Gender-based violence experienced by women seeking asylum in the United State: A lifetime of multiple traumas inflicted by multiple perpetrators

Elsevier, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Volume 72, May 2020, 101959
Nicole G. Aguirrea, Andrew R. Milewski, Joseph Shinc, Deborah Ottenheimer

Estimates by the World Health Organization indicate that 1 in 3 women—more than one billion people worldwide—have experienced some form of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Violence Against Women (VAW) is a prominent subset of GBV, defined by the United Nations as any act “that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” VAW can include verbal harassment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, honor killing, and femicide and can occur at the hands of individuals, institutions, or states. Whereas numerous studies have documented the multiple forms of physical, sexual, and psychological violence experienced by women, a thorough characterization of the abuses experienced by asylum-seeking women in the United States has not yet been undertaken. Our analysis of the affidavits for 85 cisgender, female asylum seekers who applied for forensic medical evaluations through a student-run asylum clinic, reveals a life-long pattern of multiple types of VAW inflicted by multiple perpetrators. These findings have implications for the focus of the medico-legal documentation submitted in support of female asylum seekers as well as for the design of comprehensive healthcare services for women and girls who are granted relief.