Gender-based violence threatens the lives and safety of millions of people around the world each year. In the US alone, approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of gender-based violence annually. Sadly, violence against women is more the rule than the exception in many parts of the world. Rape is a routinely-used tool of war. Brutal domestic violence against women—and also men—goes unnoticed by neighbors and unpunished by authorities.
For over a decade, survivors of gender-based violence who have fled their home countries to seek safety in the United States have been in legal limbo: unable to return home for fear of brutality, yet not knowing if the US government will let them remain in safety.
While countries including Sweden and Spain permit asylum claims based upon sex or gender, the Bush Administration never completed rules that would make asylum a possibility for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
The Obama Administration now has opened the door for survivors of gender-based violence to apply for asylum in US, giving hope for both women and men survivors to rebuild their lives in safety. While this move is good news, the next hurdle for survivors—making a successful asylum claim—will be very difficult.
Fearing critics’ warnings that its policies will “open the floodgates” to domestic violence survivors from around the world, the US government will require a very high level of proof in asylum cases based on domestic violence. In order for most applicants to succeed, they will need to provide the government with detailed and persuasive affidavits from health professionals based upon an expert assessment of forensic evidence.
PHR’s Asylum Network plans to play a key role in these cases by matching volunteer health professionals with pro bono lawyers working to help survivors to rebuild their lives free from violence in the US.
For more information on PHR’s Asylum Network and how you can join an extraordinary national network of health professionals and volunteer your time to provide forensic evaluations for survivors of abuse, please email asylum [at] phrusa [dot] org.