Psychological Harm and Trauma

Female Genital Mutilation 

Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) is a very specific type of experince faced by certain refugee women and is their reasoning for leaving their country.  It is defined as the forcible cutting or removal of the genitalia of women or girls that happens to be a traditional practice (Center fo Gender and Refugee Studies).

Data from a study of 119 cases conducted by Katherine Wikholm et al is summarized below (Wikholm et al 675):

Such an experience is an example of violence against women that provides health complications and displays the overlapping of different spheres of violence such as a high percentage of experience with rape and domestic violence. Another aspect to this specific type of issue is the cultural component as it is 'traditional'. On this note an additional area of concern for refugee reformers is the idea of culture and advocating for the acceptance of women going away from certain aspects of culture that are harmful. FGM/C has a more solid consideration as a type of persecution that warrants asylum, but does this mean violence against women has to reach this extent of physical damage with exact percentages in order to meet asylum requirements in items such as domestic violence cases?


Trauma in Court

Another PTSD example and example of domestic violence is the story of a Mexican woman who was raped by her coach at a young age and was then help captive for two decades and had 3 children from being raped (Gerken 261). Her acccount described that calls to the police would have made it more dangerous for her and that she attempted to escape multiple times but did not manage it until later on. 

Domestic Violence Connection

Although the case ended up with a decision in her favor such a case like this is essential in providing comparisons to other domestic violence cases as it shows she tried to escape and would not call the police because she would have made things worse for her situation. This is  eerily similar to a majority of domestic violence cases in both the length and the lack of calls to the police. It opens the door for conversation of the reality of many cases, which is that many judges may not have concluded the same decision in similar cases. This is because psychological trauma like this has effects on the individual  where they may say inconsistencies in their stories, not because they are lying but because of their experience (Gerken 257). This questioning of credibility is one of the major reasons judges do not grant asylum and one of the major reasons for such a variation in case outcomes.

In addition, in many domestic violence cases there is less evidence and the judge has to make decisions based on their expectations and rationality (Gerken 257). Some of the views include not understanding how calling the police is not as easy as the judge thinks, especially looking at the case above where the woman was taken advantage of as a young girl and was completely trapped mentally and physically. In addition, this physical entrapment represents the mental and emotional entrapment consistent in domestic violence cases where women cannot just leave.

Big Picture

This is a very extreme case of psychological trauma including violence with captivity. It is important to mention how cases like these were previously not considered asylum worthy cases when gender-based violence was not taken into consideration it was considered merely 'personal'.


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