture and physical abuse became routine.The first weeks after the marriage were suffocating — I was feeling worthless, depressed and I was being constantly degraded. At the time, I did not realise that the verbal aggression and possessiveness were signs of abuse. With time, he also started using physical abuse — first he pushed me away when I was trying to set the table for dinner, criticising me and calling a useless bitch. Sometimes he would slap me when he got angry. Over the weeks, and later months, the beatings got more severe and often I had to stay home to disguise the bruises.”
5. FIRST TIME YOU DISCLOSED THE ABUSE TO SOMEBODY
“One night in summer 2014, it could have been the last weeks of June, after my husband got home from work, he started getting very angry on little things. He was not happy that I was speaking to my mother when he walked in. I told him I take a lot of his misbehaviour but he had no right to control when I spoke to my mother. He got really angry at this and threw a glass at me. He called many abusive names and also called my parents abuses like “prostitute, cunt, bastard”. I started crying so he took me by my hair — and dragged me on the floor. He ripped my shirt open and banged my head against the floor. My head started bleeding so I tried to resist and pushed him back. He punched me in my face and kicked until I stopped fighting. He left the house, locking me in and told me he would kill me if I called the police. That night, I felt he was going to kill me so I called my mother. She was shocked at this. She asked me why I had not told her this before. I told her that she had told me before I got married that it is my duty to make the marriage work and if I complained about things not working out, people would say ‘her mother had not taught her how to be a good wife’. My mother told me ‘to be patient and pray to God. He will make things work. Whatever is in your fate will happen.’ I pleaded with her to get me out but she simply told me to accept my fate.”
6. FIRST TIME ASKING FOR HELP
7. DESCRIPTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE
“We moved to a new flat in January 2013 and I was beaten every other day by my brothers and parents. Every time I tried to convince my parents to let me go to university, they would punch me, pinch me and lock me up. My mother slapped me often and my father would usually punch me or shout at me, threatening to break my legs. There is an audio file [Evidence 12] that shows such an incident. My younger brother is particularly abusive. He will do little things to get me into trouble. He would claim I’m trying to escape through the window and then scream to call my parents when I would be just watching the TV. He verbally abused me constantly. I had no confidence and had no ability to help myself. The only thing I could do is cry. I often felt so depressed that I could not even will myself to get dressed. My parents told me that, “you are a problem and a nuisance for us and until we get you married off, you’re going to do whatever we say, whatever we do”. There was no escape from the hell. I had no access to keys so I could not leave the flat. They would go out for dinners but lock me in. I had to beg for even the basic things — like watching tv, using internet or going for walk on the balcony.”
8. THE TURNING POINT — DECIDE TO LEAVE
9. AFTER LEAVING (if you have left)
“After I left him (18/12/2010), he started sending me abusive and threatening messages. He said he would ‘find you and break your legs’ and ‘I’ll tell the whole world you were cheating on me so nobody will respect your parents. I will turn your own family against you, bitch. Just wait and watch!’. I used to receive about 5 or 10 every day and got about 100 calls. I’m attaching the screenshot of my phone (Evidence 55) and some of those text messages (Evidence 66–72) I received. I thought it was going to end at that but two days after I left, he set up a facebook page titled “Find Zara”. He invited all my friends and worse, family to ‘like’ the page (Evidence 22). He posted lies about me, saying that I was with him just for money and that I had found a richer boyfriend who I had run away with. I was horrified as my whole family could see this and in my town, these slanderous allegations cause women their lives. I am attaching screenshots of the facebook page and some of the statuses as Evidence 34. All my relatives started talking about me as an ‘unclean’ girl and my parents were ashamed. They dejected me. They started threatening me with text messages and told me that I must go back to my abusive husband or they will call the police. I am attaching the recording of a phone call and transcript in this folder which shows my families attitude towards me (Evidence 9).
TEMPLATE FOR SUPPORTING STATEMENT
This template is for the person who will be writing the statement e.g your friends, family or any professionals you are in touch with. Send this to them to help them write the statement.
“OPENING PARAGRAPH: certify the truthfulness of the statement and give the details of yourself.
I, [NAME OF THE PERSON], attest that everything said in this statement is true to the best of my knowledge.
My name is [YOUR NAME], I was born on [DATE OF BIRTH OF THE PERSON] in [PLACE OF BIRTH — COUNTRY AND CITY] and am currently living at [FULL ADDRESS]. I am also [GIVE ANY OTHER DETAILS ABOUT YOUR STATUS: are you married, have children, emigrated, are a permanent resident somewhere, student, working etc.]
SECOND PARAGRAPH: explain why you are making the statement
1. How are the both of you related?:
For example: “[NAME] is my sister, but after I left home to go to university we have lost touch. I have only heard from her sporadically and saw her when I visited my family.”
Or: “[NAME] has been my best friend since childhood and we have always shared everything with each other. Even though after getting married she drifted away, I could observe the change the relationship caused in her and the suffering she has gone through”
Or: “[NAME] has been working for me between [PERIOD YOU WORKED WITH THEM]. She has been a good and reliable employee. Although we did not have a close personal relationship, I could observe the impact the relationship with [NAME OF ABUSER] had on her/him.”
2. What do you know about the abusive relationship and what is your opinion of it
For example: “I was appalled that [NAME] got married so young to an older man. His family was very hostile to her and it was clear to me that her parents were forcing her into marriage.”
Or: “I could observe the change in [NAME] since she entered the relationship with [NAME OF ABUSER]. Although she was infatuated at first, it was clearly visible that he was limiting her freedom and had a tendency to act violently”
Or: “Although I was not aware of the exact details of [NAME’s] relationship, on the several occasions I have met [NAME OF ABUSER], it was evident that she was threatened by him. I was also aware that her freedom, even to work after hours, is very constrained by [NAME OF ABUSER].”
3. What was the first time you heard about the abuse and how. Don’t forget to add important details such as the date or approximate date and time, where it happened, who was around and other similar details to give context.
For example: “I saw [NAME] the day after her wedding [DATE]. She came to my house at [FULL ADDRESS] for lunch at about [APPROXIMATE TIME]. and she told me that her husband had raped her. Being very young, she didn’t want to get pregnant, but her husband threatened her against using contraception”
Or “A few months after she got married, I met with [NAME] and I could see bruises on her arms. When I asked her about it she initially said it was nothing serious, but finally admitted that her husband was beating her and refusing to let her go out and see her friends”
Or “After [NAME] got married to [NAME OF ABUSER] she became distracted at work. I also could see bruises and signs of injuries on her. She started skipping days of work, and eventually stopped appearing. Since she was a good employee, I contacted her friend [NAME OF THE FRIEND], who told me that she is being abused by [NAME OF ABUSER]”
THIRD PARAGRAPH: timeline of the events related to the abuse: it is important to describe the relationship as well as the impact it had on your friend and the steps that led them to take action against perpetrator *Wherever possible, include exact dates of events.
For example: “Over the months, I began talking to [NAME] more and found out more about the abusive nature of her relationship. [NAME OF ABUSER] forbade her to leave the house and meet her friends, forced her to quit her job and beat her whenever she refused to follow his orders. I could see her transform from a strong, happy person to a constantly scared, extremely unconfident and fragile wreck of herself. When she became pregnant, she was terrified. That’s when I decided to help her escape the relationship and [TYPE OF LEGAL ACTION YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT: APPLY FOR ASYLUM/FILE FOR A DIVORCE/INITIATE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS].
THEN INCLUDE A DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF ALL STAGES OF THE ABUSE STEPS THEY HAVE TAKEN THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF AND ABUSERS OR YOUR FAMILY’S RESPONSE TO IT
* How did your involvement in the situation develop? Did you witness some of the abuse? Did you help with any actions?
* What were the exact events (and dates) you witnessed? Seeing bruises? Overhearing an argument? Witnessing the abuse?
*Did you observe (1) the impact the abuse had (change in behaviour/character); (2) the family’s/the abuser’s family’s response to the abuse?
* Also include all other experiences you had with the abuser: had he harassed you/tried to threaten you when he realized you were helping your friend?
FINAL PARAGRAPH: why are you supporting them and why do they think this action (getting the divorce/asylum/criminal conviction/child custody) is important for them?
Reiterate above points, stressing on their impact on your friend.
For example: “[NAME OF THE ABUSER] is an abuser. He repeatedly raped, hit and emotionally abused [NAME]. He also harassed me and tried to threaten me when he found out I was talking to [NAME] about the abuse. [NAME] was deprived of her own freedom, forced to follow his will and blamed for everything. [ABUSER’S NAME] family also blamed her for the situation, saying she was being a bad wife and bringing such treatment upon herself. They treated her like their property, an object. Over time, the abuse has become worse, and [NAME] fears for her life if she stays in [THE MARRIAGE/THE COUNTRY/BOTH]. Having seen her change through this relationship, and witnessing evidence of what was being done to her, I fear for her life too, which is why I [RESTATE WHAT IS BEING CLAIMED/ASKED FOR].”
HOW TO STAY SAFE ONLINE
5 MINUTE ONLINE PRIVACY CHECK-UP
The 5 minute online privacy check-up can be used to diagnose where you might be getting exposed. We’re also developing a detailed guide for avoiding getting tracked online and offline. Once it is ready, it can be accessed here: http://chayn.co/staying-safe
INDEX OF LINKS
Chayn Team: email@example.com
Chayn India: http://chaynindia.com
Chayn Pakistan: http://chaynpakistan.org
Chayn Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/chaynagainstabuse/
How to stay safe online: http://chayn.co/staying-safe
How to Plan a safe escape: http://chayn.co/planning-a-safe-escape
Content license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0
Penzu Online Journal: https://penzu.com
NNEDV Spyware and Safety PDF: http://nnedv.org/downloads/SafetyNet/NNEDV_SpywareAndSafety_2013.pdf
How to password protect your files offline: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Password-protect-documents-workbooks-and-presentations-ef163677-3195-40ba-885a-d50fa2bb6b68
How to remove files from ‘recent files’ history:
(Mac: http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-way-to-delete-a-recently-opened-file-history-on-a-Mac )
(Windows: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/clear-lists-on-the-start-menu-and-taskbar )
WHY WE BUILT THIS GUIDE
CHAYN believes everyone has the right to a happy life — safe from abuse, oppression and control. Sadly, 1 in 3 people around the world face domestic violence and in some countries, this figure shoots up to 80–90% of the population. From working with women, we know that seeking justice is most challenging, especially if you are still in an abusive relationship. We wanted to create a guide to enable you to seek justice, on your own terms. Even if you don’t decide to press charges, you never know when it may come of use! So, as a tiny 100% volunteer-run charity, we sought a small grant of £300 to put this together and a team of 10 volunteers, we worked over every minute of our free time. We collaborated on the guide while walking on the street, live-chatting from different parts of the world, over lunch breaks during our office jobs and over weekends. Once we wrote a good bit of the guide, we reached out to our networks to find NGOs, activists, support workers and most importantly, survivors and lawyers to help us refine the document. You’ll find all the names of these brilliant people at the end of the document.
The contributors to the guide firmly believe your life matters to us and others in the world. It’s why we made it. Several of us endured and survived abuses first hand and hope the insight we share in this guide will help reduce any further unnecessary suffering. You take real action toward making a future for yourself in the present by seeking help from people and resources like this guide to move on.
This guide has been put together with the very best of intentions and while the information may not always be accurate for your context, the general principles should hold.
If you found this guide useful, we would really appreciate it if you could fill in our feedback form or drop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). As we are completely volunteer-led and on a shoe-string budget, your feedback on our work means the world to us!
One last favor — please show it at least one person who may find it useful.
Chayn & Friends
@ChaynHQ | facebook.com/chayn | #SpreadChayn
facebook group for survivors: https://www.facebook.com/groups/chaynagainstabuse/
CONTRIBUTORS: Hera Hussain | Maryam Amjad | Agnieszka Fal | Shyma Jundi | Amy Johnson | Mahnoor Rathore | Ian D. Tran | Eileen Macqueen | Claire Harrison | Apoorva Kaiwar | Kat Alexander
EDITORS: Anita Saroosh | Claire Harrison | Laura | Alex | Tania | Evangelia Kampouri | Elaine Goulding | Sanya Vij | Lauren Bolton & many other friends who wish to remain unnamed…
COVER DESIGN by Maryam Amjad, Kimi Laurie and Hera Hussain.
ABOUT THE LICENSE
Attribution CC BY: This license allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon this work, even commercially, as long as you credit CHAYN for the original creation. View more on this license here. Legal code can be found here.
This disclaimer governs the use and reliance of information within this Guide. By using the guide or relying on any of the information within the guide, you accept this disclaimer in full.
1. LIMITED WARRANTIES
Although the research in this guide is done with the best of intentions and using stringent research processes, we do not warrant or represent:
- the completeness or accuracy of the information published on the guide
- that the material in the guide is up to date
- that the material in the guide is
2. LIMITATIONS & EXCLUSIONS OF LIABILITY
Nothing in this disclaimer will:
- Limit or exclude any liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence
- Limit or exclude any liability for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation
- Limit any liabilities in any way that is not permitted under applicable law
- Exclude any liabilities that may not be excluded under applicable law
We will not be liable to you:
1. in respect of any losses arising out of any event or events beyond reasonable control
2. in respect of any financial loss, personal or business
3. in respect of any special, indirect or consequential loss or damage
We will revise this disclaimer from time to time.
5 LAW & JURISDICTION
This disclaimer shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of any relevant countries.