The recent news that Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the US Supreme Court, despite allegations of sexual assault, has brought into the blindingly harsh spotlight the risks to women of reporting violence. Prior to the confirmation that he would be able to serve in a hugely influential role in US politics, enraged women across the world used the hashtag #WhyIDidn’tReport to make known their reasons for not reporting to the police and other agencies.
As an organisation supporting survivors of gendered abuse, we have watched with horror as this high profile, powerful man has - despite a shocking display of inconsistencies, remorselessness, antagonism and aggression - been able to walk into one of the most prestigious jobs in US politics. This has brought into sharp relief the dangers of reporting sexual abuse, violence and assault when the gendered power differentials are so stark.
Safety4Sisters holds a weekly women’s group where migrant women have a space to speak about the domestic abuse and sexual violence they have experienced and about the state violence of racist immigration controls that devastatingly compounds and perpetuates abuse. For women who have no recourse to public funds, who are undocumented, or who simply cannot speak to someone in their language, there are massive structural, institutional and politically motivated obstacles to safe reporting. The migrant women of Safety4Sisters know full well the extent to which it can be dangerous to report your abuser - for the state colludes in that abuse.
A couple of weeks ago we tweeted about some of the painfully disturbing experiences that women in the group shared with us and with each other in a heartbreaking discussion responding to a heartbreaking reality. Yes, they told us why they didn’t report - for fear of deportation or destitution or family disownment, for instance, but crucially the women also spoke of the seismic damage done when they did report.
These accounts are harrowing, and we are joining #StepUpMigrantWomen in calling for the implementation of safe reporting mechanisms so that all women - regardless of race, class, or immigration status - can access safety, if and when they choose to report.