Government announces review of CICA rules

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES REVIEW OF COMPENSATION RULES ON SEXUAL OFFENCES – a VICTORY for grassroots campaigners!

Nobody should be made to feel worthless as you do when you get a compensation refusal letter.”

The announcement 9-10 September (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45462128) from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that there will be a review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as it applies to people who were sexually abused when they were children, is an important victory and augers well for future applicants.  Victims, women and men, have bravely publicized their case as part of the struggle with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) which had turned them down.  Such campaigning at the grassroots must be credited for winning this review.

The MOJ will now consult and then consider, in claims for abuse suffered as children, extending the time limit, and revoking the punitive refusals to those who have criminal convictions.  But there are further rules and practices that disproportionately deny compensation to rape survivors, such as: delays in reporting to the police, pulling out before a prosecution is concluded, and brutally cross-examining vulnerable applicants at hearings.

Over the past 18 months WAR has brought together a network of survivors across the UK.  We hold regular online meetings to discuss tactics based on a variety of experiences.  Accountable lawyers assist with claims and challenge the rules.  Survivors have described the impacts of being denied compensation.  We have put our collective demands in writing to the government, and secured publicity on social media and in the print and broadcast media, to build pressure for change.  Survivors use a model letter to enlist help from their MPs.

A year ago we were informed by the MOJ that there was no plan to review these rules, other than the one raised by large charities and MPs, that the CICA refusals must end which assume that underage victims consented to sex, rather than having been coerced and groomed by adult abusers.  This was rape and was not to be dismissed as consent!

We continued to campaign.  After winning several important appeals, on 24 July we had news of a landmark judgment.  The Appeal Court upheld a claimant’s right to compensation, who had been previously refused.  Under the Same Roof Rule, if you were abused before October 1979 and lived with your attacker at the time, you were not entitled to compensation.

The claimant was identified as JT, who suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather many years ago. He repeatedly abused her between the ages of four and 17, and was convicted in 2012 of eight offences including rape and sexual assault and was imprisoned for 14 years.  This was the first time a court upheld a claimant’s right to compensation despite this Rule, which will now be deleted. Those who were attacked before 1979 will now be entitled to compensation.

This was won because survivors had been determined to fight.  The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recommended in its interim report in April that the Same Roof Rule should be scrapped – after dozens of survivors and victims’ organisations gave evidence. Other official bodies followed suit.

Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was refused compensation for rape by her father, while her sister, whose abuse continued after 1979, won an award.  Alissa Moore has campaigned together with WAR, she said in July:

“I’m overwhelmed by this case. But it’s not just this rule – many people are turned down under other rules, like those with unspent convictions. The whole rule book needs rewriting. Nobody should be made to feel worthless as you do when you get a CICA refusal letter.”

Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape said of the MOJ’s announced review:

“We are thrilled that our collective efforts are paying off.  We encourage everyone to fight for all the other applicants who have not won yet, and press the MOJ to abolish all the unjust rules.  This includes women like Kim Mitchell who waived anonymity after she was denied compensation because of a minor criminal conviction last year.  Now 36, she was denied compensation for sexual assault by a teacher when she was eight, which has had a significant impact on her mental health.  Compensation, which is an expression of the community’s support for her against her abuser, would help her recover.  She was already punished for her minor crime by the criminal justice system, why did CICA have to punish her again?  This undervalues the public service she did in getting her abuser locked up – she had to report it three times before he was prosecuted, and she won a longer sentence on appeal.” [Read her story here] She is still fighting for compensation.]

Cuts in the compensation scheme were last made in 2012, after the government decided to save £50 million by tightening the rules.  A hostile environment for rape survivors.

WAR, endorsed by over 40 organisations, lawyers and other professionals calls on the government (www.againstrape.net/compensation/openletter) to tackle all the discriminatory rules suffered by victims of sexual crimes, whether as children or adults.

We invite all survivors, organisations and agencies to urgently lobby their MP and the MOJ, so that all survivors get justice.  Contact us if you’d like to be in touch and help.

Women Against Rape, 17 September 2018

Kim Mitchell’s struggle for compensation – interview in The Independent.

Great Independent article from July, on the struggle of Kim Mitchell to get the compensation she is entitled to. She was refused because she had a minor conviction. This article also quotes WAR, and is a key demand we have put to the government, demanding they change this among other discrimination in the CICA rules.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/victim-cica-rape-compensation-child-abuse-kim-mitchell-a8465231.html

Same Roof Rule is finally defeated, overturning decades of injustice

Victims of sexual violence win Appeal Court victory

A landmark Appeal Court ruling on 24 July 2018 has reversed decades of injustice, upholding for the first time a claimant’s right to compensation even though she lived under the same roof as her attacker at the time.

The Appeal Court decided that the woman, identified as JT, who suffered years of serious sexual abuse by her stepfather when she a child, was entitled to compensation. The woman had been denied the right to damages because she shared a home with him at the time. Another victim of her stepfather who didn’t live with him did previously received compensation.

JT’s stepfather repeatedly abused her between the ages of four and 17. He was convicted in 2012 of eight offences, including rape and sexual assault, and imprisoned for 14 years.

Until now the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), which pays damages to victims of violent crime, has refused victims like her any payout because of the unfair same roof rule which denied compensation to victims who lived in the same home as their attacker before 1979 Hundreds of victims – mostly raped by fathers and husbands – will now be able to get redress.

The judges said the so-called “same-roof” rule, is “incompatible” with human rights laws.
Lord Justice Leggatt, who heard the appeal with Sir Terence Etherton and Lady Justice Sharp, said the rule was “arbitrary and unfair”. He said:

“A scheme under which compensation is awarded to [the other victim] but denied to JT is obviously unfair.
“It is all the more unfair when the reason for the difference in treatment – that JT was living as a member of the same family as her abuser, whereas [the other victim] was not – is something over which JT had no control and is a feature of her situation which most people would surely regard as making her predicament and suffering even worse.”

The reason given for the rule at the time was that abusers should not benefit from compensation paid to the victims they lived with, particularly in domestic violence. After years of criticism and campaigns, including by Women Against Rape, the law was altered in 1979 so that any future victims of such domestic crimes could claim compensation; but the change was not applied retrospectively.

Other reforms were made in 2012 following the government’s stated intention to save £50million from the Scheme. The same-roof rule was maintained because scrapping could increase the number of claims.

Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was refused compensation while her sister, whose abuse continued after 1979, made a successful claim, and has campaigned together with WAR said today:

“I’m overwhelmed by this case. But it’s not just this rule – many people are turned down under other rules, like those with unspent convictions. The whole rule book needs rewriting. Nobody should be made to feel worthless as you do when you get a CICA refusal letter. We already were made to feel worthless our whole lives.”

Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape hailed this case as:

“A breakthrough for all those who have suffered horrific sexual abuse before 1979 and had been denied official acknowledgement and damages to help them recover. Most of them are victims of rape by fathers or older brothers who were unable to escape or report it until years later. Even though many had taken the enormous step to get their attacker investigated and convicted, the government continues to deny them compensation. We are really pleased the campaigning has paid off.”

WAR, backed by over 40 organisations, lawyers and other professionals, calls on the government to now tackle all the other injustices by CICA suffered by people who have been raped or abused, whether as children or as adults. (see http://againstrape.net/open-letter-for-compensation-to-secretary-of-justice)

JT’s case was brought in England and Wales. There are other challenges to the rule in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse recommended in its interim report in April that the rule be scrapped.

Press Release: Criminal injuries compensation awards – rules designed to exclude rape victims

PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS

Women Against Rape says hundreds of vulnerable victims of rape and other sexual offences are denied statutory help as a result of rules designed to exclude as many victims as possible from compensation.

The new figures we release today come from an analysis of victims we helped to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) or to appeal a refusal in the past five years (2012-2017). We found that victims often cannot apply without help through complex and rigid rules, and that many are so traumatised by the CICA refusal that they don’t appeal.

OUR FIGURES

Of 75 applicants, 20% were refused any award. In most cases the refusals were made despite the attacker having been jailed for the rape. In other cases, women were unable to get their attacker jailed and this was used to refuse them compensation, despite CICA needing a lower standard of proof (on the balance of probabilities) than that required for a criminal conviction (beyond reasonable doubt).

In half these cases, the rules had been set by Parliament, leaving CICA officials no discretionary power, whatever the circumstances. These rules are:

1. “Same Roof Rule”: Victims raped before 1 October 1979 by someone living in their household are not entitled to compensation[1]. Five (6.6%) of the women we worked with were refused under the Same Roof rule. Nationally, 174 such claimants have been refused since 2012. (FOI question, 2017.) These are truly distressing refusals; mostly of people who were raped as children by their own father. Most of them recently got their attacker jailed, after years of suffering, but despite this are still denied compensation.

Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was denied an award because she moved out of the family home before October 1979, thus ending her father’s abuse. She said that when she was refused an award in 2015, “I was so crushed and shocked, it took me a couple of years to recover.”

Another woman’s Same Roof case is listed for the Court of Appeal on 13-14 June.

2. Victims with criminal convictions are often refused compensation – 11% of applicants we helped had been refused or suffered a substantial reduction of compensation under this rule. Nationally, figures obtained by Harriet Agerholm of The Independent show at least 398 victims of sex abuse have been refused payments since January 2015 because they had been convicted of a crime.

Kim Mitchell waived her anonymity when she was refused an award some months ago, for sexual assault when she was eight by her teacher. This refusal was based on an unspent conviction – she was given a community sentence for threatening her employer who had withheld a substantial amount of wages due. She said, “I didn’t commit a crime aged eight. The disbelief and injustice I faced has been just as traumatizing as the assault itself.”

Among other cuts to the Scheme in 2012, Parliament made rules even more punitive. Now, applicants can’t get compensation if they have any unspent criminal conviction, even for minor offences such as not paying a TV license, underage drinking, or a minor altercation – offences not serious enough to send one to prison. This is punishing very vulnerable victims who were raped or sexually assaulted as children, like Kim Mitchell. It is unjust to deny compensation for the violent crime of rape for such minor misdeeds. Rape victims are punished twice: first by criminal proceedings against us, and then by the compensation scheme. Imagine if everyone with a minor conviction was suddenly refused NHS treatment, housing or schooling!

An interim report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse released in April recommended that the Same Roof Rule be abolished and that criminal convictions resulting from abuse should not be used to deny compensation.

In the other half of our cases, victims fell foul of CICA’S harsh discretionary and biased decision-making. Echoing Theresa May’s hostile environment for immigrants, decisions at CICA have similarly become less compassionate, under the 2012 drive to cut costs. So much for government claims to support victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Rules that give CICA wide discretion are often used in a discriminatory way against victims of sexual crime, such as:

• being deemed to have consented to sex with an adult man despite being well below the age of consent (a 2017 campaign forced them to stop this);
• not applying within the two-year limit;
• pulling out before trial (called “not co-operating with a prosecution”);
• being disbelieved, sometimes on the basis of hostile police evidence following a careless or biased investigation.

Last year Dr Olivia Smith, of Anglia Ruskin University, published research having interviewed 25 independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs) who had helped thousands of rape victims. Like us, Smith found that eligibility rules “impact more on vulnerable survivors.”

Immoral conduct like soliciting should not be used to reject claims, but some of the ISVAs Smith spoke to said this regularly occurs. Sex workers are among those who face social stigma, including at CICA. This echoes our experience that prejudiced CICA officers can unfairly deny victims of violence an award. While some victims are considered blameless, others are held partly responsible for being attacked, labelled “bad conduct” by CICA. This is just victim-blaming, with judgements dividing women into “good” and “bad” victims. Nobody should be blamed for sexual violence against them.[2]
WAR’s campaign for change represents hundreds of victims across the UK, and their supporters. Spokesperson Lisa Longstaff said,

“There is ample evidence of a pattern of discrimination against victims of sex crimes. We can’t allow this institutional injustice to continue. In campaigning together, survivors learn about each other’s cases, make connections and find they are not alone in having been refused. We spoke out when Parliament harshened the rules in 2012. Now it must revoke them.”

We win 95% of claims on first application or on appeal, but many women have nobody to help them. WAR wrote to the government in July raising five punitive rules under which victims of rape are unjustly refused compensation. The MOJ replied that it has no plan to address these issues. However, last year they backed down following a public outcry after five national charities publicised that CICA had denied compensation to over 700 people raped when they were under 16, claiming they had consented, despite being under the legal age of consent.

In the age of #MeToo and #Time’s Up social media campaigns, government claims to care about sexual and domestic violence are not credible. We have sent an Open Letter signed by over 20 organisations and over 40 lawyers, academics and other individuals calling on government to ensure compensation is no longer denied to victims of rape and other violence.

NOTE to Editors: Since 1964, CICA has administered State payments to victims of crime, providing cash help according to their injuries. Given that the conviction rate for reported rape is just 6%, compensation may be the only official acknowledgement available to most victims. Official acknowledgement is vital for healing and future wellbeing. The money can help with costs resulting from injury, for example, specialist health treatments. CICA’s total spending has dropped significantly – from £440m in 2012 to £143m last year. [Source: The One Show, BBC TV, 20 March 2018]

Footnotes:
1. The Rule was overturned but was not made retrospective for crimes that occurred before 1 October 1979.
2. The introduction to the online guidance for the 2012 Scheme says it is to compensate “blameless victims of violent crime”.

Recent cases in which WAR assisted victims to appeal and to speak out

Kim Mitchell was refused compensation for sexual abuse by her teacher when she was eight. CICA said her minor unspent conviction made her ineligible. On review, CICA upheld its refusal.

Alissa Moore, whose father was jailed in 2015 for 24 years for multiple child rape, was refused compensation as the crimes were before 1 October 1979 when they lived in the same house (‘Same Roof’ rule). Her sister whose abuse continued after 1 October 1979 won compensation.

Ms A, now in her 50s had been raped at age 13 by her adult brother, and she bore a severely disabled child. Years later (after their mother died) she reported it, and on DNA evidence the man got a 25 year sentence. She was refused compensation as they briefly lived in the same house at the time of the rape (‘Same Roof’ rule). An appeal upheld the refusal.

In 2016 WAR gave evidence in a path-breaking judicial review that overturned a 40% reduction made to a woman who had pulled out before the trial of her rapist husband under pressure. She had been jailed for perverting the course of justice for what the CPS called a ‘false retraction’. CICA had ruled that she failed to cooperate with the prosecution by retracting her truthful complaint of rape. The Guardian reported, ‘“We hope the CICA will accept the significant trauma this crime has caused,” said David Malone, the barrister, who acted pro bono, along with Adrian Waterman QC and solicitor Mike Hayward at Woodfines.’ He said the case clarified the law for CICA and ‘…Never again should the CICA put victims in the same position.’ However, the judge was unable to reinstate a further 30% reduction for two minor driving convictions in the traumatic months after her release from prison.

In 2015 WAR represented Ms B at a judicial review to challenge judgements by the police and the CICA appeal panel dismissing rape as ‘rough sex’. She had suffered injuries from the rape. The judge upheld her right to compensation, and sent it back to CICA for another hearing, but she was too traumatised to continue and withdrew.

A girl with mental health problems aged 13 was raped by an adult man who plied her with vodka. She had been deemed by the CICA to have consented, although she was below the legal age of consent and he had been convicted of giving alcohol to a minor. At her appeal the police gave evidence against her, and she was cross examined aggressively by the CICA lawyer. She was suicidal. We made a formal complaint. With the help of Duncan Lewis solicitors this refusal was overturned at judicial review, and she finally won an award.

A young woman raped by a cab driver was denied 30% of her compensation award as she had been later prosecuted for driving while marginally over the drink-drive limit. With our help on appeal the reduction was lowered to 20%.

Ms C who delayed applying to CICA until the trial process was over had been denied compensation because it took her over CICA’s two year limit. It is common for rape trials to take over two years to conclude. Police generally advise women to wait, as defence lawyers often raise compensation as a motive to lie. WAR helped her appeal, and she won.

Ms D whose domestic rape had not been investigated properly complained to the police. Unusually, the complaint was upheld. She was refused compensation on grounds that the CPS had ruled there was insufficient evidence to take it to trial. On appeal, she argued that the CICA is supposed to apply a lower standard of proof than the CPS and courts. She won on appeal.

We helped Ms E to fill in the application form, as she was too traumatised to do it. She won an award. Her foster father ran a children’s home, and had raped her over many years as a young child. She said, “Why do I have to prove myself to CICA, when my rapist was convicted?”

Ms F was raped by her date. She did not report it at the time as she assumed she would not be believed. She came forward when he was convicted of violence against two other women. But the investigating police officer made sexual advances to her, and she was too traumatised to continue, so she withdrew from the investigation. When she applied to CICA they refused her any award because she had failed to co-operate with the prosecution. We helped her appeal, but our written submission in her support did not succeed. She got nothing.

Please contact WAR to arrange interviews at war@womenagainstrape.net
www.againstrape.net Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX Tel: 020 7482 2496 Fax: 020 7267 7297

Submission to Home Affairs Committee Immigration Detention Inquiry

Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) was founded in 1991. Women Against Rape (WAR) was founded in 1976. Together the two organisations have worked closely with women in detention, particularly in Yarl’s Wood IRC, over many years documenting the traumatic impact of rape and other violence on women’s asylum and immigration cases and helping women win justice and safety. BWRAP and WAR have been the primary support and vehicle by which women detainees have been able to publicise their complaints about the treatment and conditions inside detention.

In 2005 BWRAP and WAR contributed to “A Bleak House in Our Times: An Investigation into Women’s Rights Violations in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre”, which found that over 70% of women inside were victims of rape or other sexual violence prior to being detained. In 2015 the two organisations published “Rape and Sexual Abuse in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, documenting incidents of abuse of women detainees by guards over a decade.

CONDITIONS IN DETENTION AND TREATMENT BY GUARDS

•      Conditions in detention are harsh. Survivors or rape and other violence who are traumatised, suffer particularly from the isolation and abuse of detention. We have seen some groups say that detention serves no purpose. We disagree. Based on what women describe to us we have no doubt that a primary aim of detention is to inflict harm onto people with the purpose of instilling fear in them and others; that is a form of domestic terrorism.

•      Women’s complaints include the torment and injustice of indefinite detention, being separated from children and other family and friends, violence from guards, being denied much-needed health care,  inadequate, inedible food and having their asylum claims sabotaged by guards. In some cases, a self-help guide by Legal Action for Women, which we send to every woman that contacts us, has been confiscated and was only returned after protests.

•      Violence during enforced deportations continues. We work closely with the All African Women’s Group, and one of their members was recently deported. She was strapped across her chest into the seat and had two guards, one on each side holding her down. She suffers from extremely high blood pressure and she was trying to call out and signal that she was in terrible distress. Eventually, an air steward intervened. She arrived in her country of origin weak and traumatised and later described to us by phone that nearly died.  The 24 March audio recording of a man in distress during a deportation confirms that violence from guards is common.

HUNGER STRIKE

•      In February 2018, women and men detainees in Yarl’s Wood went on hunger strike raising demands which we list below. We urge the Home Affairs Committee to act on these demands.

•      Bail applications to be speeded up:  Legally they should only take 3-5 days to come to court. Delays of up to a month are common.

•      Amnesty for those who have lived in the UK 10 years and more.

•      End indefinite detention so that no-one stays inside for longer than 28 days.

•      End Charter flights. These are inhumane because women get no prior notifications and no time to make arrangements with family members.

•      No more re-detention. No-one should be re-detained if you are complying with the law.

•      Stop separating families. Some women inside are married or have British partners and children outside.

•      No detention of people who came to the UK as children. They should not be punished for their parents’ immigration histories.

•      The beds need to be changed. Some of us have been here for a year on the same bed and they are the most uncomfortable beds.

•      LGBT+ people’s sexuality to be believed. It should be understood that explaining your sexuality is difficult.

•      Fit emergency alarms in every room in the detention centre. Only some rooms have them, and people have got very ill in places where they can’t call for help.

•      Access to proper healthcare. Women with serious conditions have been left for days without treatment.

•      Nutritious food.

•      Release people with outstanding asylum and immigration applications.

The hunger striker’s statement describes conditions inside as “torture”:

At any point an officer could turn up and take your room mate; you’re constantly on edge, not knowing what will happen next. Those who are suicidal have their privacy taken away because officers come in without warning. You don’t know if an officer is coming to check on you or take you away. Our rooms are searched at random and without warning; they just search first and explain later.”

•      None of the serious issues which hunger strikers are raising over and over again have been addressed or investigated with any sense of urgency.

RAPE AND SEXUAL ABUSE.

•      BWRAP and WAR’s 2015 Dossier Rape and Sexual Abuse in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre documented serious abuse by guards that Serco, the company that continues to run Yarl’s Wood, had either ignored or actively covered up. The situation we documented has not changed. Yarl’s Wood remains open and Serco remains in charge. Shamefully in 2014 the government renewed its contract to run Yarl’s Wood.

•      Our Dossier contained complaints from current and former detainees, collected from hundreds received between 2005 and 2015 including:

•      A rape survivor from Uganda reported a male guard entering her room when she was semi-naked, causing her to be re-traumatised.

•      Several women reported that strip searching and suicide watch made them feel humiliated: “Male guards are present when women are strip searched.” “If you are put on suicide watch the guards watch you when you go to the toilet, they come into your room when you are sleeping. I woke up and a guard was standing over me shining a light in my face. I was very scared.”

•      A pregnant woman reported a guard repeatedly propositioning her for sex and witnessed the same happening to other women: “He flirted with me. I was scared, fragile and pregnant. The guards double date the women. Some women believe that a guard has their best interests at heart but they are easily taken in because they have no other option to get help. Guards give the impression that they have the power to get women released.”

•      Some women reported that guards preyed on their vulnerability and desperation to abuse them. “If you have to open your legs you will. You think that is the only way that you are able to speak to your family. You have to give in.”

FALSE CLAIMS THAT CONDITIONS IN DETENTION HAVE IMPROVED

•      In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee (20 March 2018) Serco claimed that conditions inside Yarl’s Wood had improved. The Serco representatives cited evidence given before them from the organisation Women for Refugee Women that women inside Yarl’s Wood were no longer complaining about the conditions but only about the process:

We have got better over the last two to three years and the debate among the NGOs is now less about Serco running a place that is cruel and inhumane to saying that conditions are “good” in the Centre and that the main complaints about are the process that people are in.”

•      We strongly disagree with these claims. The hunger strike and list of demands from women inside cited above confirm that women are still suffering serious injustices and abuse.

“ADULTS AT RISK” POLICY

•      The new “Adults at Risk” policy issued in September 2016 was meant to address the public outcry about victims or rape and other torture suffering further trauma as a result of detention in the UK.  But the policy was almost unanimously criticised as a step backwards.

•      Women for Refugee Women (WFRW) were the only organisation to publicly welcome the policy on the grounds that it appeared to concede to some of their proposals on detention. Other prestigious organisations providing legal and other assistance to people in detention called for “an urgent review before the policy was implemented” on the grounds that the new policy put vulnerable people at more risk of detention. It defined “torture” in a more limited way (excluding victims of domestic violence and violence by “non state agents”).

•      This change was clearly sexist in that women are more likely to have suffered domestic violence and/or have the torture and other violence they suffered assessed as “non political”. It also gave the Home Office the power to prioritise ‘any immigration control factors’ over a person’s vulnerability. We immediately saw a change in that more rape and domestic violence victims were detained or found it harder to get released.

•      One women who contacted Women Against Rape from Yarl’s Wood was refused bail even though she reported to medical staff that she was suffering nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD because Yarl’s Wood reminded her of being held in detention in Uganda (where she suffered multiple gang rape by soldiers).  Women Against Rape’s independent expert evidence about her experiences was dismissed and instead assertions made by medical staff that detention wasn’t having a negative impact were relied on to keep her in detention.

•      As the Committee will know the “Adults at Risk” policy was in October 2017 ruled unlawful.  We are calling for it to be scrapped altogether.

DEPORTATION IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO DETENTION

•      We note that there is a push in some quarters for the alternative to detention to be an increase in so-called voluntary returns. The Home Office is spending over £30 million, including on funding voluntary organisations and charities, to manipulate and force asylum seekers and refugees to ‘volunteer’ to be deported. There is widespread and growing opposition to this.  Whatever recommendations the Committee makes it cannot be acceptable for detention to be reduced by fast tracking people out of the UK regardless of the risks they may face on return.

DEMANDS

·         We support the demands of the hunger strikers listed above and we urge the Home Affairs Committee to press for their implementation.

·         We take our lead from women asylum seekers who are demanding an end to detention and deportation.

We work closely with the All African Women’s Group, a 100 strong group of women asylum seekers. In a recent statement they commented:

“We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK. We demand the right to asylum, safety and protection.”

Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape
26 April 2018

 

Fantastic news: single donation of £1000 received for Brigitte & her daughters!!!

Brigitte’s pro-bono legal team at Kingsley Napley have just announced that they will cover the full cost of her daughters air fares! 

Brigitte is overwhelmed by the kindness and the generosity, not only of her solicitors, but of everyone who has been moved to make immediate donations.  A further £172 has been received so far.  These and any further donations will be used to cover additional/inevitable costs incurred by moving from the DRC and settling here in London.

Thank you all for your care and support for Brigitte and her children.  We will be back in touch once they are with us!

Black Women’s Rape Action Project. 

Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa, one of All African Women’s Group’s (AAWG) longest standing members, is finally to be reunited with her two daughters after a traumatic thirteen year forced separation.  Her daughters have just been granted their “indefinite leave to remain” visas.  However, the authorities have only given them a “30 day window” to reach Britain otherwise their visas will expire!

Brigitte urgently needs to raise £1000 just to cover the girls fares from Kinshasa to London.  Since time is running out for Brigitte and her daughters, we hope you will please give as quickly and generously as you can.

Thank you.

BACKGROUND

Brigitte fled the Democratic Republic of Congo having been detained and tortured in prison by the authorities for her own and her family’s involvement in the opposition movement.  Once in the UK she spent seven years fighting for the right to stay whilst doing what she could to find her five children who were lost to her.

In 2013, with BWRAP’s help, Brigitte won indefinite leave to remain but was denied the right to automatic family reunion.  Later that year, miraculously, she found two of her daughters alive in DRC, but living in terrible conditions.  She wanted to bring them to Britain, but couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer. BWRAP was able to secure pro bono representation from Katie Newbury at Kingsley Napley and Rebecca Chapman at 2 Garden Court. Applications for family reunion were made in May 2016, but rejected three months later. None of the evidence so painstakingly gathered was addressed.  Statements from her daughters detailing their vulnerability to destitution, the history of the abuse they had suffered after Brigitte fled, and the traumatic impact that ongoing separation had on them, were dismissed and ignored.

Brigitte appealed.  BWRAP and Women Against Rape gave witness testimony at her hearing and Brigitte was supported by 19 women from AAWG all crammed into a tiny court. Unlike some judges who dislike public scrutiny, Judge Lingam thanked everyone for attending.

Finally in March 2018, Judge Lingham granted Brigitte the right to family reunion in Britain – a monumental victory. It could never have happened without a mother who refused to give up, a dedicated team of women campaigners and a legal team all ready to put their expertise and their hearts into the struggle together.  Brigitte says:

I’ve watched other mothers like me live for the moment they’re precious children come back. Words cannot express what we feel, but we know that no mother or child anywhere in the world should have to suffer so much to live together.

To donate, please mark your donation: “Brigitte’s Appeal”

Bank transfer: HSBC Account name: Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Account No: 61635581 Sort Code: 40-04-04

Or via PayPal: Black Women’s Rape Action Project.

More information: Tel 020 7482 2496, email bwrap@rapeaction.net

The Rohingya women traumatised by mass rape

by Cristel Amiss of Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape. Published 17 March 2018 in Morning Star (see morningstar.online.co.uk)

A new report, Rape by Command published by Kaladan Press Network, documents mass violence against women and girls by the Myanmar military, in its 2017 purge of Rohingya people across northern Rakhine State.

We met Pippa Curwen, a human rights defender, who helped publish the research. She has been involved in life-saving work on the Thai-Myanmar (formerly Burma) border for over a decade.

The chief researcher of the report is lawyer Razia Sultana, a former teacher. She interviewed 36 survivors – 24 women and 12 men who had just arrived on the border with Bangladesh having fled for their lives.  They described the torture they had suffered and what they had seen inflicted on others – horrific crimes committed by the military during their August 2017 campaign to ethnically cleanse the northern Rakhine state where many Rohingya had lived.  Eight were rape survivors.

Sultana is from the region and this is the closest we have to the authentic voices of the Rohingya themselves, uncensored by the interpretations of outside observers or academics.

Sultana had recorded earlier witness evidence of atrocities in 2016. The Background chapter tells how the Myanmar government had refused visas to independent international investigators, instead installing its own “Rakhine Investigative Commission”, which did not report any instances of abuses during the whole 2016 military operations. This impunity gave a green light to atrocities on an even larger scale in 2017.

“Women and girls were raped, mutilated and killed for their very identity as Rohingya. Rape is being used as a weapon of genocide.”

Sultana documents testimony that hundreds of women and girls were gang-raped in front of their loved ones by groups of Myanmar soldiers as their homes were ransacked and destroyed.  Often, these rapes were accompanied by other horrific violence using knives, burning and other forms of torture.  Women and children were brutally attacked in their homes, while fleeing, and in military camps where they were held prisoner.
She notes that particular acts of mutilation of women’s breasts and genitals, indicate that the violence was the result of a directive, rather than individual soldiers’ actions.  Atrocities were authorised by the military and the border police which systematically cleared Rohingya communities from the countryside and towns, razing their homes, leaving only non-Muslim villages intact.  They aimed to extinguish the very existence of the Rohingya.

As an immediate precursor to violence targeting women and children, Myanmar troops invaded the villages, rounding up men and boys for arrest, torturing and killing, often using allegations of “terrorism”. This left women and children alone and vulnerable and paved the way for mass rape.

Given the systematic organisation of the military raids, with were co-ordinated by the armed forces from the sea, air and on land, the report concludes that war crimes have been committed.  It calls for the military leaders at the highest level to be held responsible.

Myanmar has so far blocked any independent UN fact-finding investigation.  This is being used as a pretext for some governments to take no action at all, and to carry on supporting investments with the excuse that they are waiting for an official UN report.
The country’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to mention the Rohingya to the outrage of people around the world who supported her when she was under house arrest.  Some experts have avoided acknowledging that this mass rape and murder is genocide.

As anti-rape organisations with over 60 years of combined experience of working with survivors of rape, including historic child and domestic abuse in the UK, we know how hard it is to get justice.  Some of us have fled to the UK after suffering rape and torture by military or others in authority.  Our collective self-help with survivors, and our attempts to hold their attackers to account, addresses the trauma of rape, of witnessing loved ones killed, and the many barriers to recovery faced by victims of sexual and racist/Islamophobic crimes. These are compounded by losing your home and/or becoming a refugee.

There are now 900,000 Rohingya in the camps of Bangladesh who need our support and action. Rape by Command calls for:

  • Holding the military to account for systematic rape and other violence against civilian women and children. No impunity for the Myanmar military!
  • A place of safety for all the refugees to settle and rebuild their lives. They must not be forced back to Myanmar.  The majority who want ultimately to return must be guaranteed rights and safety.

The Sisters of Rohingya are demanding sanctions against Myanmar, not just military sanctions, and an end to foreign investment.  On International Women’s Day, 8 March, we joined a large and lively picket outside Unilever HQ, London, calling for the company to divest from Myanmar.


Unilever is one of the biggest foreign investors in the region, annually investing $667m.  It claims to respect the dignity and rights of women and girls, especially in its marketing of Dove products, and has been named “Impact Champion” by UN Women.  It’s time it put this into practice by withdrawing from Myanmar instead of enhancing the funds available to the military government.

The Unilever protesters handed in a letter to Chief Executive Paul Polman (who was paid £9.4m in 2015) urging him to divest.  The international movement against sexual violence, from Hollywood to #MeToo and Time’sUp, must be extended to the Rohingyas – women, children and men.

Corporations must be forced to put life before profit and to stop funding rape and genocide.  We are all sisters and brothers of Rohingya.

Cristel Amiss is a member the Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Lisa Longstaff is a member of Women Against Rape.

You can support the campaign by using the hashtags  #No Peace  #No Dove
For more information please email bwrap@rapeaction.net; follow @bwrap1; or email war@womenagainstrape.net ; follow @AgainstRape; or visit the Sisters of Rohingya blog sistersofrohingya.wordpress.com. You can see the full report Rape by Command at: www.kaladanpress.org

Open Letter for compensation to Secretary of Justice

Rt Hon. David Gauke
Secretary of State for Justice

 

6 June 2018

Dear David Gauke

We collectively represent the experience and demands of thousands of survivors of rape, domestic violence and sex crimes suffered as children or adults.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is discriminating against victims of sexual crimes – even in some cases where our attacker was sent to prison. Winning justice and compensation is official recognition and a crucial step to recovery. It is particularly important for those whose attacker evaded prosecution – the vast majority of rape and domestic violence survivors.

There are several ways in which the Scheme should be updated. We appeal to your government to urgently change the following rules and practices:

1.   The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) denies compensation to victims who delayed reporting to the police – Paragraph 23.
Rape can be so traumatic to the victim that they may be unable to speak about it for some years. Many also experience pressure from others to stay silent.

2.   Victims below 16, the legal age of consent, are denied compensation.
The legal definition of rape is not necessarily applied by the CICA in relation to child victims. Since 2012 over 700 girls were refused compensation because the CICA decided they had ‘consented to sex’ despite being below the age of consent, and even where their attacker had been prosecuted and convicted. How can the CICA be allowed to contradict the criminal law in this way? Embarrassing publicity recently forced the government to think again about definitions of rape of children. But they only told the CICA to take ‘grooming’ into account. Not all girls who were raped by adult men were first groomed and therefore the CICA can still say they consented.

3.   Living under thesame roofwith your attacker before October 1979 disqualifies you from receiving compensation – Paragraph 19.
Before 1979 the rule was that if your attacker lived in the same household as you, you were not entitled to compensation. It denies compensation to victims even those whose rapist was convicted. The excuse was that your attacker might benefit from your award. In 1979 that rule was abolished, but it was not made retrospective. Between 2008-2013, 502 victims of rape were denied an award under this discredited rule. A significant proportion of rapes are committed by family members, and are among the most injurious. Retrospective payments must be awarded to those who have been denied.

4.   Victims of rape who have criminal convictions are denied compensation – Paragraphs 25-27.
Since 2015, at least 385 victims of sexual violence had been refused because of a conviction.[1] Unspent convictions for non-violent and minor offences, including theft, drink-driving or an unpaid TV licence are routinely used to deny victims an award. The CICA claims that the state having once prosecuted us nullifies any claim we have for compensation as it was a drain on public resources. Instead, they should value the public service we performed of bringing a rapist or other violent criminal to justice, protecting everyone’s safety. To punish us twice – first for the crime that we committed, and secondly for the crime committed against us – is discriminatory. This affects some of the most vulnerable victims, penalising those who may have been criminalised as a result of the rape trauma they have endured. Victims often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to soothe their pain, and then get convicted. Sex workers, even those without criminal convictions, face moralistic judgements on their ‘character and conduct’. We don’t want divisive moral judgements by the CICA as either good or bad victims.

5.   Time limit – Paragraphs 87-89.
There is a two year time limit after the crime to make a claim, or if it occurred when the victim was a child, two years from our 18th birthday. This rule disregards the common delays and pressures we face in rape investigations and trials. Also, the police advise victims not to claim until the end of a trial as defence barristers often argue that compensation is a motive for a false allegation. Delays may put a claim out of time through no fault of our own. Secondly, the trauma of rape and the prosecution process prevents many victims from applying within two years. The time limit must be extended to at least five years, longer for those raped as children.

6.   Victims have to co-operate with the prosecution as far as reasonably possible – Paragraph 23.
Many drop out because of trauma, intimidation by their attacker, lack of confidence in the prosecution process, lacklustre investigation or hostility from the police. Yet the CICA rarely accepts victims’ legitimate reasons to withdraw from the prosecution – even, as in one case, the shock and fear of being sexually harassed by the police officer investigating the rape was rejected as a valid reason for the victim to withdraw. When the police are hostile and give evidence against an award, the CICA invariably values their word over the victim’s.

7.   There is no legal aid and unrepresented survivors can face hostile and upsetting questioning by CICA lawyers.
A CICA hearing can be worse than a criminal trial – with questions like, what we wore and why we didn’t scream. CICA appeals which are held in private, evading public scrutiny, have fallen behind updated protection for vulnerable witnesses in criminal courts and other hearings. The CICA internal guidance for questioning vulnerable witnesses is neither public nor transparent and thus evades legal challenge.

Compensation is often the only official acknowledgement of rape we get, given the low conviction rate of 6%. An award can speed recovery, as many women suffer catastrophic mental and physical injuries. Patients struggle to get treatment from the depleted NHS and dwindling therapeutic services – many face years on a waiting list and rationed appointments. In addition, we suffer life changing impacts such as losing a job, eviction, marital breakdown, being unable to cope with children, fear of public transport . . .

The basic award for rape is a mere £11,000, and this does not stretch far. Amounts should be increased, and decisions speeded up. There is a minefield of rules which put people off, as described above. Most don’t even know the Scheme exists or applies to them.

Yours sincerely,

signed so far by the following organisations:
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre
CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse), Colchester
Cohen Cramer Solicitors, Mike Massen, Partner
Colchester & Tendring Women’s Aid
Coventry Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC)
Davenport & Cale Green Branch Labour Party
Disabled People Against the Cuts
Dundee Women’s Aid
English Collective of Prostitutes
Legal Action for Women
National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsiblity
Psychologists for Social Change
Psychologists and Counsellors Union
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Rape Crisis Scotland
Solace Women’s Aid
Somerset & Avon Rape & Sexual Abuse Support
Taxpayers Against Poverty
WinVisible – Women With Visible and Invisible Disabilities

and the following individuals:

Adrian Williamson QC, Keating Chambers
Ahmed Aydeed, Director, Duncan Lewis
Alexandra Wax, Reg. MBACP, MA, Savernake Counselling, Wiltshire
Anna Rose, Psychotherapist
Avigail Abarbanel, Psychotherapist/supervisor
Bernadette McAliskey, Belfast
Cohen Cramer Solicitors, Mike Massen, Partner
David Malone, Red Lion Chambers
Dr Emma Katz, Liverpool Hope University
Helen Race, Independent Sexual Violence Adviser, Brighton
Dr Jamie Bird, Health & Social Care Research Centre Manager, University of Derby
Dr Jay Watts, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Queen Mary, University of London
Joseph Suart, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist UKCP registered, Cornwall
Dr Lilia Giugni, Cambridge Judge Business School, Gender & Policy Insights CEO
Dr Linda Asquith, Course Director, BA (Hons) Criminology, Leeds Beckett University
Dr Lisa Long, Senior Lecturer-Criminology, Leeds Beckett University
Molly Carroll, Hearing Voices Network & Clinical Practitioner, NHS
Dr Olivia Smith, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Anglia Ruskin University
Dr Rachel Killean, Lecturer, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast
Sasha Barton, solicitor
Dr Tina Skinner, Senior Lecturer, University of Bath

and 24 other individuals

Add your Organisation or law firm by emailing us –
please specify if you are signing on behalf of this organisation

Please return signed to Women Against Rape via email war@womenagainstrape.net
Or post to WAR, Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

 www.againstrape.net  Twitter: #AgainstRape             Phone: 020 7482 2496

[1] ‘Hundreds of sexual assault victims refused compensation for minor convictionsIndependent; ‘Rape victims denied compensation for petty convictions’ – Guardian and ‘Hundreds of rape victims denied compensation’ Scottish Herald

 

Justice and protection for Rohingya women and girls – in support of call for Unilever to disinvest from Myanmar

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017, London

Statement by Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape

We strongly condemn the ethnic cleansing, widespread torture, killings and   systematic rape and sexual torture of women and girls by the Myanmar Army, as part of its genocide against the Rohingya people.

A report, Rape by Command, compiled and published by the Kaladan Press Network documents horrific crimes committed against women and girls in 2017 across Rakhine State; in their homes and communities, or while fleeing the murderous army during its purge.

The chief researcher of the report, Razia Sultana, personally interviewed 36 survivors about what they had suffered and witnessed happening to many others. She concluded that “Women and girls were raped, mutilated and killed for their very identity as Rohingya. Rape is being used as a weapon of genocide.”

We are anti-rape organisations with over 60 years of combined experience of working with survivors of rape, including historic child and domestic abuse in the UK. Some of us have fled to the UK after suffering rape and torture by military or others in authority in other countries.  We know first-hand the trauma of rape, of witnessing loved ones killed, and of the barriers to justice and recovery faced by victims of sexual crimes, in addition to losing your home and/or becoming a refugee.  Women everywhere face disbelief, discrimination and harsh treatment but the movement internationally is enabling survivors to speak out and demand safety and our attackers brought to justice.  Right now we are supporting women in Yarl’s Wood detention centre who are on hunger strike exposing their brutal and inhumane treatment.

We echo the main demands in the report:

·       Hold the military to account for this systematic rape and other violence against civilian women and children.  It is clear from the reports from the region that these crimes are not random but the result of soldiers acting under orders. No impunity for the Myanmar military!

·       A place of safety for all the refugees to settle in, they should not be forced back to Myanmar.

We further support the call from Sisters of Rohingya that Unilever divest from Myanmar, to withdraw funds to the military and encourage other corporations to put people’s right to life before profits.

We call on international movements from Hollywood to #Me Too and Time’s Up to put this issue into the spotlight and say: stop corporate funding for; rape and genocide!  #No Peace  #No Dove

Contact us:

bwrap@rapeaction.net; @bwrap1; war@womenagainstrape.net @AgainstRape

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

Read more at https://sistersofrohingya.net/

 

 

 

8 March: Protest Unilever, disinvest from Myanmar!

 

UNILEVER: disinvest from Myanmar!
End rape and genocide of Rohingya!

8 March 2018, International Women’s Day,5-6pm  PROTEST outside UNILEVER HQ UNILEVER House, 100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DY

Why UNILEVER?
UNILEVER claims to embody principles that respect the dignity and rights of women and girls, especially in the marketing of Dove products. UNILEVER has been so successful in this that the company holds the title of “Impact Champion” appointed by UN Women as part of their campaign to advance women’s rights. As an Impact Champion UNILEVER proclaims that “UNILEVER aims to improve safety for women and girls in the communities where they operate.”

This is at odds with their $667 million investment in Myanmar where the military are committing systematic rape and other torture with total impunity as part of their genocide against the Rohingya people.

A new report details Myanmar Army’s use of rape as a weapon against the Rohingya:
UNILEVER is one of the biggest foreign investors in Myanmar and has the power to impact directly on the actions of the government. By withdrawing from Myanmar, UNILEVER can reduce the funds available to the military and encourage other corporations to put people’s lives before profits.

Sign the petition issued by Sisters of Rohingya:

Tell UNILEVERon Twitter: @paulpolman @Dove @UNILEVER
Tweet using hashtags: #nopeacenodove #boycottdove

More things you can do on the Sisters of Rohingyablog:

Called by Global Women’s Strike gws@globalwomenstrike.net 020 7482 2496 in support of the Sisters of Rohingya call for UNILEVER to divest