Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of the 16 days of Activism. We’re kicking off a series of activities to increase awareness of the barriers and needs of the Latin American women experiencing VAWG in the UK with this blog post about the unique journey that every victim/survivor has and the support our team of VAWG caseworkers can offer them.


Being a Latin American VAWG caseworker

There are procedures and guidelines that we follow when calling a survivor of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) for the first time. But survivors of abuse have different experiences and they might be in distinct moments of their journeys. Even though we are prepared for this, what happens after a survivor picks up the phone is quite unpredictable.

Women experiencing VAWG sometimes feel there is something wrong in their relationship but they cannot quite name it. So they come to LAWRS to have someone listen to them and to perhaps learn more about violence against women and girls as a whole. Usually, once we start the conversation about the types and cycle of abuse, they recognise themselves as victims of domestic abuse. This can be a very difficult moment. What happens next depends on what their needs and priorities are.

Others come to our service fully aware of their situation and able to name it: I’m a survivor of domestic abuse. They might not be ready to leave their perpetrator, but they want to understand their options. They come to LAWRS in search of advice on different issues: how to report a crime to the police, protective orders, parental rights and consequences to their children, how to get a divorce, what happens with their immigration status, emotional support, English lessons, booking an appointment with their GP, access to interpreters and so on.

In some cases, women come to us at the point where they need to flee the house and escape the abuse because the violence has escalated. They might be homeless, destitute, in need of medical help and feeling like they are stuck in a horrible and endless situation. We explore their options together and discuss their plans.

In the Latin American community, due to a lack of support network, structural inequalities, the language barrier, the lack of knowledge of the system, the isolation and insecure immigration status, many women endure violence and abuse for  extensive periods, and often until it becomes a high risk situation, because they think they don’t have other options. Perpetrators will exploit the victim’s vulnerability, including in some cases their insecure immigration status, to manipulate and further abuse them. 

“If you report me to the police, I will report you to the Home Office”

“If you leave me, you will be deported and I will keep the children”

“If you don’t do what I want, I will call immigration control on you”.

Our role at LAWRS is to listen to the victim/survivor, to remind her that this is not her fault and that we believe her. We also connect them with relevant services for further necessary information and support.  We walk alongside them in their journey, always understanding and accepting that what happens after that initial phone call, depends on the survivor’s needs and priorities. This means that she decides what to do with the information she now has. Women are experts of their experience; they know what’s best for them. Our duty is to support them to get there and to make sure they don’t walk alone.