How To Use This Guide

If you are a victim of any form of domestic violence or abuse, and have limited access to resources, you can use this guide as a tool to help build a case against the perpetrator without having to spend money for legal counsel. You can find more information about what constitutes domestic violence and abuse below, as well as on the Chayn, Chayn India and Chayn Pakistan websites. Although this guide is meant primarily for those suffering from domestic violence, you may still find sections of this guide useful if you’ve endured or are enduring any injustice. If you’re worried about someone close to you, you can use this guide to help them.

In one line: this guide tells you how to build your own case if any injustice is being/has been done to you, without the help of a lawyer.

Although it is a useful tool in collecting evidence and building your case, and can help you reclaim your rights without legal counsel, the guide cannot fully replace specific legal advice relevant to your case. Therefore, if you can afford legal counsel or are appointed one, please make sure to make the best use of it. If you sought legal counsel, but were refused help, this guide can help you convince a lawyer to take your case, by collecting and presenting your evidence.

If you are unsure whether you want to take legal action, you can still use this guide to collect evidence and keep it safe in case you need it in the future.

Some of the language in this guide may seem like it is written just for women but in reality it can be used to help anyone facing domestic violence in both heterosexual and same sex marriages and relationships. The information also applies to you if you are facing abuse from your parents or siblings.

The general advice we provide in this guide is designed to help you build your case, aid in holding the perpetrator accountable, and exercise your rights wherever you live. The Chayn team is also working to develop country-specific guides, which will provide more detailed information on the legal and cultural framework and ways to get help in particular countries.

In some countries, you may be eligible for free legal advice provided under a Legal Aid scheme. However, there are number of resources at the back of this guide that can assist you in seeking legal help. If there is no information about your country, then you can turn to a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation/charity) - even if they do not have experience or expertise in domestic violence cases, they can still point you in the right direction.

What can you use the guide for?

This guide aims to help you exercise your right to:

  • take legal action against the perpetrator

  • escape an abusive relationship

  • get a divorce

  • secure child custody

  • apply for asylum

  • any other scenario where you need to prove the abuse you faced

  • for your own record.

Legal systems and procedures can be complex, slow, and rigid. We strongly believe that preparing the right evidence and presenting it well will enable you to effectively overcome these obstacles.

There are many instances where bringing a criminal case against your abuser is not feasible or is dangerous for you. In that instance, use this guide to make a case for your own record. You never know when you may need it.

If the Police are bringing a criminal case against an individual or individuals who have committed or are currently committing abuse against you, you should provide them with all the information this guide has helped you collect. The Police will also obtain information which they need and might interview you to ensure that they have your personal evidence/statement. If you can, obtain a restraining order. If the police are unwilling to investigate your case, you can turn to organizations that help victims of domestic violence bring their cases to court, through civil, criminal, or community court. Depending on where you are, there might be a list of useful organisations available here.

The section on presenting the information will be most helpful to you if you are putting together a case relating to their immigration status and other agencies. However, you can also use this section to present your case to the Police, the Prosecutor, or any organisation assisting you, in order to maximise the chances of their involvement in your case, even if they are initially unwilling to.

You may have suffered abuse, are working through a legacy of abuse, or are still working through abuse right now. It's important to remember that you don’t deserve to be oppressed, you deserve respect.

You take real action towards making a future for yourself in the present by seeking help from people and resources like this guide that uphold your rights.


Domestic violence is a type of mistreatment and includes physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. There are different types of domestic violence: it can occur in a lot of different ways, and it can happen to anyone, in any kind of relationship.

If another person’s actions put physical, psychological, or emotional strain on you, or if you feel hurt in any way and at any time, you might be experiencing abuse. Abuse is a recurring phenomenon and can be inflicted by anyone including your partner, parents, siblings, children, relatives, and in-laws. You can find more information about what constitutes domestic violence and abuse below, as well as on the here, Chayn India and Chayn Pakistan websites.

While there is no internationally agreed definition of domestic violence, and different countries have different definitions, for women, United Nations defines “violence” as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering”. Some countries extend this definition, and recognise that emotional harm and financial control can be part of this abuse, as well as ‘honour’ based violence, Female Genital Mutilation, and forced marriage. In some cultural contexts, forced/child marriage or marital rape can be very controversial issues. Regardless of where you live, you should collect evidence of any such events - they can prove useful in building your case later on. If you are facing any of the above forms of abuse from your intimate partner, family or in-laws: whether physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, or financial, this guide has been created for you. It is designed to help you collect and present evidence of the abuse. Collecting evidence is extremely important - you can use it when filing for divorce, pressing criminal charges against the perpetrator, or applying for asylum.

While you should not rely on this guide to win a case or as the only guide for every legal scenario, it can be a helpful resource for you. If you seek legal help, this should speed up the process of preparing your case.

We’ve put as much information as we can in the guide. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, close this guide. Take a break. Come back to it and start again when you feel you can. You will be fine.

You can do this!


In each section of this guide, you’ll first find:

  1. A summary that tells you the basics of what you need to know. If you are in a hurry you can just read this section.

  2. Detailed section with more tips and explanation

  3. A template or example

At the end of this guide, you’ll find the resource Appendix with useful templates and links of organisations that can help you.

In the sections below, we have outlined the basic guidelines for collecting and presenting evidence. Regardless of the specific nature of domestic violence or the laws in your country, collecting this type of evidence and presenting it effectively will ultimately support your case. If you wish, and if you are unable to collect evidence, you can still leave the relationship and bring a case against your abuser. We have put together general tips for planning an escape which you can see attached in the appendix. For a detailed guide, please download/view our How To Plan A Safe Escape guide.

Collecting evidence

Collecting evidence is crucial, and it is best to start as early as possible - while you are still in the abusive relationship. The following sections will provide you with practical examples of the kinds of evidence that can be useful and of how to collect it. You may also find that even when you were not actively collecting evidence, you still have important things that can help your case.

There are different types of evidence you can provide: from various statements, legal documents, letters and reports, to visual and audio evidence of abuse. All these kinds of evidence are useful, so it is important that you collect them and document the abuse and related events (e.g. police intervention, court orders, getting admitted to a refuge) in as much detail as possible.

The more exact you are in your details, the more persuasive your account becomes (e.g. what curse or abusive words did he use? When did they start locking you up or restricting you in other ways? When did you start feeling threatened in any way?). If you have not left the abusive house yet, consider keeping a diary where you record little incidents. These can then be presented as evidence for any purpose. If you are concerned the perpetrator will find and read your journal, consider creating a confidential online journal like Penzu.

Being as detailed as possible will also help support your case if the perpetrator, or anyone else, attempts to cast doubt on your evidence by denying occurrences. So for example, if they deny sending you an abusive message, claiming you are mistaken, you will have the proof to hand. Abusers may try to question evidence by casting doubt on the accuser’s state of mind, trying to make the accuser seem confused, or mentally unstable. This is known as ‘gas lighting’. Stay strong and stick to the evidence you collect— it will serve as proof that you are telling the truth and that all your accusations are justified.

You may even find that things you don’t think count as evidence are useful, and things that you do not think are relevant may be very important to your case. It is always better to have something and not need it than the other way around.

If you still feel like you don’t have any evidence to collect or present - then discussing your situation with a trusted friend might be a good idea. They may be able to spot evidence sources that you may have overlooked. It may seem daunting at first, but it will get easier. Just think about all the times your abuser has wronged you. How many times has that happened in front of other people? Have they threatened you in a text or online message? There may be pieces of evidence scattered everywhere. You just need to find them! Use this guide to plan how to collect the evidence. You can do this!

Presenting evidence

The way you present evidence can make a huge difference for your case. The evidence is there to tell a story— your story. Keeping it organized will help you make your voice loud and clear.

If you are presenting the evidence in a legal setting it is useful, because courts are usually oversubscribed and underfunded. But even if you aren’t, you should still keep it organized!

Make sure you present the evidence clearly, including all relevant information. It is important that your evidence is well-organized, to make it easier for people reading it to comprehend and make sense of it. In the following sections, we will provide you with step-by-step advice on how to build a strong evidence folder.

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