The language barrier, loneliness, an irregular situation: foreign women who are victims of domestic violence in France face many obstacles. So to help them escape their attacker and find solutions, the NGO Women For Women, with the help of experts and survivors, has created a multilingual information portal. Interview with Sarah McGrath, herself an immigrant to France and founder of the NGO.
3.5 million immigrant women live in France. Some of them undergo difficult trials related to their administrative or socio-professional status. Not to mention the distance to his country of origin and his relatives, which can be painful to live in. So when domestic violence comes on the table, the obstacles and questions only increase.
Can I leave my spouse without losing my visa? How to file a complaint? Guarantee the safety of my children? To guide women through this ordeal, the NGO Women for Women France, in collaboration with experts, experts and former victims, has been working on an information portal that was launched on Monday 27 June.
An urgent need for information
Available in 16 languages (including French of course but also English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Khmer, Malagasy, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Tamil, Turkish and finally Vietnamese), this digital platform is the result of a field research conducted by Women for Women for over a year. “With these consultations with women of very different origins and socio-economic situations, we wanted to understand what made them vulnerable in their couple and their journey as they found the courage to leave their aggressor”, explains to POSITIVR Sarah McGrath, founder of the NGO. After this consultation, the verdict is in: there is an enormous need to fill in, that of “lack of specific information about these immigrant populations”†
After this observation, Women For Women France took on a colossal task: to bring together, in one place, all information related to domestic violence. But Sarah McGrath draws attention to a detail that is very important: “When you get to the platform, you don’t see the words ‘victim’ or ‘domestic violence’. We prefer to speak of ‘security’ or ‘independence’ because most victims of domestic violence do not claim to be victims of domestic violence. What they say, however, is that they don’t feel safe or independent.”†
Specifically, the platform offers users the opportunity to consult 90 manuals, divided into: 6 themes †
- Money, housing, independence
- Divorce, Divorce, Child Custody
- Security and Protection Order
- Physical, sexual and mental health
- Right of residence in France
- Police and Justice
If each theme offers potential victims tools and answers to their questions, then for Sarah McGrath it is also a platform for professionals, in direct contact with this type of audience, and above all the most precarious. The founder of the NGO explains:
“We have been working on printable versions of each guide and in all languages offered. It was important for us to do this to also reach people who do not have access to digital or who are in rural areas.”
A resource for professionals and witnesses
Unprecedented in France, this initiative “a supplement to the existing services of other associations” emphasizes Sarah McGrath and will, we hope, help many foreign women who are victims of domestic violence, as well as French women. In any case, it is the wish of the founder of Women For Women who draws attention to a letter to hand over to the police. This letter, written in collaboration with the gendarmerie and the police, facilitates communication with the police forces for victims who do not speak the language fluently. “It’s rare enough to underline it: that an association and the police work together on something constructive”, makes Sarah McGrath enthusiastic. In the long run, the association wants to be able to enrich the offer of 3919 (the national listening number for victims and witnesses of domestic violence) by offering a listening service in several languages.
If you are in contact with an immigrant woman who is a victim of domestic violence, you can also consult the platform. The founder of the NGO also remembers some basic advice:
- Listen † “When you are a foreigner it can be difficult to express yourself and very often you are interrupted by people. Please be patient with us.”she explains.
- Don’t make cultural judgments † “Our behavior is seen through the prism of a filter. Remember, something very polite to me may not be to you.”
- Supports † “We must not forget that an immigrant woman should have no entourage except her attacker.”
Consult the Women For Women platform now for more information.
We hope that this tool will enable women, French or foreign, to better understand and assert their rights. In France, domestic violence is still too poorly understood by certain actors, who are nevertheless in direct contact with the victims. Changing the system is critical to stop the cycle of violence and save lives. As a reminder, in 2021 at least 113 women were murdered by their husbands or ex.