Gender-based violence is when men use violence against women and girls just because they are female and considered to be weaker. It may result in domestic violence, early and forced marriage, trafficking, sexual, physical or psychological abuse. Both strangers and family members can harm you.
As an asylum-seeking woman who is fleeing conflict and persecution, you may face a high risk of gender-based violence in your home country, during your journey and, unfortunately, even in Bulgarian reception and accommodation centers.
You should be careful with smugglers because they target women who are traveling alone, knowing they are more vulnerable. If you lack the money to pay for your journey, smugglers may try to force you to have sex with them.
You may not recognize it as a crime, but if your husband/partner beats you, treats you disrespectfully and/or harasses you, then you are a victim of domestic violence and you should seek protection.
Seeking help and protection
If anyone, a stranger or a family member scares you, hurts you, makes you feel bad or touches you in an inappropriate way, you need special help. You should not be afraid to report about your condition. You may seek help from the following people:
- Any person whom you trust and think may help you, for instance a friend or another family member
- A doctor/nurse who provides you with medical care
- The social workers or the guards in the reception and accommodation centers
- A psychologist, if you have access to one
- Your lawyer
- UNHCR or IOM employees, or other organizations that you think may help you
- Employees of the State Agency for Refugees
- The police
Remember that what happened to you was not your fault.
In some cases, domestic violence, sexual violence and violence in any other form is one of the reasons why you left your country. All of this is a form of persecution against you as a woman, and it may positively affect the decision on your asylum case in Bulgaria. But the authorities will not take it into consideration during your asylum case if you don’t share it.
Rights of a victim of gender-based violence
- You have the right to respectful treatment and to be recognized as a victim.
- You have the right to be protected from being intimidated and harmed by the perpetrator.
- You have the right to receive support, including immediate assistance following a crime, medical care, accommodation in a shelter, long-term physical and psychological assistance and practical assistance during proceedings to help you understand the process and to reduce your distress.
- You have the right to demand a female translator.
- You have the right to legal aid.
- All of the information you share with any authorities, social workers, psychologists and lawyers is confidential.
National Helpline for Victims of Violence
If you are afraid to share your problems face-to-face with somebody, you can contact the 24-hour National Helpline for Victims of Violence on +35980018676. It is completely anonymous and free of charge.
The helpline staff will provide you with consultation and information about what your options are, what you can do to protect yourself, and which institutions and authorities you should contact to receive appropriate help.