Folder

FOLDER

WHAT CAN YOU USE IT FOR?

If the police or the prosecutor is investigating your case, you should give the folder to them, to support the investigation. You can also give the folder to any organizations that are helping you develop your case. Finally, the folder can be a useful part of your asylum application.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

  • Cover Letter

  • Personal Statement - written by you

  • Timeline of Events

  • Supporting statements - written by other people to support your case

  • Anything else that may be relevant e.g. journal entries

    DETAILED

    Make sure you properly number and label different sections of your folder so it is easier to show others and for them to browse it.

    Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not print smaller than font size of 12.

  • If possible, print out 3-4 copies so you have 4 identical folders. Hide one away in a safe spot if it’s safe for you to do, or give it to someone you trust.

  • Keep digital copies of everything and email them to several email addresses and some people you trust. If you don’t know who to trust, send this evidence to any NGO or organisation that is assisting you. You can also create a password protected account on Dropbox.

COVER LETTER

WHAT TO INCLUDE

  • Who you are

  • Why are you submitting this case / what is it for?

  • What the evidence suggests

  • Why you collected the evidence

  • An appendix of the different kind of documents included in the folder

DETAILED

The cover letter is a way of introducing your case, and the evidence, to the reader. Please be as concise and specific as possible. Focus on highlighting the most important information: who you are, why you are writing to them, what evidence you collected and what does it show.

When introducing yourself, stay very brief. Just state your name, your status, and the reason why you are writing this letter and presenting the evidence. The introduction should not be longer than 1-2 lines.

At this point, do not get into details of describing or explaining your evidence. Instead, say something like: “The evidence I collected, in the form of documents, audio evidence, as well as witness statements, clearly shows the abusive nature of the relationship, and supports my need to escape it for my own safety.” The details can come in the personal statement section.

TEMPLATE/EXAMPLE

See the Appendix.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

WHAT TO INCLUDE

  • Write in first person. Use “I” rather than she/he.

  • First paragraph: Briefly describe your situation - are you in an abusive relationship, have you escaped it, what is your current position etc. Then, state clearly what you are applying for: e.g. divorce, domestic violence or harassment conviction, asylum, child custody, etc.

  • Chronological narration of events.

    • Only include main and significant events. You can write one paragraph to state how your usual day went with enough detail for the reader to understand without going into depth about every incident that occurred.

    • Describe your cultural and other relevant contexts - for example, your family situation, background or local trends, happenings and customs etc. The person reading the document may have little understanding of the significance of some things to you, so always make it clear why what you are describing is important.

    • Talk about and explain evidence you may be attaching elsewhere, including hearsay and original evidence (see above) where relevant.

    • Add quotes in quotation marks and always describe cultural context.

See detailed section for examples.

DETAILED

Personal statement is the space in which you can explain your situation in more detail. Use it to explain your current situation with relation to your abuser (have you escaped, are you still in the abusive relationship, do you have any children with your abuser etc.), as well as what you are applying for and what you need specifically from the person you are writing to. The more concrete you can make your request, the more likely they are to be able to help you.

Make sure you always explain the cultural, personal, social and other contexts in which the described events took place. Even though you should aim to be brief and concise, it is helpful to include one sentence explaining why a given event/piece of evidence is important, to help the reader understand your perspective, even if they don’t have an understanding of your cultural and personal background.

For example, if your society does not approve of women working once they get married, this can be an important piece of cultural context. It brings out the issue of financial dependence, and might contribute to explaining why some of your choices, that would otherwise seem “consensual” were in fact coerced and an element of the abusive relationship. An element of a personal context can be jealousy or possessiveness of the partner. It can explain why you felt threatened in certain situations and provides important context for other elements of abuse. In other words, any piece of context can be relevant, even if it seems unimportant to you!

When describing the events, you can start with a brief description of what your day-to-day life looked like. This is to help the reader understand the context in which the other events occurred. Make sure to illustrate what your life looked like, and why you felt scared, powerless, or threatened, without going into too much detail of the everyday events.

Following that, choose the most significant, main events, and present them in a chronological order. Provide only the details that help you build your case/illustrate the abusive nature of your relationship. Although it is important to be precise, if you make your account too long and detailed, it might be more difficult for the reader to comprehend. Wherever relevant, explain the context (see above), and refer to evidence that you provide elsewhere. This includes hearsay. You can refer to things people said, always making it clear who said it. For example, you can include it if you heard your mother-in-law say your husband will find you and kill you or if your relatives tell you that your partner has been spreading slanderous lies about you. Try and note down the date these things were said as this gives clarity to the person reading it.

This is your space to present your story. You should use your own words and describe the events as you experienced them, rather than language that is overly scientific or detached. However, try to focus on facts, rather than emotions. You can mention how the abuse made you feel, but be sure to keep your statement focused on what happened. Below are examples of sentences that are (1) too impersonal; (2) too emotional; (3) well-balanced.

Overly impersonal description of abuse:

“In 2015, the situation deteriorated. He used physical and other forms of violence against me. When I attempted to notify the authorities, the abuser would use force to prevent me from doing so.”

“He repeatedly used insulting language when referring to me and our son. He used threats to prevent me from notifying other people of my situation”

These statements:

  • Sound unnatural and forced, do not provide a flowing narrative

  • Use overly formal language

  • Downplay the abuse: saying “He used insulting language” does not necessarily show the effect the verbal abuse had on you and why it was abuse - it is important to stress that. Insulting you IS abuse and how it made you feel IS important!

Overly emotional description of abuse:

“After some time, it all got so bad, I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore. I cried and cried all the time and felt completely powerless. He was beating and kicking me and I felt like dying, so scared all the time. He did things that made me feel worthless and humiliated. I felt very scared and couldn’t even contact the police.”

“The way he talked to me always made me feel very scared and sad and depressed. He also said many things that made me terrified about my safety”

These statements:

  • Are too vague - they do not provide specific examples or dates of the events

  • Focus on emotions rather than facts - it can distract the reader from your narrative of events

  • Are too repetitive and do not add enough new content

Balanced descriptions of abuse, including account of facts and emotions:

“In 2015, the situation got much worse. He beat, kicked and slapped me so much that I felt like I couldn’t take it any longer. On one occasion, he got particularly violent and I was afraid he was going to kill me. I reached for the phone to try to dial the police number, but he slapped the phone out of my hand and spat on my face, calling me a bitch”

“He repeatedly called me a bitch and a whore, forbidding me to see my friends and accusing me of cheating on him. This language made me feel very threatened and vulnerable. On one occasion, in June 2014, when I came back from a meeting with a friend, he threatened to kill me if I tried to contact someone from outside of our house again.”

These statements:

  • Form a narrative - they show the events in a sequence, but also show their personal effect on you and how you felt about them

  • Clearly show how and when the abuse happened - whether it was physical or verbal, explaining the events and how you felt about them shows the nature of your relationship

  • Are specific about the dates and types of abuse

TEMPLATE/EXAMPLE

See the Appendix.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

The timeline of events must be chronological. You have already explained in the cover letter why you are building this case. The timeline of events is your chance to demonstrate the sequence of events that have happened to you and how it has affected you.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

  • First instance of abuse. When did it start?

  • All major incidents

  • Explain what a typical day in your life is like during a period of abuse (See example)

For every timeline event, you must mention the following, even if it is approximate (make sure to indicate that):

  • What happened

  • Date

  • Day

  • Time

  • Location

  • Who else witnessed it?

  • Any evidence related to the timeline event

DETAILED

There are two ways to go about this. You can either include a timeline of events in your personal statement or you can do one separately. We suggest making a separate timeline.

Timelines are an important part of your evidence as they will help people reading understand your situation and how the abuse has developed. Sometimes it can be hard to communicate and remember all the details if someone is asking you questions about days in the past. Depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can have a profound effect on our memories. In order to cope, the mind can push the thoughts that make us most anxious to a place which is not easily accessed. So don’t be hard on yourself if you cannot remember every single thing. This is why you need a written timeline. Every time you can’t remember or someone asks you about a specific incident and where it happened, you just need to show them the timeline.

TEMPLATE/EXAMPLE

See the Appendix.

SUPPORTING STATEMENTS

WHAT TO INCLUDE

  • Cover Letter for Supporting statements: Include a table or list of the names, date of births, ID number (if applicable), relation to you, and address.

  • Who can you ask to write you a statement?

    • Friends

    • Family

    • Neighbours

    • Social Workers

    • Doctor or Nurse

    • Health visitor

    • Children’s teacher

    • Your teacher

    • Anybody you have confided in or who has seen the abuse first-hand or seen its affect on you.

    • Any NGO or charity supporting you

  • Each statement should include

    • The person’s full name, their date of birth, who they are, who they are married to

    • Their home address if they know you in a personal capacity (e.g. a friend or neighbour) - it should specify which country they live in

    • Their professional address if they know you in a professional capacity (e.g. if it is your doctor then the address of their office/clinic)

    • Relationship to you and how long they have known you for

    • As a general rule, the statement should contain as many details about the person and their relationship to you as possible; if the person is a family member, they should also provide the names of their parents, siblings, children (if there are any) and other relatives, their marital status etc.

    • Copy of ID document/scanned is fine

    • Contact Details; a phone number and email address if they have one

    • A first-hand statement from them: they should mention every time they witnessed or heard of the abuse and your situation from you, your relatives, friends, or anyone else

    • It is extremely important to clearly state the first time the person found out about the abuse against you and how they found out about it

    • Ensure that they sign the statement. This can be done either by printing the document, signing, and then scanning it, or by adding a digital signature.

DETAILED

The supporting statements can serve different purposes, depending on what you are applying for. Even though it is important to let the person writing the statement express their own opinion freely, make sure to always let them know what you want to use the statement for, and make it clear why it is important. For example, if you are trying to get custody of your children, you can ask them to speak of your character, responsibility, and your relationship with your children. If you are applying for asylum, you can ask them to speak of your relationship, and confirm its abusive nature and, if they can, confirm the threat to your life upon returning to your country. Of course, the content of the statement will also depend on who is writing it. Your employer is more likely to vouch for your reliability and good character, whereas a member of the family, a neighbour, or a friend, can talk about your character, as well as your relationship with the abuser.

Ask the person writing the statement to briefly introduce themselves at the beginning of it. They should state their relationship to you, as well as the reason why they decided to write the statement supporting your claim/request. The important point here is to make sure the reader knows:

  • Identity details of the person (see above)

  • How this person is related to you

  • When was the first time they heard about the abuse you face and who told them?

  • Details of incidents they witnessed themselves

  • Details of every single time they heard about the abuse from someone else (who was this?).

  • Any evidence of the conversations above happening e.g.

    • Screenshot of Skype call history

    • Screenshot of Facebook messages/ twitter DM

    • Screenshot of phone call log or SMS/WhatsApp

    • Phone bill

    • Letters

Just as with your personal statement, ask the person writing the statement to be concise, specific, and focus on the main points and facts. For example, if your employer is saying that you are a trustworthy person, they should: (1) state it clearly and concisely; (2) support it with an example. For example, they could say: “X is a trustworthy and reliable person. While working for my company, she/he often handled tasks that required a high degree of independence and always completed them on time”. If your neighbour or friend is writing a statement giving evidence about the abusive nature of your relationship, ask them to be as specific as possible - if they remember the exact dates of the events they mention (for example, hearing a fight, calling the police, or seeing you with bruises), they should include it.

Once you’ve collected all the statements, make sure you include a cover letter which is either a table or list which gives an overview to the reader about what statements you are including.

TEMPLATE

See templates:

  1. Supporting Statements

  2. Timeline

  3. 5 minute online privacy checkup

pageSupporting Statements

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