Evidence can take a number of forms. As there is no such thing as standard evidence, the evidence you submit will be specific to your case. Also, remember, that just because your abuser engages in psychological or verbal abuse does not mean that it is not abuse and there are ways to collect evidence for it. Keep reading the guide and you’ll find out how to do it!
The following section will take a legal approach to evidence. Don’t let this stop you from making use of it. Not all kinds of evidence will be relevant for your case, but it is useful to know how a court categorises it. If you feel overwhelmed at any point by this section, skip it and jump to evidence types.
- 2.Physical / Real
Documentary Evidence consists of documents and reports which have been produced for inspection by the court. These may be items of real evidence, original evidence or hearsay.
- Any formal report or letter from your hospital, nurse, doctor, therapist or masseuse to attest to your mental or physical state. They can also be witnesses to an incident e.g. your partner shouting at you in the hospital or accompanying you to a checkup.
- Any bill, conviction, incidence report, or warning by police to your abuser
- Any criminal case against your abuser or one that your abuser has lodged against you
- Letter from any organisation that supports survivors of domestic violence i.e. shelter, law firm, or even a support helpline
- Letter from any organisation that supports people in hardship i.e. social servicesAny other official report, document, or evidence that can provide supporting evidence of the abuse you faced or anyone else has faced from your abuser.
This is usually a material object of some kind, which is produced for inspection, either to prove that it exists, or so that the court can get more information that will help it come to a conclusion based on evidence.
Physical evidence can consist of things like ripped clothing, a letter, a weapon, documents and partially destroyed documents, or other physical tangible objects. It can also include photographs, text messages, emails, social media conversation, videos, and audio files of abusive events.
during an incidence of abuse your abuser says, “I’m going to kill you!”). The statement is made not to prove the truth of its contents, but rather for other purposes, for example to provide the relevant context to the situation, or otherwise strengthen your case - it corroborates your story. For example, in the case of your abuser saying “I’m going to kill you!”, the purpose of including this statement is not to prove whether or not he/she wanted to kill you, but rather to illustrate his or her violent character, and the abusive nature of the relationship.
Testimony provided by a witness, or someone else, outside of the court, and not as part of their testimony is called “Hearsay evidence”. For example, a member of your family saying that they are worried about you because they have seen your abuser act violently, or a neighbour saying she/he has heard arguments and indications of abuse, can be included as hearsay evidence if these statements are made outside of the court. In many law jurisdictions, this evidence is inadmissible. However, when applying for asylum, these become supporting statements and this may be true for other cases as well.
Hearsay evidence is less powerful than witness testimony given in the court, but can be useful if you can prove it by using a statement of support or some other recorded evidence. It’s worth collecting this type of evidence even if there is a chance it might be not be as powerful.
Testimony evidence is evidence given by a witness, under oath, in the proceedings of a trial. Witnesses often also make statements before they get to court; this is a different form of evidence from testimony. Testimony evidence is only made in open court, in most countries. However, when applying for asylum testimony evidence can be submitted in writing and asylum case workers almost never contact abusers to ‘hear their side of the story’ so you should not worry about that.
- Direct witnesses: These are people who have directly witnessed the abuse.
- Expert witnesses: These often include doctors, social workers, nurses, or psychologists - in other words, these are people who are considered to be knowledgeable in a field that the court may not have enough knowledge of.
- Character witnesses: These witnesses testify to your character in court proceedings. This is very important, because your abuser may try to challenge your credibility. For example, they can claim that you have been hurting yourself or making-up stories of abuse. They can question your truthfulness, or even mental health. That is why character witnesses are crucial for your case. They should be people who know your situation, but also people from different areas of your life - for example, a member of the family, a friend, an employer, or a school teacher at your child’s school who can attest to you being a responsible parent. Even the simplest statements about your child’s behavior at school, or your employer’s evaluation of your work can be helpful - anything they say can be used to support your case in one way or another!
This section was the most difficult to get through. If you’ve made it this far, the rest is easy. Keep it up!
“As a victim it is very important to overcome the thoughts of humiliation and shame that making the abuse public is going to bring. You need to put yourself forward. You need to know that not collecting the evidence is going to work against you and in favor of your abusers . You must try hard to give yourself the peace of mind that you deserve. Remember that, you are entitled to a life for yourself the way that you want and that your abusers have no right to take that away from you. Start collecting the evidence and keep it safe somewhere. This will help you get back the freedom that you lost. People call me crazy when I tell them what my parents do to me. By recording a video - that is the only way they believe me. ” Brave woman, 26
The most important thing to bear in mind when collecting evidence is that your safety is of utmost importance. So always be careful, and make sure you gather the evidence in a way that does not pose a threat to you. Please see below for specific safety rules.
Often the best time to document abuse is when you are still in an abusive situation, to illustrate how the abuser acts whilst in an everyday context, before they could potentially be ‘angered’ by a situation such as their partner leaving them. That is to say that in some countries the judge may be sympathetic towards an abuser because they might think the threats or actions ensuing a person leaving the house/relationship are a result of the abuser being angry and might not be reflective of how they usually are. This is not to say that this type of evidence is not useful. If there is one thing you should do— it is to rigorously and safely document everything you can.
If you’ve been in an abusive relationship for a while, it can be difficult to spot what are the instances of abuse you should be recording. It’s best to record more and then discard later if it is not as useful. A way to help you do this is to imagine your life lived by someone you love and are protective of e.g your sister, friend, cousin, daughter or niece. Now imagine them living your life and note down all the instances of abuse they face in one day. Think about what they see, hear and experience. Now, repeat this for the whole week. Once you’ve got all of this written down, circle around points that demonstrate the nature of abuse and manipulation. Now star every instance which can be easily and safely recorded. This is a good starting point for collecting evidence.
If you’ve left the abusive situation, you can still collect evidence by saving what’s already been sent or done to you (calls, messages, emails, photos) or by outsmarting them and recording interactions in which they admit to the past abuse they committed, or when they threatened you.
You must be very careful when collecting all types of evidence and be sure to collect it when no one is watching, especially those you don’t trust. Your safety is of the utmost importance. Make sure that whatever evidence you are collecting, you must keep it safe and away from your abuser so it cannot be destroyed and discovered. Take a small step before taking a bigger one!
- Record without arousing suspicion, your personal safety is always the most important thing;
- When recording or collecting evidence, always think of a backup excuse in case someone you do not trust questions you about it;
- Save the files online, under an unobvious name; you can save them on email accounts, Dropbox.com & Google Drive. You can also password protect your documents offline - although be very careful and name things inconspicuously so as to not arouse suspicion.
- Save the files offline, preferably in several copies in several places; your computer is likely to store ‘recent files’ history. Make sure to remove them from the list, or to deactivate this option entirely. It’s very easy to do! Here you can read on how to do it on Mac and Windows.
- Share the evidence with trusted individuals. If you have more than one person you trust, send it to all of them! However, make sure that the person will not betray you - if you are not sure, you can test their trust, by confiding in them with less important secrets. If they don’t let you down, you know there is a chance they may be trustworthy.
For detailed safety rules, check each section of the guide.