Are we failing to protect people in their own homes?

The situation

According to UN Women, an estimated 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner abuse during their lives. What’s more, survivors of this all-too-common abuse will often see no justice served.

When instances of horrific violence against women and girls (VAWG) are so high, and conviction rates of perpetrators are so low, we must ask ourselves: are authorities failing to protect women in their own homes? And if so, what can be done to help women facing violence to seek safety and justice?

How are the authorities responding to domestic violence?

In many countries, such as Pakistan, there are an increasing number of laws being put into place to criminalise domestic violence and bring harsher punishments to abusers. However, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and honour killings are still prevalent due to a lack of enforcement by the authorities.

In Pakistan, in 2016, a legislation was passed bringing in stricter punishments for honour killings. The Prime Minister praised the legislation and promised to see it implemented country-wide. Although this is a positive step towards protecting women from brutal violence in the name of honour, what use is legislation if it is not enforced?

Despite the law, so far in 2017, ninety-four women in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province alone have been murdered by relatives. In one case, a thirteen year old was sentenced to death by a jirga, an assembly of elders or leaders, for running away with two men. After she ran away, she was arrested by security forces and released into the care of her relatives, who assured police they would not harm her. Three days later she was shot and killed. Laws are useless if the authorities fail to enforce said laws in practice.

In the UK, although more cases involving VAWG are being taken to court, women are also still struggling to receive the support they need from authorities. From 2015–16, 24.4% of domestic abuse cases had a ‘no prosecution’ outcome. While this number may seem low, it amounts to 28,780 cases of domestic abuse not being prosecuted in one year alone. The Crown Prosecution Service’s data shows that one reason for unsuccessful trials is ‘conflict of evidence’. Although it should not fall on the victim to achieve a successful prosecution, this does means that gathering clear and solid evidence is important to a conviction.

How To Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer

At Chayn, while talking to survivors on online forums and listening to their experiences, we realised that to avoid the failure of a court case, people need to be empowered to find clear proof of the abuse they are experiencing. Additionally, we know that for people of all genders, due to varying circumstances, the ability to access a lawyer or depend on the police and other statutory agencies to protect them is not an option. Therefore, we decided to produce the How to Build Your Own Domestic Violence Case Without A Lawyer guide.

Chayn created this guide because we kept seeing the same terrible situation happening to survivors time and time again — their abusers not being prosecuted because the courts decided there was not enough evidence. These decisions were — and still are — putting people’s lives at risk, and we wanted to do something that could prevent harm from coming to survivors. We built the guide with the help of survivors of domestic abuse, as well as lawyers, social workers and others who care about making sure abusers don’t avoid punishment.

The guide shows people how to build their own case if any injustice is being/has been done to them, without the help of a lawyer. It’s accessible online in four languages (English, Italian, Arabic and Portuguese) and can be downloaded free here, making it available to any speakers of these four languages, who are experiencing some form of abuse.

This guide aims to help people exercise their 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 someone needs to prove the abuse faced for their own record.

It includes detailed sections on the different types of evidence necessary in a case, how to collect the evidence, how to present any evidence gathered, and safety tips whilst doing this. It also provides examples and templates, such as for a supporting statement from a witness or doctor.

The survivors who created the guide and those who have used it have given some incredibly powerful testimonials that shows their belief in the guide and it’s ability to empower those going through abuse:

“This is definitely a tool for survival”
“…I wish I had read it ten years ago, it has better advice in it than I have ever been 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”

Overall, our guide aims to empower anyone who is currently, or has been, in an abusive environment to gather evidence and build a strong case against their abuser. Therefore, this guide includes a safety check and links to our guide on online safety.

Our main goal is to empower people, so that they can live happier and healthier lives, free from violence, oppression and risk.

This blog post was written by Chayn volunteer, Jenny Buchanan.